Safety Survey: Managers Stress Training, Knowledge to Maximize Equipment Protection

From the November/December 2019 Grain Journal

From personal protective equipment to lockout/tagout (LOTO), grain facilities require a variety of safety equipment and good training for workers.

Grain Journal asked grain industry safety professionals what they consider to be most valuable at their sites.

Stanley Thessen | Director of Safety, Environmental and Regulatory | MFA Inc. | Columbia, MO

With the fall season upon us and locations gearing up to apply anhydrous ammonia, the most important safety equipment are anhydrous ammonia resistant goggles and gloves and ensuring that adequate water is available. A small exposure to anhydrous ammonia can be a life-changing event.

“To further the safety culture at MFA Inc., we have implemented a behavior-based safety program. This program, along with consistent and effective training, motivates employees to have safety conversations to keep safety at the forefront.

“We have seen a consistent drop in the number of injuries since implementing behavior-based safety and training programs.”

Dwight Nelson | Safety Director | Wheaton Dumont Coop Elevator | Wheaton, MN

“It’s hard to pick more than one piece of safety equipment, but I would have to say knowledge and attitude make it all happen.

“In order to have a good safety culture, you have to have the proper attitude in the first place, and then your employees get the knowledge and they take it to heart and use it. If they don’t have the proper attitude, the knowledge goes in one ear and out the other. Without those two things, then it doesn’t matter how much PPE you have; it just doesn’t work.

“Attitude is the key to everything, and that’s the biggest thing I focus on in my trainings. I talk a lot about setting examples for new employees and setting examples by how you do your work with the rest of the employees, especially for managers. If managers aren’t setting a good example, it’s kind of wasted on frontline employees. Make a safety program work from attitude to knowledge, so equipment can do its job.”

Brooks Benson | Director of Safety and Compliance | Central Prairie Co-op | Sterling, KS

“At Central Prairie Co-op, our most valuable asset is our employee team.

“LOTO is an essential part of keeping our employees healthy and safe and is probably our most commonly used form of safety equipment. LOTO is a central slice of the safety pie when operating and maintaining the various locations we have, including agronomy, grain, feed, seed, fuels, and service stations.

“Permit-required confined space/bin entry, maintenance, repairs, housekeeping and many other aspects of the responsibilities we share, involve the steps of LOTO as a verification process that helps ensure hazard safety for our people.

“PPE is a close second, and when you add in a focus on communication and building a strong safety culture, good things begin to happen with our employee teams and at our locations.”

Christine Schmidt | Food Safety & Safety Director | Central Valley Bean Cooperative | Buxton, ND

“Our most valuable safety equipment would be fall protection. Our fall protection gets used every day and is a valuable part of our business operations.

“We would not be able to safely fill hopper cars without it. It also gives our employees peace of mind when working from heights during the cold and slippery winter months.

“Our most invaluable safety equipment is our employees. You can have all the latest and greatest safety equipment, but if it doesn’t get used then it’s worthless.

“That said, it’s up to management to drive and encourage the safety culture. We do this by encouraging our staff to think of ways we can work safer. When the staff makes suggestions, then you know they’re engaged and will use any equipment purchased to ensure their safety.”

Brendan Coughlan | Director of Environmental Health and Safety | The Mennel Milling Company | Fostoria, OH

“When it comes to safety equipment, we all think of hard hats, boots, fall protection harnesses, gas monitors, etc., but it’s our people who have the most value for safety at Mennel.

“Over the past several years, Mennel has added much safety equipment across our operations – bakery mix and food service, milling, grain elevator, transportation, truck repair, property maintenance, and warehousing facilities. Each area is unique, and the equipment ranges widely, including:

• Explosion protection systems to mitigate combustible dust explosion hazards.

• Dust collection systems to control combustible dust hazards and fugitive dusts.

• Expanded use of high-visibility outerwear for employees working around motor vehicle and rail traffic.

• Upgraded fall protection systems and equipment to improve comfort and aid in rescue.

• Electronic logging devices for heavy trucks to comply with new Department of Transportation safety requirements.

• Enhanced safety data sheet database that increases ease of access to chemical hazard information.

• Automatic grain probe to eliminate the safety risks associated with hand probing trucks.

• Rotating lift tables to improve ergonomics at manual stacking processes.

• Installation of work platforms to increase access to process equipment.

• Electrical equipment replacements to abate arc flash hazards.

“While this equipment adds to, improves, or makes our overall safety easier, our employees are of the greatest value to safety at Mennel. Our employees make critical safety decisions 24/7, 365 days a year. Without well-trained, motivated, and empowered employees, our cool/sleek/fancy safety equipment is useless.

“We maintain and continually improve our most valuable safety equipment with ongoing reinvestment in our people. Our corporate safety team distributes regular safety training presentations and safety talks to all locations. The locations use these standard presentations and talks to build safety knowledge among their teams. Each site expands with information about their specific process and facility.

“The transportation fleet has 24/7 access to online training topics specific to the hazards they face on the roads and at customer locations.

“We also have started a program to focus on serious injury and fatality prevention (SIF). This program is geared toward activities with high risk potential, such as motor vehicle operations, fall protection, and lockout activities. Part of this program is an observation and feedback process that encourages peer-to-peer observations.

“The observation process aids in identifying SIF precursors and program gaps, as well as educating and reinforcing proper safe work practices.

“Every one of our employees at Mennel is truly our greatest safety asset, makes the greatest impact, and is of the greatest value.”