How to Ensure the Safety of Your Employees
As a contractor, creating a safe and healthy workplace by establishing safety programs is one of the most important and effective ways to protect your most valuable asset: your employees.
When workers are injured or have fallen ill, there can be significant disruption and many negative outcomes such as extra costs, a decline in workplace morale, productivity, turnover, and reputation. To prevent such damages, there are many ways to ensure safety amongst your employees. Several ACCA members and corporate partners share their safety programs and strategies to ensure that your company creates an effective and safe workplace.
CREATE A SAFETY CULTURE
In order to encourage safety amongst your employees, creating a culture around the importance of safety will influence them to prioritize their safety like it’s second nature. Try and think about how often you and your employees meet to discuss the importance of safety, has it been weeks, months? How often do you hold safety meetings, is it done monthly, quarterly, annually? For example, Mannix Heating and Cooling from Chantilly, VA, holds a department meeting once a week to promote a safety culture within the company.
“We dedicate at least 15 minutes to go over safety issues,” said Jerry Mannix, President of Mannix Heating and Cooling. “We may talk about the proper way to set up a ladder or I may show a safety video provided by our insurance company, Federated insurance.”
At almost 200 miles away, DiFilippo’s Service Company conducts the same weekly meetings and regulates safety training at every one of their meetings. Their safety training can vary from safe driving or even bullying and violence in the workplace.
“We always have them [employees] sign off and acknowledge that they have received and understood the training and are going to abide by the company policies,” said Laura Difillipo, Vice President and Co-Owner of DiFilippo’s Service Company in Paoli, PA. “It’s extra important that they understand that those are our rules”
In addition to safety meetings, creating a more team-oriented culture will influence your workers to be more conscious of one another and can even help them have each other’s back to promote an even safer workplace.
“It’s all about the culture,” said Allan Shero, President and Chief Production and Operations Officer of Entek Corporation in Longview, WA. “As a team, we are responsible for each other and hold each other accountable. If you see me working with a piece of metal and I don’t have my gloves on, feel free to stop me and tell me to put it down and put my gloves on.”
FOCUS ON IMPROVEMENT, NOT PUNISHMENT
At some point, employees are bound to make mistakes. When this happens, focusing on improvement rather than punishment will create a safer environment for employees. Although punishment in the workplace may bring temporary good behavior, it can still lead to tension and anxiety, which can affect a worker’s behavior around others. In fact, this can affect their behavior around their fellow co-workers and even customers and clients.
For example, Lytx, an ACCA Corporate Partner, provides video telematics for contractors. Through this, management has the capability to monitor their employee’s driving habits through an online portal that allows them to look through their dashboard and the status of their driving level. When this happens, the program allows the company to keep track of their employee’s driving habits, such as being on the phone, which locations they may have trouble in, or even following road signs. This information leads to individual reports that can be reviewed for further progress.
“That is the key message here, there is no such thing as a perfect driver,” said Del Lisk, Head of Safety for Lytx. “This isn’t about catching someone doing something wrong, it’s simply isolating moments where people make mistakes. This is more about helping people to uncover what their habits are and the ways that can be done that are safer.”
In addition, creating a reward system that employees look forward to will promote safety in the workplace instead of focusing on punishment and bad behavior. For example, Entek Corporation celebrates each of their anniversaries when reaching a milestone regarding the safety culture they create. This year, they are close to reaching 1,000 days and will provide employees with gifts.
“They make about $60 a quarter for the field guys and $10 for the office people,” said Shero. “We also have quarterly breakfast meetings that everybody comes to, and we give different teams an amount of money, called mad money. They can buy tools, uniforms, or whatever they want.”
PROVIDE THE PROPER TOOLS
Like most companies, providing the proper tools to your employees when working with specific equipment is crucial to keep your employees safe from accidents. These can range from items such as safety goggles, gloves, boots, first-aid kits, and many more. In addition to these tools, there are many other ways to provide safety that go beyond items, these can be in the form of a safety committee or programs
For example, DiFilippo Services provides a safety committee with representatives from every department and provides the opportunity to discuss any concerns about what their employees may need. When this happens, the safety committee will then discuss the request and will approve the recommendation.
“Anything that we think they need, we provide for them,” said DiFillippo.
Even though every business is unique in their own way, there are universal safety programs that benefit many kinds of business despite their differences. For example, Federated Insurance has countless safety programs that benefit hundreds of contractors. Among their many programs, their Seven Minute Safety Trainer mobile app powered by BLR® allows clients to facilitate brief ‘toolbox talks’ on more than 300 topics from the palm of their hand. This app is ideal for just-in-time, worksite training on pertinent safety topics. In addition, Federated Insurance has recently launched mySHIELDSM, an online destination for risk management resources. This personalized site is home to numerous tools designed to promote safety and prevent losses at businesses. These programs, along with many others, are the proper tools to promote safety.
“If I had to recommend a single safety topic for contractors to address in the coming year, it would be safe driving,” said Nathan Oland, Senior National Account Executive of Federated Insurance. “Preventable vehicle crashes and the ensuing litigation they bring is a significant concern among contractors. We encourage every contractor to implement a company driving policy, screen their company drivers, and promote safe driving habits year-round.”
ADAPT TO THE CURRENT TIMES
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States, it’s crucial that you adapt to the changes that the virus has made. In order to protect your employees, adapting and changing certain protocols are always the best way to be cautious.
“In my company, the biggest thing you see here is the safety side,” said Shero. “My guys know that if we had an epidemic amongst us, they are not going to be working because you can only get so much from the federal government. In regard to safety, we have to keep our rates very very low in order to keep working. We wipe in, and we wipe out. When we leave, it’s cleaner than when we got there.”
In addition, taking extra precautions such as regular testing and protecting your employees from your clients is just as important. Even though they are your clients, it’s important to take the proper precautions and ask a few questions for your worker’s safety. For example, Mannix Heating and Cooling ask their clients to fill out a questionnaire before sending their technicians. Their questions are as follows:
- Has anyone in your home recently traveled outside of the country?
- Has anyone in your home recently required to be quarantined due to potential contact or exposure to COVID-19?
- Has anyone in your home recently ran a fever or experienced a cough or flu-like symptoms in the last 48 hours?
“Make sure to always communicate, check as much as you can on a regular basis,” said David Indursky, President of Encon in Stratford, CT.
As a contractor, it will always be your responsibility to keep your employees from harm’s way. Use these tips for an even safer workplace.
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