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

Matt Hopkins15 Best New Agriculture Apps Worth Downloading In 2014
December 16, 2013
These latest agriculture apps are sure to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2014 and beyond. 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
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. 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
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechEPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Duo Herbicide
October 15, 2014
The Enlist Weed Control System, breakthrough technology to fight resistant and tough weeds, has received the long-awaited green light from federal regulatory authorities. Read More
MicronutrientsGypsum On Farms Could Help Keep Water Clean, Not Green
October 14, 2014
Gypsum, which has roots in the past as a farm soil treatment, also may have a bright future, and not just as a booster of crops but also as a protector of water. Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Crop InputsVerdesian Grows Sales Staff
October 14, 2014
The new account managers will drive sales growth and support relationships with key customers in the plant nutrition and seed treatment and inoculants product categories. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
October 14, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Purchases Six Grain Elevators, Four Agron…
October 14, 2014
The Andersons has acquired Auburn Bean and Grain of Auburn, MI, which will increase the storage capacity of its Grain Group by about 13%. Read More
StewardshipThree Ohio Ag Retailers Honored With 4R Certification
October 13, 2014
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced its first three agriculture nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Eric SfiligojEntering Agriculture’s New Phase
October 13, 2014
The market’s giddy ride the past few years might be coming to an end in 2015, warns one industry insider. Read More
Eric SfiligojWar And Green Peace
October 11, 2014
A one-time member of Green Peace recently explained why he left the organization after 15 years. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Add To Farm Sustainability
October 10, 2014
Farmers nationwide find cover crops to be a tool that helps groundwater, prevents erosion, builds soil quality and complements existing best management practices. Read More
EquipmentMeeting Changing Liquid Storage Needs
October 10, 2014
Tank and containment choices are expanding with shifts in farming practices and the economy. Read More
StewardshipEDF Launches Initiative To Reduce Fertilizer Pollution …
October 9, 2014
The effort will engage farmers and businesses throughout the supply chain to transform the way fertilizer-dependent grain crops are grown and sourced. Read More
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And …
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
FertilizerASA: Drainage Tiles A Big Part Of Phosphorus Problem
October 8, 2014
A pair of studies published in the Journal of Environmental Quality today indicate that the buried network of drainage pipes known as the tile system can carry away as much phosphorus as surface runoff. Read More
FertilizerCompass Minerals Debuts Phosphorus Blend For 2015
October 8, 2014
The makers of Wolf Trax DDP Nutrients designed Nu-Trax P+ with the CropStart Nutrient Package, a blend of phosphorus (25%), zinc (20%), manganese (5%) and nitrogen (4%). Read More
ManagementIndiana Certified Crop Advisor Of The Year Nominations …
October 8, 2014
Indiana Farm Bureau and the Indiana Certified Crop Adviser Program are seeking nominations for the Indiana Certified Crop Adviser of the Year Award. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communit…
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
Precision AgGoogle Glass: New Tool For Ag
October 8, 2014
New wearable smart technologies such as Google Glass show potential to greatly impact how we accomplish the business of feeding the world. Read More
FertilizerJ. R. Simplot To Build New Ammonia Plant In Rock Spring…
October 7, 2014
The new plant will supply both the Rock Springs, WY, and Pocatello, ID, phosphate fertilizer production locations while having the capacity to meet the company’s next phase of anticipated phosphate expansion plans at Rock Springs. Read More