About Us & Our Safety
The opportunity to write a paragraph on safety and its involvement and impact in our business began with taking some time to reflect on today, yesterday, and tomorrow and how safety has changed for ME in the workplace.
A lot has changed in this regard since I began working in Industry around 1987 when I was fresh out of school and eager to get to work.One of my first jobs was in a manufacturing shop that fabricated sheet metal products. A shop full of machinery, materials, and processes that had the potential to hurt people in an instant. I was directly involved in scheduling and project planning in this operation and productivity and output were the keys goals of my role there.
If I think back now, I can recall the discussions around the shop floor and yes, occasionally they were in regards to a cut finger, a damaged production item, or a broken piece of equipment. These were very matter of fact discussions, generally led by a shop foreman, and typically were reactive and tended to be more along the lines of “I told you so, you should have been wearing your gloves” or “come on Johnny, be more careful, you bent the guard on the shear”.
There seemed to be a concern for safety but it was mostly left to the worker to be aware and take steps to protect themselves. Most workers seemed to make their choices based on comfort, convenience, whatever they felt was necessary to get the job done to meet the production targets they had. I do not recall having safety meetings, toolbox talks, hazard assessments, incident reports, near misses, etc.
In most instances that I can recall if a worker was hurt or something was damaged it fell on the worker to answer to the issue and if a minor injury occurred, get it dealt with and get back to work. I would say that most people that made a mistake were embarrassed or ashamed and generally said little and learned a lesson they would carry forward. I do not recall the company getting overly involved to be honest.
Not to say there was not the overall protection of WCB, etc. if there was something major that occurred but it was in the background, we knew that. What I will say is that the company was aware and attempted to show compassion and involvement in incidents but it did not feel like a high priority, certainly not the number one priority.
Fast forward to 2016
The workplace has a very different feel today in regards to safety, at least from the company perspective for sure. The common message is Safety First!
Starting at the hiring stage, some of the first exposure to a new company involves review of safety policies and procedures. Signatures from employees committing to the safety policies, consequences for non-compliance, and procedures to follow when incidents occur are reviewed in detail.Is this truly for the safety of the worker or for protection of the company’s liabilities? Both from what I see.
Certainly all the companies I know of value their people and don’t want to see people or property harmed. Having said that, the company push for “safety first” may be a lot more about the protection of the company and its officers vs. the true safety of its workers. In many incidents I have been made aware of the post incident push seems much more tailored to the due diligence of the process and paperwork steps to ensure the company is protected rather than the correction of the mistake, or the training necessary to ensure the worker does not repeat the mistake.
In fact, I can recall many instances where employees had to ask what the outcome of the investigation was or perhaps went back to work with no real change to the behavior or process that led to the incident in the first place. A letter in the HR file indicating the disciplinary steps that were taken seemed to take precedence over the training or mentoring that should occur to prevent a repeat of the mistake.
Renegade Hydrovacs’ Safety
Today as an co-owner of a hydrovac company my partner and I discuss safety on a daily basis. We see all sides of the story. We understand the need for risk management by the company. We understand the need for process and due diligence. We also know the value of people in our organization. Our clients demand a professional and safe delivery of service. Our business and industry is so thick with safety requirements that some days it feels like the actual production is so diminished by the time taken to address the liabilities of safety we have driven the cost of business through the roof. We have days when we are not positive who benefits and who is at risk but we know one thing, the barrage of messages, slogans, commitments, requirements, and appearance of safety has not necessarily improved the performance and awareness of the worker himself. We believe the worker is so over managed with safety messages, procedures, and expectations that we have lost some of the personal accountability and awareness required to be safe. Todays worker appears to us to be losing the self awareness, self improvement initiative, and ownership of their actions.
In todays world of Renegade Hydrovac we of course need to cover all aspects and know that we cannot change the world overnight, however, we feel that the ultimate win in safety comes from our people. No matter how many forms we have them sign or how many procedures we give them in a binder, their safe success depends on their decisions all day, every day. Their awareness. Their experience.
For us to give them the best opportunity to succeed we focus both on the procedures and processes that are mandatory in our company but also on education, mentoring, feedback, and recognition. Our approach is based on preparing our workers with training and industry backed processes to guide them but also to make decisions on the job based on their instincts and understanding of the tasks and risks.
We do not want to hold a toolbox meeting everyday where workers stand with a blank stare and “tune out” the messages just so they can get their signature on the safety meeting sheet because they are expected to do so. We want our people to lead the charge. We encourage them to bring their ideas forward. We swap crews to learn from each other. We staff our trucks with experienced people and develop new employees with a mentoring approach. We challenge each other to work safely.