Ag Retailers: Hit The Mark On Safety

CHS Safety Training
The Safety and Technical Rescue Association conducted live grain bin rescue demonstrations at the CHS Annual Meeting, including tips on what to do — and what not to do — to save a life.

When I ask facility managers if they have a good safety culture, I’m often surprised by their answer. “Yes, we have a good safety culture,” one manager recently told me. “If people mess up, I punish them.”

Is your safety approach focused mostly on inflicting consequences and “gotcha’s?” If so, it’s time to shift your focus toward building a positive and proactive safety culture. One that engages employees, challenges your managers and rewards safe behavior.

Start With An Employee Survey

There’s no question that those of us in the ag supply industry face inherent risks, from combustible dust and working at elevations, to handling propane and fertilizer, to operating fleets. Yet it can be a challenge to step away from the day-to-day tasks long enough to ask: What is our safety culture? Do I care? How do I assess it and improve it over time?

A great place to start is with an employee safety culture survey. Safety is not a soft target — it’s measurable and it can (and should) be continuously improved. Conduct a simple, anonymous survey to get honest feedback. Take action based on what you learn, and then survey again in 18 months to see where you need more work.

Ask employees to rate the following types of questions on a scale of 1 to 5:

  • How effective is the training you have received to perform your work safely?
  • How committed is the management team to your safety?
  • To what extent do you think we are improving our safety over time?

You can also ask open-ended questions, such as:

  • Have you ever felt unsafe performing your job? When and why?
  • Do you ever feel pressured to compromise safety for production? How often?

Managers Have A Powerful Influence

Remember — as a manager you either condemn or condone unsafe work conditions. There is no middle ground. Let’s say you observe one of your drivers smoking while fueling a vehicle. That’s a defining safety moment. Ignore it and you’ve essentially approved an unsafe practice. Challenge it with a firm warning while also letting the driver know you want to be sure he returns safely home to his family that night and you’ve demonstrated a personal interest that can help build a strong safety culture.

Some safety strategies for retail managers:

  • Engage employees. Have direct and frequent communication with employees about safety. Ask them for their safety observations, concerns and suggestions. Show interest, both in safety meetings and in casual day-to-day interactions. Next time you observe a safe work practice, take a moment to acknowledge it and show your appreciation. Actively look for opportunities to praise and recognize safe practices.
  • Be convincing. Let employees know that you are sincerely committed to protecting their safety. If employees suspect safety programs are motivated by financial gain and regulatory compliance, you’ll have mixed results.
  • Go beyond compliance. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other rules are a starting point, but not everything critical to your company’s safety is addressed by regulations. Compliance should never be your primary motivation.
  • Be visible in the process. Meet regularly with your environmental, health and safety staff to discuss issues and progress.
  • Set an example that safety comes first. Management’s role is not just to educate employees about safety, but also to motivate them. When was the last time you did an unannounced walk-through of an elevator, or enthusiastically participated in a safety meeting?
  • Select employees carefully. When hiring, consider candidates’ safety history and experience. Try to gauge their work ethics and whether they have a tendency to accept authority.

Strive to create a culture where employees are always thinking about their own safety and the safety of their fellow employees and communities — every time they climb a ladder, drive a forklift or enter a confined space. Your goal is to raise awareness so employees act safely at all times, not just when observed.

Here’s a quick quiz: The last time you observed an employee acting unsafely, did you: a) commend them for efficiently taking a shortcut, b) quickly look the other way, c) tell them to “be careful,” d) stop them and discuss it or e) engage the employee and supervisor to ensure company expectations are clear in both camps?

Do The Right Thing

In a company with a strong safety culture, it is not enough to do the right things. You have to do them for the right reasons.

In a “world class” safety culture:

  • Accidents are intolerable — there are no excuses.
  • Safety goals and responsibilities are well defined and understood.
  • Safety priorities are defined by actions.
  • There are long-term safety plans (three- to five-year-plans).
  • Safety is considered part of management effectiveness.
  • Management personnel are personally involved.
  • Programs are employee centered for a win-win situation.
  • Communication is informal, open and encouraged.
  • Efforts are closely measured and responded to.

