Keep The Safety Momentum Alive

Expert advice on how to keep employees following safety initiatives.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Since APL Logistics launched a formal safety initiative in 1995, its rate of OSHA-recordable incidents has dropped 88 percent-to 71 percent below the industry average.

According to Marty Gordon, company'director of risk management in the Americas, APL Logistics has been able to effect safety improvements from day one of the program. However some of the most dramatic results-a 50 percent reduction in injuries and a 56 percent reduction in workers' compensation claims expenses-have occurred since 2004.

Given that success, Food Logistics asked Gordon to share some helpful hints about how a company can keep its safety momentum going strong-and even make it stronger-even when it's no longer new and different.

Tie it in with your worker's comp: Some people regard worker's compensation claims as a catalogue of safety lapses-the accidents that might have been prevented under different circumstances.

However these claims are also a potential treasure trove of information for your safety personnel. Their data can be instrumental in pointing out weak areas of your current safety program-by identifying what currently are your company's most common causes of injury-so you can tweak or beef it up accordingly. The data is equally helpful in identifying locations with the highest frequency of losses, so safety efforts and resources can be appropriately focused.

Watch your employees' backs (and necks and . . .): Ergonomic injuries such as strained backs or necks represent one of the largest threats to your warehouse employees' health and comfort.

They also represent a threat to your company's bottom line.

For these reasons and many more, adding ergonomic awareness training to your safety initiative is a win-win situation for everyone.

In addition to helping your employees avoid seriously uncomfortable ergonomic injuries, having such a program ends a powerful message that your company is truly exploring employee safety from all angles, and that it will leave no stone unturned in protecting its personnel.

Vary your communications: People have many different learning styles-which is why you can't expect a one-channel, single-style safety effort to be successful with everyone.

By using a combination of everything from classroom instruction and manuals to videos, e-mails and visual displays you'll give your messages a greater chance of hitting home with all of your employee audience.

This is especially true as your safety effort matures, because a diverse communications approach enables you to mix things up and re-communicate some of your most important safety policies or tips without seeming repetitive.

Aim for different levels: Facility managers may be the primary conduit of communication between an organization and its DC employees-especially when it comes to scheduling safety classes at individual facilities. But their buy-in alone is not enough to sustain a successful safety initiative. For one thing, they're very busy people with many other jobs to do. For another, they're not your company's only key influencers.

Make sure you're grooming safety advocates at all levels of your organization-from supervisors and floor leaders all the way up to regional vice presidents and boardroom members-because you cannot have too many people working to reduce risk.

Above all, aim to create the kind of corporate culture where safety isn't considered to be just the job of the safety department. To be effective, all employees must be aware that one of their primary functional responsibilities is to ensure that they and their co-workers are able to return to their families at the end of the day in the same condition they arrived at work. A safety professional's job is to be a resource to them in meeting this objective. But everyone has to view it as a component of their job rather than a standalone function.

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