Safe grain handling operations require a commitment to safety from all employees. Grain Journal recently asked several grain industry safety professionals for their best safety training ideas in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We use the Safety Made Simple software platform for our Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-required, authorized, and requested safety training, including leadership training or if someone needs specific safety training. It’s the best, most complete safety training for the grain industry. The audience is tuned in, since it has been designed for the grain industry. We’ve also added a leader-led safety training and certification course. And afterward, I have attendees walk me through what they’ve learned.
“We have monthly toolbox trainings at each location. This gets managers in front of their teams. We also do a daily safety briefing that includes what’s going on that day, such as truck/train traffic, lockout/tagout, and whatever else is happening.
“I’ve wanted to get more from employees on what they need training-wise, so I instituted a safety challenge coin. It has our core values printed on one side and ‘Mission to Zero’ goal on the other side. It’s definitely old school, but we want to ‘SPARK’ conversations by Sharing our Purpose, Awareness, and Relevant Knowledge. I often ask employees what they’re most afraid of safety-wise and explain why we do things. I also ask things such as, ‘Where are the fire exits?’ or ‘Where do we go for tornado drills?’
“We’ve given a safety challenge coin to everyone in our company, and I ask our employees to carry it with them at all times. Anyone can ask any employee if they have their coin with them, and if you catch someone without it, that person needs to buy you lunch. People even ask the CEO if he has his coin.
“I want employees to be comfortable bringing up the safety risks they see in our facility. I love the conversations I have with our employees, and it helps me identify gaps in knowledge and where we need to increase focus so we can get to where we need to be.”
- Dean Alling, Attebury Grain LLC
“We perform hands-on training to show employees the safety part of things. We show them how to do the job safely, and then have them demonstrate it to prove comprehension. I know everyone is in a hurry to get things done, myself included, but we have to do our jobs safely – take that five extra minutes to do something the safe way.
“Because of the pandemic, we’re not doing as much large, in-person training. We’ve been doing online competency testing to ensure employees learn what’s being taught. We use a safety-training program that’s available through our insurance company. We can assign employees anything they need to learn about and are able to do so safely.
“We have 80 locations in five states, so we have to rely on peers/mentors to ensure new hires are learning our safety culture. We make sure they understand from the beginning that safety is the number one priority.”
-Jim Holiday, Aurora Coop Elevator Co
“For grain engulfment training, we made a hopper on a 20-foot-long car trailer that holds 200 bushels of grain. People go into the grain up to their waist, and there’s a trap door on the bottom of the trailer. We can suck out the grain through the door to simulate what it’s like to be entrapped.
“We also train employees about bin entry permits, grain bridging, grain sticking to the walls and what to look for, and first aid for engulfment accidents before first responders arrive. For grain engulfment training, we put an employee waist deep in the grain, then have three guys try to pull them out, but they are unable. That visual is a very valuable training tool that shows what engulfment is like.
“We do two big training sessions annually, one in the spring and one in the fall. We did grain entrapment last fall, and this spring we focused on lockout/tagout, air handlers, permits, and air monitors. We provide hands-on experience and have people rotate between stations. We also did more demonstrations with the trailer I mentioned earlier. Our philosophy is that we put our resources toward going into the field for hands-on training, rather than having classes with videos.
“We also have members of our safety committee walk around our grain facilities they haven’t seen before. This gives us more eyes to see safety issues. They might see things people walk right by and don’t see every day. They also review housekeeping, and we ask them about what they saw so we can turn their observations into teaching opportunities through fixing those safety issues. It’s been very valuable.”
-Mike Carroll, Frontier Cooperative
“We transitioned from in-person to online training in February due to COVID-19. It has been working great. The only downside with online training is a lack of human interaction, but it has been a big success overall. We even put our right-to-know training online. The results are off the charts in a positive way. We began using Safety Made Simple software and are more than happy with it. We’re new to it, so they’ve held our hands. It’s been phenomenal.
-Doug Hoffman, United Farmers Cooperative
“We not only invest in our employees but in our communities as well. We partnered with 24 fire departments and provided grain rescue tubes. We also hired a training company to provide grain rescue training for these fire departments, because the tubes without training aren’t very helpful. We’ve already had four of these rescue tubes c put to use by local fire departments in grain entrapment incidents, and all have been rescues, not recoveries. The hazard still exists, so the importance of grain bin safety still needs to be conveyed to customers and competitors.
“We hire a local radio station with several broadcasting locations. I like to put together small spring planting and fall harvest messages for all rural farms and the public to be aware and give farm implements room on our roads. I also believe in positive interaction with our employees and put a positive twist on things. They tend to accept positive messages better than negative ones.”
“Over the past year, due to COVID-19, we’ve moved to remote training. In the past, it was tough for the coop, with 12 locations 150 miles apart, to schedule training to bring everyone together for a day. I’ve developed training videos, and employees can watch them from their work location. We have videos on a variety of topics, including fall protection, bin entry, and our annual training.
“For new hires, I usually spend a day with them for in-person training, but we’ve developed new-hire training they can watch independently. I receive confirmation when they are finished.
“Our trucking department doesn’t have access to our shared drive, but members can download the videos and watch on their phones. It’s convenient, because they can watch them in their truck while waiting to load or unload, and I’m available for questions if necessary.
“We have limited in-person training with new hires but have started to go back to normal and using PowerPoint and video training as more people are becoming vaccinated. We’ll continue to do annual training without closing a location for a day by using videos.”
“We do regular, monthly trainings. We print materials and circulate them to our employees, so they can read and sign to show they comprehend the material. They can do this when it’s convenient to read without jeopardizing customer service. We have a safety culture down to wearing a seat belt when you’re on a forklift. That safety culture is something we emphasize day-to-day and every day, not once a month.
“Normally, we do regular annual companywide safety meetings, although we didn’t this past year due to the pandemic. We’ll get back to these meetings when it’s safe to do so. These meetings are usually held pre-harvest for all employees, including summer help. The training covers what to do and what not to do in the elevator, as well as equipment safety, so employees don’t max out the equipment.
“We also do quarterly safety meetings per branch. These safety meetings are timely and focused on what we’re doing most at the time of the meeting (e.g., covering spray chemical, anhydrous ammonia, or grain handling). We do these meetings in person if we can, and we look forward to getting back to them when it’s safe.”
“We’re building a new paradigm involving safety training. Cooperative work can be dangerous. There are a number of hazardous tasks that must be understood and safety measures employed to prevent accidents and injuries. Human factors invoking an attitude such as complacency, a perception of being in control of a situation, and believing ‘accidents won’t happen to me,’ all play a role in causing negative consequences. Human rationalization results in twisting procedures so a task can be completed more easily. Often this involves taking a shortcut to save time.
“We’re building sustainable comprehension on critical tasks and situational awareness about using lifesaving permits, such as bin entry, hot work, lockout/tagout, confined space entry, and restricted access. These activities require pre-notification and an approval process via email, text, phone, or in-person communication to verify that critical safety measures have been understood and implemented.
-Tony Herek, Countryside Landmark
“All employees take part in a new-hire orientation – in person or via Zoom – to have a conversation about the difference between education and training. A new training concept we are using is to first have a conversation about safety. We ask, ‘Why do we keep having accidents?’ Then we explain how institutions and companies don’t have any memory – only people and workers do.
“Countryside Landmark believes safety is a core value. We’re committed to empowering workers to stop work and obtain clarification in the event of an unsafe situation. Regardless of an employee’s ranking or status in the company, they’re empowered to stop and get it right. Everyone deserves to go home to their family every day.”
-From May/June 2021 GRAIN JOURNAL