April 15 is the deadline to participate in the Safety Recognition Awards. Author Rod Dickens talked with two winners of the Best of the Best safety recognition awards to see what they are doing right when it comes to safety at their companies.
The Raimondi Horticultural Group in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ, has won the Best of the Best award for the last two years. Chris Raimondi knows that safety is a culture and requires everyone to think about following safe practices.
Being Organized Helps
“For nearly every task we have, we review the steps involved,” said this 38-year industry veteran. “Elevated situations are the most dangerous for our employees, many of whom hang Christmas decorations, and we always look at ‘what if’ situations, i.e., what could go wrong. “I’m always checking ladders to make sure they’re safe.
“Sometimes I think my employees find me obsessive because I’m always sweeping the floor or rolling up a hose. When they inquire about my obsessive behavior, I tell them that I do it to ensure they or someone else won’t slip and fall.”
He’s getting the safety message to employees in other ways, too, in a monthly company newsletter and during quarterly company meetings. The message may be as straightforward as reminding workers to always buckle their seat belts, never exceed the speed limit, avoid texting while driving, and follow the three-touchpoint rule when leaving a truck.
“Some insurance companies will also come in and share safety practices, and Internet-based training from auto insurance companies is becoming more popular,” he added.
Raimondi’s company employs 27 people, more than a few of whom share a common bond with the owner, they are firefighters. “I feel strongly that organization should be part of any safety culture,” said Raimondi. “We have an employee handbook that outlines our safety program, and many of our associates have CPR training. Firefighters as a rule are big on procedures, too. In any emergency, you don’t want to spend precious time looking for a safety kit or a fire extinguisher. Hence important safety items like this can be found in the same location in every truck.
This owner admits that creating a safety culture takes time. As he put it, some people naturally care about being safe while others don’t. Setting a good example, keeping the message fresh in their minds, and being organized is good for both groups.
Lead by Example
“Safety is the beginning of professionalism.” These words come from Miles Kuperus, president of Farmside Landscape & Design and one of 11 recipients of Best of the Best safety awards. “It’s our mantra,” said Kuperus, referring the direct relationship between being safe and becoming a true professional.
For this awards winner, safety is a culture that’s in place so employees don’t get hurt. But it doesn’t end there. “You work hard to get clients, and they don’t want anyone to get hurt on their property, whether it’s your employees, theirs, or one of their customers. Hence your safety culture is important to them, as well.
“How do you create a culture?” he asked. “It starts at the top with the owner and top management. For our company its starts with me, and how I conduct myself.” Kuperus said he’s not perfect so it requires him to be vigilant to ensure that he’s walking the talk.
“Twenty years ago, safety wasn’t the first thing on my mind. It was survival and constantly pushing to get the job done. Now, I take my time and don’t rush around. Employees see that I follow safety protocols and it filter downs, just as it would if they witnessed me putting safety on the back burner.”
Farmside’s safety culture requires employees to wear safety vests and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The company conducts tailgate talks, with a safety message as one of the topics. It also encourages all employees to come forward with near misses so others can learn from their mistakes.
“The last thing you want is employees to be afraid to talk about their near misses for fear of being reprimanded,” he emphasized. “Instead, relating those experiences should be part of culture where employees look out for one another.”
“The industry challenge, though, is for all of us to be good stewards, and safety is something that is absolutely paramount, whether you’re just starting out in the business or happen to be a long-time veteran,” said Kuperus.
Winning safety awards can also help win clients and reduce insurance rates. Consider participating in NALP’s national Safety Recognition Awards.