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
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Latest News
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
ManagementUnited Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes Merger & Crop Update
July 2, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the reasons behind the United Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes merger and USDA’s recent Read More
Industry NewsBioSafe Adds To Sales Force
July 2, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the hire of two new members for its service team. David Britt recently joined the team Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementChesapeake Bay Clean-Up Gets Renewed Attention
July 2, 2015
The Chesapeake Bay has been called one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. It’s also one of Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
ManagementBulk Pesticide Compliance: Top 10 Areas Of Improvement …
July 1, 2015
  In honor of the 33-year run of David Letterman’s Late Show, the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA) is happy Read More
Industry NewsArysta North America Hires Midwest Sales Manager
July 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the hiring of Brian Battles as the Senior Technical Sales Manager for the Midwest Read More
Farmer on tablet
Eric SfiligojThe Never-Ending Battle Against Modern Agriculture
July 1, 2015
In the world of comic books, the character of Superman often refers to the fight to save the world as Read More
Retail FacilitiesBuilding Up Ag Retail
July 1, 2015
In the oftentimes unpredictable world we live in, it’s nice to know some things can be reliably countered on to Read More
Retail FacilitiesMaple River Grain And Agronomy Phases In Site Developme…
July 1, 2015
Marcus Construction helped Maple River Grain and Agronomy in Casselton, ND, with the design-build of its dry fertilizer, liquid chemical/seed Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Builds A New Liquid Terminal Hub For Br…
July 1, 2015
To build its new hub facility, Briggs Crop Nutrients enlisted the help of A&B Welding. The result, an efficient facility Read More
Edon Farmers Co-op
Retail FacilitiesNew Marcus Facility At Edon Farmers Co-op Provides More…
July 1, 2015
Edon Farmers Co-Op in Edon, OH, needed a new facility to consolidate outdated locations. Marcus Construction was able to design Read More
Retail FacilitiesKinder Morgan Expands Its Storage With A New Dome Barre…
July 1, 2015
Kinder Morgan wanted additional covered storage at its Dakota Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. With Read More
Retail FacilitiesHeartland Tank Protects Fertilizer From Extreme Cold At…
July 1, 2015
The Arthur Companies in Harvey, ND, enlisted the help of Heartland Tank Companies to develop a new liquid fertilizer facility Read More
The McGregor Co. fertilizer loadout
Retail FacilitiesThe McGregor Co. Partners With Kahler Automation To Cre…
June 30, 2015
Kahler Automation helped The McGregor Co. expand its Clarkston, WA, operation with unstaffed loadout technology that enables customers to pick Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Helps CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative Build…
June 30, 2015
CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative in Mooreton, ND, wanted a liquid/dry blender system that could meet the needs of its customers Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More
FungicidesHelena To Distribute Unique Summit Agro Fungicide
June 29, 2015
RANMAN 400 SC fungicide, the only fungicide with a FRAC group 21 designation, is now part of the innovative Summit Read More
Eric SfiligojIARC Targets 2,4-D In Latest Report
June 29, 2015
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has struck again. Earlier this year in March, this agency of the Read More