Unbreakable Safety Tenets: Safety Leaders Share Core Beliefs of Their Safety Programs

Following established guideposts helps support a strong safety culture. GRAIN JOURNAL asked five safety professionals for their perspectives on the unbreakable tenets that set the tone for safe operations at their facilities.

Darrell Hemker | Associate Director, Safety | The Maschoffs, LLC | Carlyle, IL

“We recently established our Safety Non-Negotiables, and the one at the top of the list that really hits home is, ‘Stop work that you believe is unsafe.’ This is best described as ‘Safety is everyone’s responsibility.’

“We greatly encourage our managers to have an open safety environment. If you don’t know something – a safety practice or regulatory requirement – just ask.

“We need to give employees the right training that empowers them to do their jobs safely. Today, everything is so fast-paced that we can get distracted, minds wander, and these can factor into an incident.

“Lastly, we have a big focus on doing good risk assessments and how to eliminate or mitigate risk. If personal protective equipment (PPE) is used to reduce risk, you need to have the right PPE in the right place. It has to be clean and readily available. Safety must be easy or people may consider other unsafe actions.”

Dawn Moninger | EHS Director | JD Heiskell & Co. | Omaha, NE

“Our top unbreakable safety tenet is: ‘We will send our employees home safely every day.’ It’s more than just meeting safety compliance requirements; it’s about exceeding compliance to provide employees with the safest and healthiest work environment possible. We demonstrate our core values of ‘safety first’ everyday.

“We accept no unnecessary risks. We know we’re compliant to the letter of the law, but if we believe there is still residual risk involved, we must do more. We conduct hazard identification walks to identify a wide range of risks at our facilities, anywhere from addressing the complexities of aging infrastructure, to the ergonomics of work stations and the conditions of walking and working surfaces.

“We integrate our safety program into all activities. Safety is everyone’s job, and there isn’t one owner of safety. Everyone owns safety at every level and has responsibility within our safety program, including identifying and correcting safety hazards, hiring contractors with the safest work records, purchasing safety-compliant equipment, and updating facility infrastructure to ensure safety compliance.”

Ben Buller | Safety Coordinator | Farmers Cooperative | Dorchester, NE

“We use a drone to do safety inspections where it’s unsafe for people to be, such as at the top of a steel bin or elevator that doesn’t have a manlift. If it’s a straight ladder up to the top, I send up the drone. It can take pictures or video, and I can show it to our people. It’s very helpful and improves safety.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is using drones after catastrophic events to review the aftermath and assess the situation. Now we do, too.

“There are lots of rules and regulations for drone flight, however. I tell people, ‘Flying is the easy part; following the rules and not breaking the law is the hard part.’”

Tom Hermance | Safety Department Manager | Farmers Cooperative | Dorchester, NE

“The most important item in our safety culture is our CARE (consequences, accountabilities, responsibilities, and expectations) program. We care about each other beyond just compliance. We have a lot of discussion about why safety is so important. We want everyone to be safe because we all want to go home to our families.

“Safety is one of our core values. We provide a caring safety environment for our employees, customers, and communities. If we keep those three things in mind, safety compliance is fundamental. We train and study compliance, and then it comes down to CARE.

“We also encourage all employees to share a best practice if they discover better, safer ways to work. We’ve implemented several new safety best practices that our employees have suggested.”

Adam Benes | Grain Safety and Compliance Manager | Frontier Cooperative | Waverly, NE

“Our first unbreakable safety tenet is making sure employees stop work when something doesn’t feel right, if they haven’t been trained, or if they don’t know how to do something safely.

“We also put a lot of emphasis on hands-on training, which is short and interactive to keep employees engaged and interested. We’re spending more time training employees on where accidents or near misses are occurring, focusing time and resources on problem areas, which are always changing. We also spend more time training our part-time or seasonal employees as well as new employees.

“Finally, we do hazard identification to determine and eliminate problem areas. Our employees are trained to identify hazards. We have a lot of older facilities, so it’s important to have employees directly involved and engaged to spot hazards. It seems like every time you go through a facility, you find something new.”

- From the September/October 2021 GRAIN JOURNAL