The food processing industry has gotten a lot of heat over the years for the hard work it puts in and the physicality of the job. Thus, worker safety is top of mind for everyone involved in the industry. But how do you go beyond sets of rules and regulations and get your employees to really buy into a culture of safety? The best way to infuse a new employee mindset is to re-shift your own thinking around employee training and safety.
Rob Lowe, corporate safety director at Packer Sanitation Services, Inc. (PSSI) has five insights that he uses to engage employees in a safer, more productive work environment:
Treat workers like athletes.
Have you ever thought of your team members as “industrial athletes?” Lowe says embracing this concept has been key to rethinking the safety culture at PSSI. “Our sanitation team members must stand, bend, crawl and climb to reach every nook and cranny for cleaning,” says Lowe. “Before every shift we do group stretching exercises to prevent muscle pulls and strains—just like an athletic team preparing for a big game.” These exercises also help build comradery between team members and give team members a vision about the bigger purpose of the work they do.
Be aware of learning styles.
Lowe advises using a variety of training methods: visual, spoken, text-based and hands-on. “Many people, and millennials in particular, respond well to hands-on and simulated experiences. They learn best by watching someone do a task, then performing it themselves,” he says. PSSI uses interactive learning tools, such as a lock-out, tag-out demonstration board, so team members can watch and practice safe procedures. This allows team members to feel comfortable and natural when they then perform tasks in real-time.
Keep it upbeat.
The “safety” talk has a reputation of being boring lectures and unattainable standards, but it doesn’t have to be that way. PSSI sanitation teams track days and weeks without injury and celebrate milestones and successes. “We start every safety discussion on a positive note and instill pride among our team members,” Lowe says.
Refocus during the shift.
Sanitation shifts are long, and they can become monotonous if not well-managed. On a nightly basis, PSSI crews take part in what Lowe calls a “two-minute drill.” Team members stop work and come together to discuss and correct any safety hazards. “It takes just 30 seconds to refocus attention on safety. That pays huge dividends,” he says.
Internalize a safety culture.
Effective safety training goes beyond onboarding during the first days and weeks on the job, Lowe says. “We work hard to establish a culture of safety that new employees need to see, feel and understand from the first time they walk in the door. By passing this safety culture from one team member to another it becomes sustainable over time, even with turnover.”
Don’t let one more injury happen on account of apathy. Redefine sanitation safety in your plant. Visit redefinecleanpssi.com to connect with the sanitation experts today.