A Rising Star in Safety - Best Practices
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A Rising Star in Safety

By Joanne Costin

Article Date: 04-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.


Trico Lift takes safety to new heights with a culture that puts the bar above mere compliance.


Though you might not sell or rent aerial work platforms, there is still plenty you should know about Trico Lift, an AED dealer headquartered in Millville, N.J., with seven branch locations serving the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Gulf regions. Trico’s safety program has not only earned industrywide acclaim and reduced costs, but most recently, the company reached a milestone of 12 consecutive months without a lost work-time accident.
 
These accomplishments are evidence of what can happen when a company elevates itself from a basic compliance-oriented organization to one that is clearly and totally committed to creating a accident-free workplace.
 
Steve Phillips, vice president of health, safety and environment, leads all Trico Lift initiatives aimed at reaching the company’s zero accident goal, and is also active in industrywide safety initiatives. Eagerly sharing his knowledge and expertise in safety, Phillips was recently involved in the creation of a new national aerial work platform training guide. He is a former manager of health safety and environmental programs for Halliburton/KBR and well versed in all areas of construction safety.
 
According to Phillips, the single most important factor that differentiates Trico’s safety program is that safety is the No. 1 goal of the company.
 
“We feel strongly that to be the best, we have to work continuously toward a zero-risk work environment,” he said.  “And we demand that of every employee.” The Trico Lift pyramid graphic depicts the company’s goals in order of importance, with safety as the foundation that enables the company to reach its goal of “being the best.”
 
Support from top management is key. “Company President Ken Pustizzi continually reminds everyone that their responsibility is to work safely and report and correct any unsafe conditions. That decision at the highest level has had the biggest impact, regardless of the amount of resources any program can have. Every employee in the organization is empowered to stop any activity or any task if they deem it unsafe, without repercussions. “That has worked quite effectively,” said Phillips.
 
“We have had customer sites where we observed some unsafe activities with our equipment, and we will stop the job and explain why it’s not safe,” said Phillips. “I would say nine out of 10 times, I will get a call asking for advice on how to proceed. They were just aware that what they were doing involved a risky issue or an unsafe condition.”
 
Trico Lift’s health, safety and environmental program began with clearly defined procedures for safe work practices and remains open to adapt to newly identified risks. These documented rules and regulations spell out safe work practices, general safety instructions, and emergency response and preparedness. Most important, they make every employee at every level accountable for reducing and avoiding risks. According to Phillips, the challenge for most dealerships is the volume of standards and industry guidelines that can be confusing or even appear contradictory.
 
“You need to be intimately familiar with what’s expected and what’s been defined as acceptable, safe operations. You must be familiar with these standards and current best practices to perform as a safe provider,” said Phillips. For Trico Lift, the most important standard is ANSO 92.
 
Inspections are a big part of the safety routine at Trico Lift. Each unit is inspected every 90 days, and servicing is tracked through an electronic scheduling system that provides automatic notifications of units that are due for inspection. Should an inspection reveal a noncompliance issue, the unit in question is taken out of service, regardless of activity.
 
Decals, placed on every unit of equipment (see page 38), serve as a reminder to customers that the equipment is checked regularly for safety purposes and provide a public record of the unit’s inspection history. “This simple practice attests to the integrity of our equipment management program,” explained Phillips.
 
“Accident-prevention measures such as job safety analyses, reviewing near misses and incidents, examining root causes and implementing necessary controls to prevent future occurrences are all common practices among our team,” said Phillips.
 
The goal of the Job Safety Analysis (JSA) program is to devise the correct and safest plans for performing all work tasks or new processes. “Reviewing the safest way to perform a job task in advance enables our employees to reduce or eliminate the hazards involved,” said Phillips. “By establishing and recording JSAs for routine and not-so-routine tasks, we have established and regularly update the safety polices that we expect everyone to adhere to.”
 
Technology Enhances Safety
Technology has enhanced Trico Lift’s safety program by enabling the company to simplify and expand the overall administration of its safety program. A software program that tracks near misses and incidents is a huge improvement over the former system that relied on a human resources person to track minimal information.
 
“We did not have a tracking system; they had a log and that was it. No analysis. No reviews,” said Phillips, who joined the company in 2005. And while the Trico system was developed in-house, Phillips said there are companies that offer incident tracking systems.
 
