Biggest Trends in Safety: The Most Progressive Programs Require Involvement From All Levels of a Company

From the November/December 2019 Grain Journal:

Jay LaVallie
Safety Director
New Horizon Grain
Pipestone, MN

“We are focusing on establishing a relevant safety training program that actually applies to our operations and not just the general industry. Much of the safety training material available today is not specific enough to our industry and operations. We have employees with years of experience on the job who are our systems experts. We actively seek their input on developing safety and training material that is tailored to our operations.

“Our training comes in many different forms, from formal classroom to practical hands-on. We believe in giving positive reinforcement when employees are observed doing the job correctly, as well as taking advantage of coaching opportunities when employees are deviating from established protocols.

“Most of our training sessions are 30 minutes long when practical. This helps our facilities manage the training and keeps the employees engaged in the material. We’ve found that when the employees are actively participating in the training sessions, often through open conversation, the material has a much higher retention level.

“We believe that a safe work environment and operation is based on its people. Everyone is encouraged to be involved in our safety program, regardless of their role in the company. Our goal is for everyone to feel comfortable bringing safety concerns and suggestions to their immediate supervisor, manager, or myself. Some of our best safety improvement ideas have come directly from the employees performing the work.

“Management involvement is critical to our safety program, from the top down. I expect all of our employees to hold each other accountable for not only the safety performance of the company but for their fellow employees as well.”

New Horizon Grain Code of Safety

• Working here means working safely.

• Our work is never so urgent or important that we can’t take time to do it safely.

• All injuries are preventable.

• Everyone is obligated to refuse unsafe work.

• Everyone is obligated to raise concerns about hazards seen.

• All levels of supervision are accountable for safety performance.

• Employees and contractor commitment is essential to our safety performance.

• Excellence in safety leads to excellence in business.

A safety attitude off the job is as important as on the job.


Bill Wensink
Safety Manager
Luckey Farmers Inc.
Woodville, OH

“For our company, we have been trending toward incorporating more technology into our safety program. For example, we’re going on YouTube and viewing other training videos to stay on top of what’s happening in safety. So we’re relying more on technology than in the past. Previously, we used handwritten materials in a classroom-type setting.

“I also belong to the Ohio Risk Coordinators, which consists largely of safety managers from various cooperatives across the state. We also have people from insurance companies, millwrights, emergency responders, and Ohio State University. This group meets once a month to discuss various topics as far as what’s pertinent, including safety. We share information from various people and bring in speakers, so that’s how we stay on top of safety issues and other trends affecting our industry.”

Kevin Frye | Safety Services Manager
Mark Trainor | Safety, Environmental, & Regulatory Manager
Growmark Inc., Bloomington, IL

“Some locations are starting to use a web-based preventive maintenance site to streamline the process and allow location records to be viewed at the main office. All locations have a safety manual, but with all employees having access to a computer, we are looking to make these electronic for each location, so improvements and changes can be made more efficiently.

“We are constantly looking for ways to keep employees engaged in the safety process, which is how we get the greatest impact to prevent losses. Employees will rotate through monthly inspections and weekly safety meetings so they have a better understanding and commitment to the safety process.

“We recently developed a point system to assess locations’ implementation of safety practices to better identify those that may need more assistance. Our focus is to do what is right, which typically exceeds regulatory requirements.

It is not so much that we are using anything new, but we are always looking at equipment that is more effective or more comfortable – such as safety glasses and reflective gear. Protective equipment has improved so much over the years, so we are always on the lookout for something better.

“At this point, changes to our safety program primarily come from employee ideas or concerns that might not be covered by regulatory procedures. Our approach has evolved that each employee has a voice in our safety operations, and if they have a thought, then they deserve an open forum for it to be shared.”

Jeff Mericle
Safety Director
Gold-Eagle Cooperative
Goldfield, IA

“So many people think that having programs, books, and binders full of all the OSHA requirements are adequate for their safety program, but it is much more than that. Safety is a culture, not a program, and it takes a total commitment and participation of the entire organization to create and maintain a winning safety culture. When I say an entire organization, I mean that it starts at the top with the management of the corporation and filters all the way down to the newest employee to be accountable for preventing injuries.

“We also believe that safety must be a condition of employment, as it is a fundamental value. If any employee does not share this same value, they should be asked to leave and work somewhere else.

“Finally, a great safety culture views safety as an investment not a costly expenditure. The easiest way to grade your safety culture is to find out what the employees do when the location manager or safety director is not onsite, not what they do when they are present.”