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

Employee Training Employees at Silverado Ranch Supply receive monthly training that focuses on how to read labels, handle hazardous materials, document use of hazardous and other materials, and actions to take in an emergency situation. Source: Lindsay Dixon, consultant, Silverado Ranch Supply, Yerington, NV
EmployeesTop 10 Employee Retention Mistakes
March 9, 2015
Ag retailers are constantly looking to please their best employees, but many err in how they attempt to retain them. Read More
Prairieland FS employees
EmployeesThe Three Keys To Employee Success
February 12, 2015
Everyone hiring in the agricultural markets has three major concerns to address. Read More
EmployeesOhio AgriBusiness Association Awards $25,000 In Scholarships
November 19, 2014
Each year, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust scholarship program awards scholarship dollars to students enrolled in an agriculture-related field attending several state colleges. Read More
EmployeesThe Importance Of Employee On-Boarding
September 4, 2014
A key component to employee retention is sometimes overlooked in the business. Here is a brief guide on how to implement and carry through with such a plan. Read More
Top 100 Articles
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Iowa Cooperatives To Explore Unification
August 19, 2015
The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
CropLife 100Aligned Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
Latest News
EquipmentDeere Announces Soucy Track Distribution Alliance
August 28, 2015
John Deere announces an alliance with Soucy Track to sell and distribute products through the John Deere dealer channel. “This Read More
FertilizerFall-Applied Phosphorus: A Rooted Investment
August 28, 2015
As commodity prices decrease and input prices continue to rise, farmers are seeking more efficient strategies for meeting a high Read More
Monsanto Sign
Crop InputsWhat’s Next For Monsanto, Syngenta?
August 28, 2015
After dropping its $47 billion bid to take over Swiss agribusiness firm Syngenta, Monsanto may be turning its focus to Read More
Golden Harvest Corn stalks
Crop InputsMonsanto: Syngenta Not The Only Horse In Crop Protectio…
August 28, 2015
Monsanto Co, having ditched an audacious $46 billion (£30 billion) offer for Syngenta AG, may downshift to a humbler strategy Read More
ManagementConsolidation hits and a miss; And a look at China’s ch…
August 28, 2015
As Monsanto suspends its pursuit of Syngenta, consolidation news at the retail and distribution level heats up. CropLife magazine’s Executive Read More
Corn Field
MicronutrientsHuma Gro Introduces New Boron Liquid Nutrient Formulati…
August 28, 2015
BORO-MAX, a new boron (B) 10% liquid nutrient formulation, has been added to the Huma Gro product line. This new Read More
Crop InputsNFU: Monsanto Decision To Withdraw Syngenta Bid ‘…
August 26, 2015
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said the organization was very pleased by the news that Monsanto has withdrawn Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto Withdraws Bid For Syngenta
August 26, 2015
Monsanto Co. abandoned its latest effort to acquire Syngenta AG, the world’s top maker of pesticides, after a sweetened bid Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Comments On Monsanto Announcement
August 26, 2015
The Board of Syngenta confirms that it received a verbal proposal from Monsanto to acquire the company at a price Read More
Case IH Patriot 2250 Sprayer
EquipmentHigh-powered Case IH Patriot 2250 Sprayer Pushes Throug…
August 26, 2015
Engineered with more muscle, the new 660-gallon-capacity Patriot 2250 sprayer features best-in-class horsepower, along with the fuel efficiency that comes Read More
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
TMX-2050 In-Cab Display Launch Run Screen
Eric SfiligojPrecision Ag Could Shine In Increased Spotlight On Agri…
August 24, 2015
By any measure, 2015 is turning into one of the most challenging years agriculture has ever experienced. All throughout good Read More
ManagementCrop Conditions In Minnesota and Traveling Time
August 21, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiilgoj discuss the crop outlook from a field trip to Minnesota and upcoming travel plans. Read More
HerbicidesREUTERS: Anti-GMO ‘Scientist’ Calls For New…
August 20, 2015
EDITORS NOTE: We feel that it is important to note that there are those that believe one of the lead Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Announces Seedcare Application And Resource Ce…
August 19, 2015
Syngenta recently announced the Seedcare Application and Resource Center, a collaborative new website designed exclusively for Syngenta Seedcare customers to Read More
Winter Wheat
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Announces Two New Regional Sales Man…
August 19, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced Steve Vining and Phil Reding have each accepted new positions as Regional Sales Managers. Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Iowa Cooperatives To Explore Unification
August 19, 2015
The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the Read More
Golden Harvest Corn healthy leaves
Industry NewsAligned Ag Distributors Names Vice President, Crop Prot…
August 18, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC have appointed Warren Hragyil to VP Crop Protection. Hragyil comes to Aligned Ag Distributors LLC with Read More