Penguin teaches workers how to walk on ice

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

PLANTATION, Florida—A bird that doesn’t fly is helping a Big Yellow Machine that does.

DHL—sometimes nicknamed the Big Yellow Machine for its boldly colored aircraft and delivery vehicles—found a novel way to remind couriers of the care they must take when delivering packages in icy conditions. The company enlisted the help of a penguin.

The penguin performed its “training” at the DHL Service Center in Erlanger, Kentucky, on November 8, for approximately 40 couriers. It will provide an encore performance for employees at the DHL facility at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), one of the company’s major hubs, on November 14.

See a video of the training here.

The trainees are among the thousands of DHL couriers who will be walking packages to doorways this holiday season, and the many employees at the CVG Hub who tread on often slick surfaces in winter.

“One of our company’s credos is ‘Safety First,’ and we wanted to find a memorable way to give our workers some helpful techniques for walking on icy, slippery surfaces,” said Jeff Roy, Area Operations Manager for DHL Express US. He found it with the help of the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky, which offers animal outreach programs through the WAVE Foundation.

The African penguin struts his stuff.
The African penguin struts his stuff.

One of those animals is an African penguin. Although its native habitat of southern Africa doesn’t have the slippery slopes of Antarctica, a penguin is a penguin—well equipped for balancing acts.

The DHL couriers got a penguin’s perspective on how to maintain solid footing. One trick is to emulate the low centre of gravity that penguins have. And while couriers may lack the penguin’s flippers, they do have arms that can perform a similar kind of flapping for maintaining balance. The couriers have the added challenge of carrying a package, but even being able to extend one arm for balance could prevent a slippery slide.

While the couriers may not have acquired the fancy footwork of “Happy Feet” fame, they did find the “Safety Feet” training helpful.

As a further reminder of the day’s instruction, Roy is outfitting each of the courier’s vehicles with a penguin keychain.

“We were looking for a different kind of training session, and this certainly fit the bill,” Roy said. “It was a great reminder for all of us to be aware of potentially hazardous walking conditions, and to be like a penguin: prepared.”

“The harsh winters here pose many safety hazards, so who better to learn from than a creature that can maneuver safely on snow and ice?” said Karsten Aufgebauer, VP and General Manager of DHL Express. “This is a fantastic initiative supporting the health and safety of our people – an essential element of our strategy to engage and maintain the best employees in the industry.”