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On the safe side

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It takes more than reminders to keep injuries down.

Kristen Hampshire | May 9, 2012

If you want employees to embrace the safety message, tell them a true story. It’s one thing to remind staff to wear safety glasses and lock the trailer on the job. But sharing the repercussions of safety slips that occur at their company, and others, gets crewmembers’ attention.

That’s the difference between a basic tailgate meeting and a safety breakout session that engages employees. Melissa Bigler, marketing director at Professional Grounds, says the company has been tweaking its safety and training program for the past several years. Today, it offers employees a robust training course upon hiring, an annual training day to refresh everyone’s skills, and weekly safety meetings with those true stories.

All this has made a difference in the company’s injuries and lost-time. And the employee buy-in is better than ever.
“When employees started getting rewarded for safety, they really came on board,” Bigler says, noting that the way a company sends the safety message is key. “You have to promote it as we want them to be safe, we want to look out for everyone at the company,” she says.

And you have to dole out regular pats on the back for good performance. Professional Grounds conducts at least three manager site visits each week. A checklist of items includes safety gear, equipment operation and other critical safety factors (like locking the truck). The site visit results in a citation or a commendation. A first-time citation results in a verbal warning; strike two is a written warning; and the company has never had to worry about the third offense, which would result in termination.

On the positive, those commendations are rewarded with pizza delivered to the “safe” crew on site. “We used to give them gift cards to McDonald’s, but the problem is, when they go there, there is a higher risk of having an accident in the parking lot,” Bigler says.

Meanwhile, weekly tailgate meetings are lively now that Professional Grounds specifically asks for employee feedback. Plus, one of the trainers speaks fluent Spanish, which makes the training more effective for much of the crew. “Before, employees just sat and listened – but now they are engaged,” Bigler says.

 

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