Safety Resolutions: Methods vary on training employees, increasing buy-in

Professionals offer insights into building a strong workplace safety culture

Reprinted from Grain Journal Jan./Feb. 2018 Issue

Beth Locken | Regional EH&S Specialist | Wheat Growers | Aberdeen, SD

“By the time this article is published, North Central Farmers Elevator and Wheat Growers will have formed Agtegra Cooperative. Our safety focus is on combining our two strong safety cultures into one. In doing so, we’re taking advantage of opportunities to enhance our safety focus.

Our main focus going into this unification is the continuation of behavior-based safety – making sure that our cultures are aligned and we continually involve the employees in working safely every day together. We want our training programs to align with each other and to get everybody on the same page when it comes to our safety policies and programs as we go through this unification.

That being said, we do have some top areas of priority: Confined space is obviously a big one in our industry, so we will continue our focus on ensuring employees are fully aware of confined space entry and lockout/tagout programs. Our third top priority is safe rail operations. All the way from the locomotive operator to the people on top of the railcars opening and closing the lids, one job is as important as the next. Finally, fall protection in general is another big one that we continue to focus on.”

Mark Fultz | Safety and Compliance Manager | Hansen Mueller | Omaha, NE

Right now, our goal is to keep moving forward with the way we utilize the RCI system, which we’ve used since about 2011. Originally, we had nine locations that were on that program, and over the course of the last year-and-a-half, we grew pretty quickly, and we added another nine facilities. We’re trying to continue to work with the different aspects of training – preventive maintenance, lock-out/tag-out, confined space entry – all of those major topics.

“But what we have added recently was the Safety Made Simple (SMS) training platform, and out of 132 active users, we have 914 courses completed. We’re getting a lot of good buy-in utilizing that program. And it’s good because we have smaller facilities and SMS doesn’t take up much bandwidth, so we’re able to get the training out there to the employees in the smaller regions, such as South Dakota, as easily as we can the larger metropolitan areas.

“We’re also introducing our ‘Clean House’ program in which we’re trying to formalize our cleaning procedures to make it an active part of everyone’s job. It helps everyone learn where the priority areas are, where we can schedule cleaning, and inspecting to make sure that we are meeting those requirements.

Brandon Herzog | Safety Coordinator | Cooperative Elevator Co. | Bad Axe, MI

“During a routine safety audit of our vehicle maintenance facility, a concern was brought to my attention by a fellow employee that our jack stands and air jacks were showing age and could be improved. I began looking into this issue immediately. We replaced the older worn jacks and stands with brand new heavier-duty equipment. The equipment replaced was heavy enough to do the job, but I felt this was an area where we needed to oversize the equipment assuring the safety of our employees.

“Of course, there are everyday issues (like confined space entry, lockout/tagout, etc.) that we definitely focus and work on as well, but this is something that’s a little extracurricular. Because in the last couple of years there’s been quite a few incidents where jacks have failed and people in the public – not in our business but around the community – have lost their lives, and injuries have happened in the last few years. As I started looking into the equipment we had, I felt we could do a better job providing safer equipment for our people.”

Brandon Dills | Safety and Compliance Manager | Co-Mark, Inc. | Cheney, KS

“This year I resolve to change attitudes about bin entry. We have known how to enter bins safely for decades, yet we keep losing good employees to grain bin engulfments. It’s not a procedural or equipment problem. Proper procedures and equipment have existed for years, and they get better every year. We have to change our attitude and approach to bin entry and the investment we make in time and equipment to do it right. How we respond to this challenge will define the character of our industry.”

John Wells | EH&S Manager | NEW Cooperative Inc. | Fort Dodge, IA

“The biggest thing for us is something that, as I’ve been in this role here for almost two years, we’ve been really focused on the employee training and, more specifically for me as an EH&S manager, opening the lines of communication with our site managers to be able to relay the importance of safety to their employees and get everyone involved. It’s not just one guy who’s in charge of safety, it’s everybody’s responsibility, and communication is huge.

“We’re doing a lot of DVD-based training as well. Every location has a set of DVDs, and they do monthly training with them, then complete associated quizzes. The results get logged electronically once employees complete the training. It’s a monthly training, which is something we haven’t done in the past. We’ve always done an annual training face-to-face, but now with the size of our company and the amount of employees we have, we decided to step back, do a monthly training to try to keep everybody’s mindset talking about that stuff at least once a month. We’re letting the locations take care of that with the DVD training and with my help, of course.

“Finally, arc flash continues to be a hot topic. We actually completed arc flash studies at all of our facilities last year, and we’ve got training coming up for it to get everybody involved and let them know that there’s a reason we did the arc flash studies. Now we just need to know how to use that information going forward.”