How safe is safe?

What is the goal of your safety program?  Most dealerships, large or small have been motivated to create some sort of safety program for their employees.  Many dealers do this because they actually care about their employees and the work environment that they create.  Others may do it simply to mitigate their workman’s compensation insurance rates.  Either way, finding relevant and compelling programs that keep employees engaged and actively practicing safety is not easy.  Many people won’t really pay attention until they or their co-worker experience an injury.  We all realize, that this is the wrong strategy. Accidents happens so fast, and only in hindsight can we see what circumstances could have led to avoiding a tragedy.

In this post, I wanted to discuss some ideas about how to make safety a top priority, and suggest some tips, programs, and practices for your employees that I have seen work well in a B2B setting.

Safety Inspection

When I was running a dealership, I had 9 middle managers as direct reports.  Each of these managers were responsible for a parts or service department at a branch location.   Every month, I required them to complete and forward to me a safety inspection form.  This was not a broad brushed checklist.  A service department will always have a different list of key areas to inspect than a parts department will. 

So, month after month these forms came in from the managers.  All of the boxes were checked.  Everything is safe…. right?  Not by a long shot!   Reports that are issued with all the boxes checked was really NOT what I was looking for.  I met with these managers and discussed the fact that I wanted them to FIND something WRONG.  I wanted them to look past the “normal” and see the real dangers.  I made it clear that I wanted them to go about doing inspections with a new posture and the idea that the report would be unacceptable until we found SOMETHING that can be improved. 

“This was not a broad brushed checklist.  A service department will always have a different list of key areas to inspect than a parts department will. ”

This is what I refer to as “the critical eye”.  It’s so important to develop and maintain this type of inspection protocol in your dealerships.  If the manager develops a critical eye, then the staff gets used to seeing continuous attention and improvement.  This inertia is what you need to help keep the workplace safe.

Soon I was getting reports that identified significant areas where we needed make structural or policy changes to improve safety.  This moved the needle in a tangible way, and we were all safer because of it.

PITOT (Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training) Most dealerships sell equipment.  Many times they even sell operator training materials and classes.  It’s amazing to me how a company can sell this training, yet be so out of compliance with the statute inside their own dealership.  Yes, it happens more than anyone would like to admit. We tend to think that since we “know”, and are “in the business” we don’t have to walk the same line.   Spoiler alert…We do!

I have been told that there are provisions in the PITOT law that allow technicians to operate the machinery they are repairing at a customer’s place of business without being certified by the customer.  This may be true, but don’t think for a minute that this caveat in the regulation absolves you of the need to supply your OWN training for technicians.  The same can be said for many people in your company.  Many dealers only do specific PITOT training for the people in their parts departments.  But be honest.  You have a lot of people operating equipment around your yard that may not be certified.  Be safe.   Include everyone in this training.  PITOT training should include salespeople, managers, parts people, and technicians.  The law may exempt them to some degree, but if they happen to be involved in an accident at a customer’s place of business and OSHA finds that they have NEVER had ANY certification training…. it’s not going to be a pleasant experience.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Do you have the proper PPE available to your employees?  Most would answer yes, but I have a little different spin on this question.  How CONVENIENT is the PPE?  Is it WITHIN VIEW of the people that will be using equipment that requires it?  

“The expense to run the waterline to where you really NEED it,  is a pittance compared to the costs (both financially and emotionally) of having an employee lose his eyesight because he couldn’t get to the eyewash station in time.  ”

Safety regulations may require a shower and eyewash station in your facility, but if you install these items across the building from your battery storage and charging area, what benefit are your really getting?  It may be installed there because it was near the water line.   The expense to run the waterline to where you really NEED it,  is a pittance compared to the costs (both financially and emotionally) of having an employee lose his eyesight because he couldn’t get to the eyewash station in time. 

Put the gloves, face shields, masks, aprons, and protective clothing in PLAIN SIGHT, not in a cabinet, or a drawer, or a box.  Employees are likely to use what they can see.  Make it easy.  It may save a life.

Management and sales buy-in

Do managers, salesmen, office staff and customers follow the rules?  Safety is one area that everyone talks about supporting.   It’s easy to say “Safety First”.  But when you go to the shop door, and there are no more safety glasses in the bin, do you stop until you find a pair?  Or do you just go without because “I’ll only be a minute”?  EVERYONE has to buy in to the rules we have enacted to keep our workplace safe.  That includes salespeople, janitors, receptionists, office managers, CFO’s, rental coordinators, shipping and receiving clerks, parts runners and credit mangers.  EVERYONE.  Shop techs, technicians, service managers, and truck drivers should also be encouraged (dare I say “compensated”?) to write up anyone not actively following the agreed safety policies. 

Safety money – growing rewards tied to savings

Do you provide some form of incentive and compensation to your employees for maintain a standard of safety?  Over my career, I have seen many attempts at attaching rewards to the safety record.  From pizza parties, to “safety poker” to cash rewards, we all need to find ways connect with our staff and motivate them to “find and fix” the unsafe condition, tool, or policy that prevents the next lost time accident. 

I like the idea of tying incentives to progress.  I heard of a program recently, where the dealership paid $5.00 in January if there was no lost time accident.  Each month that the company was able to add a month without a lost time accident, the reward went up by 50%.  Plot it out.

January – $5.00 February – $8.00 March – $12.00 April – $18.00 May – $27.00 June – $41.00 July – $62.00 August – $93.00 September – $140.00 October – $210.00 November – $315.00 December – $473.00

If at any time there was a lost time injury…the rewards reset at $5.00.

“Find a way to scale meaningful rewards and tie higher reward amounts to the savings the company can enjoy if they remain safe. “

So, each employee started the year with the opportunity to make another $1400 by December.  All they had to do was keep EACH OTHER safe.  Don’t think for a minute that they didn’t have their eyes open ALL THE TIME, and especially when they got a rhythm started, and the amounts really started to multiply.   When an employee keeps himself safe, that’s good.  When he keeps his eyes open for his co-worker…that’s better. 

Now, you may think that there is no way you can afford to pay your people that kind of money to be safe.   I’m not suggesting that every company is in a position to adopt that particular program, but if you can find some way to share significant savings in insurance premiums with your staff, you will get their attention, and their participation.  Find a way to scale meaningful rewards and tie higher reward amounts to the savings the company can enjoy if they remain safe.

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