By Terrence Patterson.

Safety: Risk & Teamwork

Poor decisions about safety put you, your team and their families at risk.

That’s the first lesson I took away from a safety symposium in Green Bay, Wisconsin, sponsored in conjunction with the American Society of Safety Professionals. The event featured motivational safety speaker Eric Giguere who shared his terrifying story of being buried alive and the poor decisions that led-up to his experience.

As I listened to Giguere’s story, I immediately saw the parallels to MRF safety.

Complacency Can Kill

In my role as a MRF onsite manager, I learned three things from Giguere that I’ve applied to my team and my site.

  1. Don’t become complacent.
    At Giguere’s job, the team got stuck doing things the way a former manager thought was safe. They didn’t evolve or continue learning. That approach worked for a while: things went well day after day, and everything looked great. Until it didn’t. A situation occurred that the team wasn’t prepared or trained to handle. Someone made a decision to do something unsafe and it put Giguere and the team in danger.

Safety can’t be an “every now and then” thing. How to live safe is something that has to be continuously reinforced. You have to remind folks every day that what they do affects everyone.

  1. Teamwork is essential.
    The decisions we make every day about safety on the job affect us as individuals. They also affect our team, customers and vendors, our family members, and the families of everyone on the team.

Safety at home must be part of the equation as well. When a team member is injured at home, they’re lost to the team as well. Leadpoint’s LiveSafe philosophy is big on this point. As team members, we must live, work, think and act safely in everything we do. No exceptions.

  1. No shortcuts.
    In the moment, taking a shortcut may not seem like a big deal. It’s just one time, may save a few minutes, and who will notice? That mentality is a recipe for disaster. Bale safety is a great example.

It’s everyone’s responsibility on the baling floor and storage areas to take a look and be aware as they’re walking around. It’s easy to make mistakes in moving and stacking bales; there’s a lot of pressure in that job. I tell my team, “If you see a bale that looks improper, take immediate action.” If you see an improperly stacked bale and it falls, it will almost certainly cause a fatality and that becomes something you will have to live with every day.

If you see something, say something. Think of yourself and the team. That’s another principle of Leadpoint’s LiveSafe philosophy.

Safety: Hiring & Retention

I’ve always felt that it’s important to hire for character and train for skill. That approach works in many environments including MRFs.

Having experience in a specific role or set of tasks doesn’t mean an individual will fit on the team, share the values of the company, help us achieve our goals, and embrace safety.

Once the right person is identified, a great onboarding experience is the most important step to ensuring they are productive and stay on the job. At Leadpoint, we look for people who are passionate about producing a great final product. We hire people who take their work seriously. And we want people who understand how to fulfill their role safely.

At my site, our new hire training program extends well beyond the first day or week on the job. We pair every new hire with a buddy who helps them learn the job, see the value in what they do, and build a sense of pride. This approach has the added benefit of giving the buddy group a deeper sense of teamwork and commitment to the MRF and the work.

Sorters are the most important people in the plant. Without them, we have a horrible product. If they don’t care and aren’t trained, we not only produce a sub-standard product, we also don’t have buyers. And without thorough, ongoing safety training, the entire recycling program is at risk.

Safety: Active Shooter

We live in an age when an active shooter situation is a real possibility in any business. This was another topic covered in the safety symposium.

I was immediately able to put a few best practices into effect at my MRF based on what I learned.

  1. We created a plan for what to do if an active shooter enters our plant or property.
  2. We made it clear that being blunt and loud is a good defensive tactic, and that those who move tend to live.
  3. We educated our employees and team members on simple, easy to remember steps for what to do in an active shooter situation. For example, move away from the shooter and exit the facility as soon as possible. Those who hunker-down and try to hide are the ones who tend to lose their lives.

Safety Equals Preparedness

In the end, to Live Safe means to prepare. Set the team up for safe work habits with continuous training and the most modern approaches. Make safety part of the onboarding process and ensure that every employee is motivated to work well, smart and safe. And have a plan for the worst-case scenario.

Terrence Patterson, J.D., is Leadpoint’s onsite manager at Tri-County Recycling in Appleton, Wisconsin. Terrence earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California and a Juris Doctorate from the University of San Francisco School of Law. He served as a State of California Deputy Commissioner for 10 years, as well as, a Sonoma County Commissioner before relocating to Wisconsin where he is a member of the State Bar. He joined Leadpoint in January 2019.

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