An effective safety culture has three main components: Aspirational, operational and managerial. In a nutshell, that means safety should be incorporated into your company’s highest aspirations; safety practices must be clearly communicated and implemented as part of your daily operations; and safety must start at the top.

When you genuinely care about your employees, and you engage them in creating a safer work environment, it can be a win-win for both your organization and your employees.

Leave a Reply

Employees Stories

EmployeesAsmark Institute Dedicates New Training Center To Ford West
August 6, 2014
The Asmark Institute plans to recognize the retired industry leader's years of service to the fertilizer industry at the new state-of-the-art facility in Owensboro, KY. Read More
EmployeesSyngenta: ‘Take Charge’ Of Farm Safety
June 4, 2014
Syngenta and health officials warn of four health-related challenges in agriculture and how they can be managed. Read More
EmployeesHead Start Program Prepares The Next Generation Of Ag Retailers
April 7, 2014
Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association, in partnership with the Asmark Institute, are offering the Head Start Program to prepare students for work at ag retail facilities. Read More
EmployeesThree Keys To Employee Success
March 3, 2014
Increasing employee performance becomes much easier when managers follow these three simple things. Read More

Trending Articles

InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More

Latest News

StewardshipTFI Recognizes Michigan, Maryland Farms For 4R Stewards…
October 31, 2014
As farming practices increasingly attract interest from the general public, two farmers are ensuring they meet public approval. Read More
Eric SfiligojBig Brother Is Already Watching
October 31, 2014
Opponents to UAVs seem to think they could be used to spy on other people. But spying is already taking place, through the Internet. Read More
StewardshipAsmark Institute’s New Training Center Focused On…
October 31, 2014
The newly dedicated Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture will be used as a national training and education center for professionals in the ag input industry. Read More
StewardshipCTIC Tour Dives Deep Into Everglades
October 31, 2014
The most recent Conservation In Action Tour (CTIC) hit South Florida recently to tour the Everglades Agricultural Area. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
CropLife 100ValueAct Buys Stake In Fertilizer Dealer Agrium
October 30, 2014
ValueAct has bought 8.2 million shares in Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium, making them the second largest investor in the fertilizer dealer. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
StewardshipUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to Read More
Crop InputsValent Launches New Low VOC ProGibb LV Plus Plant Growt…
October 29, 2014
ProGibb LV Plus PGR is a high-potency, liquid gibberellic acid formulation designed to comply with California’s new air quality standards for high volatile organic compound agricultural products. Read More
Crop InputsBayer CropScience Acquires Certain DuPont Crop Protecti…
October 29, 2014
Bayer CropScience and DuPont Crop Protection have signed an agreement for Bayer to purchase certain DuPont Crop Protection Land Management assets in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Read More
ManagementWest Central Names New President
October 29, 2014
West Central’s board of directors have announced their unanimous decision to name Milan Kucerak President and CEO-elect following Jeff Stroburg’s retirement at the end of the fiscal year. Read More
InsecticidesValent U.S.A., MGK Form Marketing Agreement
October 24, 2014
Valent has formed an agreement with Minneapolis-based MGK to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products within the U.S. beginning April 1, 2015. Read More
StewardshipFlorida’s 4R Advocate Keeps Improving
October 24, 2014
Florida farmer Alan Jones uses the 4R principles of nutrient stewardship as the core of his fertility program, which allows him to maximize production and keep costs in check. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Named One Of The World’s Best Multinational …
October 23, 2014
Monsanto ranked No. 8 in the world’s largest annual study of workplace excellence that identifies the top 25 best multinational companies in terms of workplace culture. Read More
Crop InputsArysta Hires Former Agri-Chem, CPS Employee For Delta S…
October 23, 2014
New Territory Sales Manager Mark Peel’s primary role will focus on working with growers regarding fungicides in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More