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Episode 119: Rethinking Your Safety Program

Liz Bothwell

August 23, 2021

In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, you will hear another dynamic session from WasteExpo, “Rethinking Your Safety Program.” Dig into how technology can improve employee and operational safety, how adopting a new safety meeting model can help drive organizational performance, and so much more.

Learn from panelists Rob Ashlaw, industry account manager, Caterpillar Safety Services; Christopher Bergacs, director of safety and logistics, Mazza Recycling Services; and Mike Urane, Co-founder and GM, Hill Country Waste Solutions.

Here’s a sneak peek:

Urane: We do a few things differently at Hill Country Waste. It is our intention of all of our safety meetings to change behavior, not just transfer information. So how do you do that? First is to emphasize customer service at every meeting. We always touch on a common theme: the honor of providing exceptional service to each customer. Secondly, we inspire our team members. We don’t just treat them like a number; they are human beings who do an incredible amount of work for our company and the communities we serve. Your meeting time must include an inspired experience. It has to be on purpose and it’s no accident. Lastly, there is relationship building. It has been said, and this is a true axiomatic principle that can be applied in all aspects of life: rules without relationship will lead to rebellion. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care—and it applies specifically to your safety program.

Bergacs: The waste industry is full of tough guys. You have those guys who have been in the industry 30 years, and you can’t tell them what to do, because he’s already going to be safe. So how do you make somebody who thinks they are already safe even safer? And how do you decide what strategy is right for your company? For one thing, COVID changed the face of training, and it made remote training possible. Depending on your facility needs, there are countless systems out there to help with training. Knowing your employees is the key to this, though. And my thought process is always to use the simplest program so you can allow any employee, regardless of education level and language, the ability to utilize it properly. Ultimately the most successful part of a safety program is getting personal with employees and creating a culture of change.

Ashlaw: When do most organizations talk about safety? After an accident. That is common across all industries, but how do we change that—and what are the actual root causes of injuries? When an incident happens, is it because of an at-risk behavior or hazardous conditions? Ninety percent of incidents occur because of at-risk behaviors. And those stem for attitudes, beliefs, and ideas of the individual. So how do we change that? Look at the culture and what you’ve instilled in people. It’s all about proactive norms; giving safety feedback. And knowing what prevents people from speaking up. We have to teach the individuals who work for us how to receive feedback and give feedback. So it can prevent an injury to them, myself, other people. How much better can we be, and how can we get there? People may assume their unsafe actions are acceptable if nobody tells them otherwise. The three steps of giving feedback are: ask (find out why they are doing what they are doing), getting a commitment (work together to find a safer way; sometimes it takes just five minutes), and finally, follow up (check to make sure they are working safely and give positive feedback, or don’t give up if they still aren’t working safely).

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About the Author(s)

Liz Bothwell

Head of Content & Marketing, Waste360

Liz Bothwell is head of content and marketing for Waste360, proud host of the NothingWasted! Podcast, and ghostwrites for others to keep her skills sharp and creative juices flowing. She loves family, football, her French bulldogs, and telling stories that can help to make the world a more sustainable place.

Follow her on Linkedin or Twitter

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