Risk Management: Keeping safety front and center
Risk Management: Keeping safety front and center

Make regularly scheduled meetings a priority

Few things are more essential to a rental store than creating a culture that is focused on or even obsessed with safety. The very health of a business depends on it. Keeping safety front and center in every employee’s forebrain helps prevent losses and equipment damage. A safety-focused mindset reduces the chance of accident and injury to customers and staff members alike, protecting the business from costly liability and workman’s compensation claims.

Most importantly, it means getting everyone home to their families at the end of the day. This kind of culture doesn’t happen on its own. It requires holding regular and effective safety meetings, says rental industry consultant and trainer Dick Detmer, president of Detmer Consulting, Geneseo, Ill.

“Formal safety meetings are extremely important because of the vast amount of information employees must learn and retain,” Detmer says.

“There is so much that employees need to be able to do properly and so much they need to know,” he says.

Even for the best-intentioned, finding the time to hold safety meetings can be tricky. The key, says Detmer, is to make these meetings a routine part of operations, especially since repetition is so important to driving the safety message home. One strategy he advises is being quite deliberate, scheduling meetings for the entire year.

“If you think that you’ll just have a safety meeting periodically as time allows, it doesn’t seem to happen,” he says. “Time flies and before you know it, six months have gone by and you haven’t had a single safety meeting. Make regularly scheduled formal safety meetings a priority.”

Holding a monthly safety meeting is a good start, but operators need to do more, particularly when it comes to certain positions, says Detmer. In addition to once-a-month, store-wide meetings — he suggests these last 30 to 45 minutes — he feels there should be weekly 10 to 15-minute scheduled “huddle” safety meetings by department. These would involve delivery, shop and yard personnel as well as tent crew, counter staff members and so on.

Simply herding employees into a safety meeting isn’t going to bring the desired results. To be effective, meetings must inspire and engage. Several strategies Detmer utilizes and recommends for those conducting the meetings include:

  • Showing excitement and genuine interest through body language, tone of voice, speaking rate and so on. “Some employees view safety training as boring — it’s important not to communicate anything but positives about the subject,” he says.
  • Letting employees know what’s in it for them personally and why safety and safe practices are in their own best interest.
  • Calling on people to participate. Don’t just wait for questions.
  • Having select safety-enthusiastic employees provide some of the safety training. Coach them first to make certain they’ll set the proper tone for the meeting, he says.
  • Giving positive reinforcement, such as verbal praise for good participation and ideas. Also give participation prizes — but not to everyone — at each monthly meeting.

Other possible attention grabbers include incorporating photos and other visuals of hazards and unsafe working methods, along with those showing the right ways to get the jobs done. Making safety meetings a mix of instruction, hands-on, tests and quizzes also keeps learning active and lively.

Engage employees by asking if they’ve ever had a problem that relates to the subject of the meeting topic or invite them to share relevant stories of successes or failures. Also, consider giving everyone a heads-up about the topic for the next meeting. This will get them thinking ahead of time about what questions they might have.

Keeping the momentum going after the meeting also requires conscious effort. Detmer thinks incentive programs are effective as is making safety a part of every employee’s performance review. Also consider:

  • Providing instructions relative to the meeting topic. For example, give employees something to do or identify expected changes in behavior to reinforce the message.
  • Scheduling follow-up reviews or spot checks.
  • Utilizing reminders in the form of posters, check stuffers and other signage.
  • Holding emergency drills.
  • “Fining” employees who are caught working unsafely by requiring them to give a short presentation at the next safety meeting.

Rental operators should verbally demonstrate their commitment to safety, and clearly articulate that they expect their employees to be equally committed, says Detmer.

“Rental operators should be persistent,” he says. “Safety is not only a noble, worthy cause, it is a subject that can have a huge effect on the growth and profitability of a rental company.”

Colin Solsberg is a loss analyst for ARA Insurance, Kansas City, Mo. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.