GPS technology is used on all delivery vehicles, trucks and rolloffs. “We use an automated system to maintain all our DOT requirements such as driver hours, pre-operational inspections, transit time versus downtime and end-of-day inspections,” said Phillips.
 
Inspections and maintenance recording and tracking is also done electronically. Online training modules provide cost-savings and WebEx or teleconferencing with visual aids allow for instant communication, exchange and timely policy decisions related to safety.
 
Driver Safety
Driver safety, particularly with regards to loading, securing and unloading is a concern for all dealers. Trico Lift’s driver safety training program covers the state departments of transportation safety guidelines, but predominantly focuses on the proper loading, securing and unloading of equipment.  A complete understanding of machine characteristics, loading combinations and a variety of hazards are reviewed and explained during this training. The company also recently implemented, communicated and trained employees on a new Hands-Free Driving Rule.
 
Of course, all the rules in the world won’t work if employees are not trained and rules are not enforced. Trico employs a two-step approach to successfully implement new rules.
 
“First, we train all employees to ensure awareness, responsibility, understanding and accountability,” said   Phillips. “Second, we conduct continuous, prescheduled follow-ups, which may include audits, surveys, senior management discussions, etc., until we are confident that the rule or procedure has become routine practice in our day-to-day operations. Finally, these rules are observed, reviewed and continually discussed as part of our culture.”
 
Communication
Ongoing communication is an essential component in creating a safe work environment. Trico Lift utilizes its company newsletter to stress the importance of safety in each issue, and special advisories are prepared to alert employees to current safety-related events. Bulletins and correspondence, as well, help to directly involve employees in safety objectives.
 
Weekly and regular safety meetings, participation in safety-related events and trade meetings, incident reviews and general promotion are all methods the company uses to reinforce the safety message.
 
“One of the biggest challenges is that continuous recognition,” said Phillips. “You don’t want to repeat yourself, but you want to keep it fresh.”
 
Measuring the Results and the Savings
The most common indicator to measure the success of a safety program is the number of injuries which OSHA refers to as “recordables.” Those are the incidences that require more than basic first aid. The most recent celebration of 12 consecutive months without an incident is the third time the company is celebrating that milestone, an event which is testimony to Trico’s continuous commitment to the safety, health and wellness of employees and customers.
 
A commitment to safety can also reap huge financial benefits for a dealer. As dealers look for areas to cut costs when revenues are down, they shouldn’t overlook safety.
 
“With no lost time incidences for 2007, 2008 and for 12 consecutive months during 2009 into 2010, we have experienced 100 percent work productivity for those durations,” said Phillips. “The value of that is almost immeasurable.”
 
Another positive side effect of a great safety record is a reduced Experience Modification Rate or EMR. An EMR indicates a company’s level of workman’s compensation claims, and is often part of bid prequalifications. “Our EMR is consistently below the industry standard and has gone as low as .769 in 2009, when the industry average for that same year was 4.7,” said Phillips.  The company’s safety track record has also resulted in a savings of 15 percent on insurance premiums.
 
Safety Training
In addition to training its employees, Trico Lift also trains its customers on safety issues. In the lifting market, providing safety training enabled Trico to become a full-service operation because customers aren’t usually lift experts. “We made a decision to offer training to our customers and others when it seemed that adequate training sources were limited and unavailable.  It also enabled us to expand our scope of customer services.”
 
Training provides an added revenue stream for the company, although some training is provided as a value-added service to customers. While Phillips reports that training income is not a “predictable revenue stream,” the company’s training revenues have increased three-fold over the past three years. “It has become an essential part of our menu of services,” said Phillips.
 
Customer need would be the first thing to determine before considering a training program, he says. But Phillips cautions dealers to be sure they have the resources before offering a program. Those resources would include both personnel and facilities.  According to Phillips, training programs can either be developed in-house or purchased. Trico Lift trains hundreds of customers annually through three designated training centers.
 
Phillips admits it can be a challenge to break through the mindset of safety as a compliance program. “‘What do I have to do to pass an OSHA inspection?’ is not a commitment,” said Phillips. “That is a compliance requirement. A good safety program well exceeds that.”
 
Perhaps it’s time to break through an outdated mindset, and set higher expectations for your own safety program.

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