Safety Survey: Facility Safety Managers Share Their Best Training Ideas

From the September/October 2019 Grain Journal.

Ron Digby
Safety and Security Director
Legacy Farmers Cooperative | Findlay, OH

“Any training method that inspires discussion among the participants and draws them into the conversation seems to receive the best feedback from the employees.

“I can present the subject matter and explain proper procedures and how to be compliant with the regulations, but sometimes employees can have the ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude. But when they hear a coworker from another branch share a story on how they saw someone injured or have had a close call in the same situation, it seems to make them take notice. The employees really seem to like this method, and I’ve found that I learn a lot myself from these discussions, because it helps create an open dialogue amongst the people who are carrying out these tasks daily.

“I like to use a combination of hands-on and classroom training with our employees. At any given training session, we will combine some classroom discussion but will also include a chance for some hands-on training – whether it be the employees proving proficiency on a proper technique or giving them a demonstration on what the results may be if a task is not performed safely. This approach prevents training sessions from becoming monotonous and keeps the employees’ attention and interest in the subject.

“Remember that most front-line workers are used to being outside and moving throughout their day and are not used to sitting in a classroom, so I find if I vary the content and activities, I have greater success holding their attention.

“At Legacy Farmers Cooperative, we have had success holding large annual training sessions where we bring together employees from all of the branches to cover a variety of subjects. These sessions are effective by promoting discussion and improving teamwork.

“I also like to hold smaller training sessions at the locations throughout the year. This gives an opportunity for individual employee interaction and causes less interference with the location’s normal operations.

“In addition, I send monthly training topics to each branch, which they are required to review. This helps to fill in some of the training topic gaps that cannot be covered in our formal training sessions.”

Brad Berkhof
Safety Manager
New Vision Coop |
Hills, MN

“We’re utilizing Safety Made Simple for a lot of our online safety training. Basically, what I like about their program is the wide variety of topics.

“OSHA has about 10 to 12 different safety-related topics, depending on the job, and requires that safety training be done on an annual basis. Safety Made Simple covers a lot of those things for us, such as respiratory protection and bloodborne pathogens.

“I usually assign classes on a monthly basis. I can monitor each employee’s progress online and send updates of their progress to their supervisors. This allows them to track the employees they supervise and use test scores to assure comprehension of each topic.

“Overall, we’ve had a lot more success with online safety training than simply relying on supervisors to train employees at a location. So, to emphasize our expectations of safety, we put some of the burden on the employee and base part of his or her’s performance review on how well they do on their training and how they score on tests.”

“We have so many locations spread out, so it’s difficult to have organized, in-person safety meetings. The impact of giving a safety meeting with one other person isn’t an efficient use of our time or resources, so Safety Made Simple helps get around that problem.

“However, we do perform hands-on training as well. With new employees, I’ll go through everything that’s necessary based on their job description. I introduce basic safety concepts to them and make them aware of what it is expected of them. Once employees begin working, their supervisor has an orientation checklist with things they need to accomplish in the first week, first 30 days, and first 90 days. After the first 90 days, we will review with the employees to make sure they understand the safety principles involved with their particular job.”

Randy Crowell
EHS Director
Tennessee Farmers Coop | La Vergne, TN

“We primarily use Asmark for safety training courses we offer to employees. Asmark provides training videos, and we do a monthly training series for all environmental health and safety issues. We cover all the basic OSHA requirements.

“The program web-based access access to our training history and compliance records for the different programs, such as SPCC, OSHA 300, and others. Everything is maintained in Asmark’s database, and it’s presented in a clear format so that all of our managers can use it. It’s a pretty good program, and they’re getting ready to move into online presentations before long.

“Currently the programs are recorded videos. I think we have 18 to 25 videos, and many are shot on location at retail facilities, grain elevators, or feed mills.

“We train employees upon hire on all of the fundamental topics, and then as things change, I place additional training into the schedule every now and then to refresh their memory.

“If employees are observed working unsafely, managers have the ability to retrain to the topic and document within Asmark.”

Wade Morris
Safety Coordinator
Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative | Rosalia, WA

“I just began using Safety Made Simple’s online safety training platform, and I’ve been happy with it so far. It gives us a little bit better reach with our employees because the footprint of our company is so large. Using this program will allow us to keep everyone updated on their safety training, no matter where they’re located.

“That being said, we do as much hands-on training as we can. We try to do it once a month. We try to do as much as we can, but we were kind of limited with what we can do, which is why we chose to go with the Safety Made Simple safety training program. The nice thing with that is we can download any of our own programs that we want into that program. The other thing that I really like about it is that we can formulate a test involved with it to make sure that our employees actually retain some of that information as well.”

Jason Outland
Environmental, Safety, and Health Director
Hopkinsville Elevator Company | Hopkinsville, KY

“Safety starts with understanding your risk. Hopkinsville Elevator works diligently to determine our risk by conducting yearly risk assessments at our facilities. These assessments are intended to calculate the likelihood and severity of risks.

“Safety training is then developed to educate our employees on eliminating or reducing risk.

“Training is conducted in a variety of ways. New hires are given an initial safety orientation, and then again after 90 days, we certify them in fall protection, bin entry, and lockout/tagout. This gives new employees 90 days to familiarize themselves with the operation before being exposed to higher risk.

“Bi-monthly safety trainings are held at each location on predesignated topics to ensure training is up to date and fresh for the employees.

“Location managers are required to conduct monthly behavior-based safety audits to ensure employees understand risk and have retained training as well. Many hands-on tools also have been developed to give the employees a deeper understanding of the risk, including an operational lockout board and dust explosion simulator. Our facilities are also audited and scored on safety, maintenance, and housekeeping each month – this allows us to measure success.

“Safety committees are formed yearly, and audits are conducted at all facilities. The safety committee allows us to provide additional training with the employees on hazard recognition. The committee looks for hazards and ensures that all safety forms and permits were completed within the last year. This is an opportunity for employees to be involved with the cultivation of a good safety culture.

“Each year, I lead a companywide safety meeting to promote safety before fall harvest to make sure each employee understands that safety is our top priority, no matter the task. Hopkinsville Elevator is growing safer together, and we understand it’s a group effort to truly be safe.”

Jason Nowaskowski
Risk Coordinator
Centerra Coop | Ashland, OH

“I think effective training has a number of components. For me, hands-on training is always going to be the most effective method for most employees in our industry, as long as it is backed up by enough classroom time or a thorough curriculum to cover all the details.

“Second, I find that real-life experiences or stories shared by myself or by other employees usually have the greatest impact when training on potential hazards. Speaking hypothetically about hazards will never carry as much weight as sharing real incidents of near misses.

“We mostly do hands-on and classroom safety training at our location, and each of our branches does a monthly safety meeting or training, usually directed by on-site employees with input from me as needed.”