Safety Survey: Best Training Ideas Use Employee Input, Ideas to Keep Instruction Interesting, Relevant

Grain Journal asked five safety leaders to share their ideas for training that keep employees up to date on proper procedures at their facilities and grain industry best practices.

Jason Olson | Safety Director | James Valley Grain, LLC | Oakes, ND

“The safety training we use changes often, depending on conditions in the industry and current best practices.

“We have morning toolbox meetings to talk about the changing conditions and safety concerns that are happening locally and nationally.

“We use North Dakota Grain Dealers Association and DEKRA/RCI programs for safety training at our locations.

“Our employees created a program called STRIVE (success through responsibility, integrity, value, and empowerment) to assist with keeping safety a top priority at James Valley Grain.

“STRIVE is an employee-made program developed with DEKRA/RCI that we implemented in the past year. We ask all employees to document safety procedures and actions that are done correctly and incorrectly.

“No names are documented, so employees are not singled out, but we monitor our adherence to safety standards with our procedures and equipment.

“This program then generates graphs showing us areas where we are doing well and where we need improvement.

“Our employees are encouraged to provide input and their ideas, because at the end of the day, we want to all go home happy and healthy, the same as when we came to work.”

Jason Hedeen | Safety Director | Ag Partners Co-op | Goodhue, MN

“We’re a hands-on team at Ag Partners. We don’t force rules on people but help everyone understand how to do things right and hold people accountable for their own actions.

“It’s not one person’s job to promote safety, it’s everyone’s. We have supportive management that wants to make sure everyone gets home safely every day.

“Our culture is that we will do things the right way. We have a safety committee where we discuss ideas, and we make sure everyone is heard. Our safety training emphasizes communication.

“I have an open-door policy. If employees can speak freely, we can discuss issues and solve problems pragmatically. In that way, our training has the buy-in that helps make it successful and representative of our safety culture.

“We use hands-on learning. I have to be hands-on to see the issue and learn the techniques and reasons for doing things a certain way. That’s how I learned, and that’s how I share.

“Our insurance company does annual walk-throughs of our facilities and provides a list of what we could do better, such as improving something that might be borderline compliant.

“I have been at Ag Partners for 15 years and served as safety director for five. As the years have gone by, that list has been getting shorter and shorter. That tells me our culture is getting where it needs to be.”

Melanie Ziems | Safety Manager | Ag Partners, LLC | Albert City, IA

“Due to COVID-19, many companies are increasing their use of computer-based training, which makes employee interaction and engagement in training programs more important than ever. One concept I generally build into a training program is the Bob Pike Group concept of ‘revisitors.’ This concept is based on the assumption people need to review new information at least six times before it moves from short-term to long-term memory.

“Most will agree reviewing a topic once a year, whether face-to-face or online, is not an effective training model. However, due to increasing training and compliance requirements, it’s often the model we fall back on. Prioritize safety topics important to your company and commit to revisiting these six times throughout the year in different ways.

“Common revisitors include the traditional toolbox talk, an incident review at your location’s monthly safety meeting, or hands-on training and demonstrations. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing the fall protection demo truck? But to accomplish six touch points on one topic alone requires safety professionals to be creative. Activities like a small group personal protective equipment scavenger hunt (and inspection) or a crossword puzzle with key confined space terms and definitions can keep key safety concepts in front of employees year round.”

Lisa Hanson | Safety Director | Ag Plus LP | South Whitley, IN

“Safety is an important part of our culture at Ag Plus. New-hire training is done in person. There is a combination of PowerPoints and videos used. Having a new hire in front of a computer screen simply watching a presentation and checking boxes, I think it loses some of the effectiveness. We have employees coming to us that have never worked in the agriculture industry before and are unaware of the hazards associated with the job.

“Since Ag Plus has multiple locations, each handling a variety of products and services in the agriculture industry, every employee’s training is unique. In-person training allows me to make sure each person is getting the training needed for their specific job.

“One of my main safety information sources is Nationwide Insurance’s training division. They have been key in both providing material and attending and participating in training sessions. I also use the ResponsibleAg’s auditor checklist to ensure that employees are receiving the training needed for their jobs.

“Each year, every employee – no matter part-time or full-time – receives eight to 10 hours of training. This could be through new employee training and our annual refresher. I try to focus on different subjects and training approaches each year to keep the material fresh.

“There is a safety committee made up of representatives from each of our locations. Those employees bring a different perspective to the discussion based on their location’s safety functions. We discuss a wide range of issues faced at the locations, and then the representative is able to take that back to the branch level.

“We use Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Grain Journal websites for topics to discuss. Typically, it includes one-page printouts for employees to review, and the managers review those with the employee group each month.

“Ag Plus always is looking at new ways to train both new and existing employees. We are working on making videos of our employees performing a given job while applying safety topics that have been covered. As with so many things in life, it is easy to read a paper on a topic, but to see a plan or procedure put into place, especially at our company, we think will have great added value.

“Safety is a group effort that requires all employees to keep everyone safe. I visit each location frequently and perform walkarounds. When issues are discovered, I am able to address them with the location manager and determine how to best eliminate any safety risks.

“My goal is to make sure that each employee knows the hazards and risks they face daily working in the agriculture industry and how to safely tackle those hazards and risks. Employees must take an active role in their own safety to make sure they can perform their job safely. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that everyone returns home to their loved ones.”

We are working on making videos of our employees preforming a given job while applying safety topics that have been covered.

Melissa Wilson | Safety and Environmental Manager | Mountaire Farms | Salisbury, MD

“The most effective safety training has hands-on components. We bring in a vendor for certain high-risk jobs such as grain bin rescue/entrapment. For these types of training, you can’t do it 100% in a classroom. For grain entrapment, for example, our employees safely simulate how to rescue a co-worker entrapped in corn, practicing using their weight to push a rescue tube panel into the corn next to the entrapped person.

“Touching the equipment is memorable, because while PowerPoints are good, doing hands-on and site-specific training is important. We make every effort to supplement computer-based training with hands-on training. Conducting emergency evacuation site drills allow us to practice stopping, assembling, counting people, and timing the results. We treat drills like a real emergency, so no one knows ahead of time when we’re doing a drill.

“We also have monthly site safety meetings on a safety topic that’s important, and site managers get to choose the topic. We all go to work every day with the mindset that we’ll go home in the same condition we arrived – injury-free. Any training that lets people ask questions later with their supervisor is a good idea.

“I go to every site monthly and talk about Goal Zero for Injuries, which is our safety initiative focusing on the goal of having zero accidents. We have quarterly meetings where site safety managers’ report safety updates and talk about what they are doing regarding safety and improvements.

“We also have Golden and Silver Egg safety awards for employees who report an unsafe situation, help a co-worker complete a task safely, help improve the work process environment, or suggest an idea to improve safety and efficiency. Those recognized receive a free lunch, Amazon gift card, and a gold or silver egg that they can display on a wall.”

From the September/October 2020 Grain Journal

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