Keep The Safety Momentum Alive

Expert advice on how to keep employees following safety initiatives.


Be a class act-and share the load: It's important to hold periodic safety classes throughout your DC network, even if you feel like you've taught at certain facilities so often they should give you your own personalized parking space. With industry turnover being what it is, there will always be a number of new employees who missed the initial sessions. Plus even the best students occasionally need to be re-educated, especially when it comes to the "big" subjects like forklift safety.

But bear in mind that your safety professionals aren't the only ones who can teach. With the right materials in hand-and the proper training – many managers, supervisors or employees can make great instructors. We've had a lot of successful "train the trainer" classes in recent years and not only has it helped us get our employees educated more quickly, it's also created a vast number of additional safety champions.

Nor do you have to rely only on company-developed materials. Our workers compensation insurer has been more than helpful about developing some wonderful training courses on forklift safety and ergonomics. And many equipment manufacturers offer great courses on operating their equipment that you can modify for your needs.

Reinforce: Contrary to what you might think, quality safety instruction doesn't begin and end in the classroom. Your organization should be engaged in safety education even when "school" isn't in session.

New employees should always receive safety instruction-as should any temps, because even if the temp agency has a reputation for providing safety training, chances are there are some safety tips they may not communicate as well as you would.

Members of your organization also should get safety education in the form of newsletters, e-mails and safety tips at employee meetings.

And don't underestimate the importance of "sign language," because traffic signals and warning signs aren't just for the great outdoors. They're an easy and inexpensive way to remind employees to avoid risky behaviors right in the context where these behaviors occur. Plus they're always on duty and they don't charge overtime.

Correct: Safety is by and large a positive concept.

However, there are times when a negative, "don't let this happen to you" approach is merited.

Every time one of your employees has an accident or injury-and even employees in "safe" organizations do-it's an important learning and teaching opportunity.

By reviewing what happened, your organization can determine if there was an unsafe process involved and take steps to correct it. And by reviewing incidents with your employees in a "here's what happened and why" fashion, you can make the issue of safety real to them in a way that hypothetical situations can't. This kind of candor is one of the most powerful tools a safety-minded company has, because if you're serious about creating a safer environment, you have to be willing to talk about your failures as well as your successes. Otherwise it's just too easy for people to get too complacent about safety-and sometimes that complacency can turn into the carelessness that leads to accidents.

Let employees know you mean business: Many areas of employee performance can be negotiable. Safety isn't one of them.

All of your employees need to know that while accidents do happen, deliberate breaches of safety won't be tolerated-and that any of these breaches will have definitive consequences such as suspension or even termination.

Just as important, they need to see you make good on this safety promise each and every time a violation occurs.

I know this sounds hard-hearted. But it's actually one of the most humane policies a company can have, because by practicing zero-tolerance for unsafe behavior, you could be preventing an employee from doing something dangerous that changes their life forever. Just as important, you're protecting your other employees from being hurt too.

Create Incentives

Ideally, your managers, supervisors and employees should want to be safe because it's the right thing to do. But in the words of that unforgettable Jerry McGuire movie, they'll be even more inclined to actively pursue safer conditions if you "show them the money."

By tying executives' and managers' compensation into safety numbers such as percentage of OSHA-recordable incidents, you'll motivate them to hold the people below them more accountable for minimizing unsafe behaviors. And by offering even small potential financial rewards to employees at locations that maintain a safe record, you'll do wonders in terms of getting them on the bandwagon.

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