Help keep your employees and customers injury-free
Coming on the heels of The Rental Show, spring is the time when rental operators spruce up their inventories with new equipment. Along with this brings the need to thoroughly train employees on the latest and greatest, rather than just putting the items on the shelves or out in the yard and providing cursory instructions about operation, maintenance and safety.
This seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yes and no. When the equipment is markedly different from what has been previously offered, then it’s likelier — but not always 100 percent certain — that before it heads out the door, employees have been properly trained. However, when the new arrival is very similar to existing inventory, it can be another story entirely.
“It really is an issue,” says Matt Wyse, president/CEO, Granite Industries, Archbold, Ohio, a manufacturer of scaffolding, bleachers, staging and material handling/storage carts. “A lot of people think that, for example, a mini excavator is just a smaller version of the larger ones they have or that larger scaffolding is the same as the smaller scaffolding they’ve been carrying, but this isn’t the case. Rules and regulations can change anytime you get new equipment, especially if you take on things that are bigger and more complex.”
Consider scaffolding. Wyse explains that small scaffolding is primarily used by homeowners. Rental businesses hoping to capture more commercial business by offering larger scaffolding are moving into an entirely different arena, with more OSHA scrutiny and the need to comply with and know OSHA standards.
Also, newer models could have different features compared to the older and known version, or the same type of machine could be from a different manufacturer. In order to keep employees and customers safe and injury-free, training on every new piece of equipment, no matter how similar it is to the old, is a must. Otherwise, rental businesses risk incurring workers compensation claims and substantial liability claims.
Take Essex Equipment, for example. With two locations in Essex Junction, Vt., the rental, sales and service business serves a diversified customer base including general/specialty contractors, homeowners, developers and more, says Gary Morse, president. The inventory is just as varied, consisting of general tools and supplies, construction equipment, homeowner items and so on.
Over the years, they’ve developed and maintained a loss-control program for employees and customers, says Morse.
“So, when adding new equipment, it’s simply a matter of following through with procedures implemented in the past, not allowing complacency to become the norm,” he explains. “A pressure washer poses as much of a risk as a chainsaw if proper attention isn’t given to it.”
Upon acquiring new equipment, the safety precautions and operating instructions are copied by a supervisor for distribution, and a hands-on safety meeting is held and recorded for those employees requiring knowledge of the equipment. Training requirements vary by employee need/job. Essex also has courses allowing them to offer the same type of training to their customer base, says Morse. Although much of the training is hands-on, the company also utilizes online training courses offered by manufacturers and associations.
Online training/education has decided advantages, giving employees the ability to learn at their own pace, says Jeff Weido, director of marketing for Terex Aerial Work Platforms (AWP), Redmond, Wash., manufacturer of Genie-branded construction equipment. At The Rental Show this year in Las Vegas, the company introduced the Genie ZX-135 articulating boom and the Genie GTH-1544 telehandler.
Terex provides web-based instruction through the Genie Lift Pro Online Operator Training that satisfies the general ANSI, OSHA and CSA training requirements for aerial work platforms (AWPs). At the end of the course, a 30-question exam verifies learning and retention. A certification of completion is presented as proof of training in preparation for the hands-on training portion. Trainees also must receive hands-on training from a qualified instructor/operator.
Along with training videos from the Scaffold & Access Industry Association (SAIA) covering “the basics and the big issues,” Granite provides instruction books and a copy of the OSHA code relating to scaffolding installation and use, says Wyse, who recommends giving these out with every rental and having customers sign that they’ve received them.
The important thing is developing an effective training and risk-management program, says Morse. “A trained employee is a valuable asset to any company,” he says. “When a company has routine safety meetings, safety inspections and safety training programs, employees sense the emphasis that management and the company put on it.”