Digging In: Hitting the "Reset" Button on Your Safety Program
By Alliant Specialty
Taking a second look at your safety programs and building a safety culture as part of the "fabric" of the company is more important than ever, especially when returning to work after COVID-19. Bruce Droz and Max Macias, Alliant Agribusiness, discuss hitting the "reset" button on your safety program and building a safety culture to help reach your safety goals.
Bruce Droz (00:13):
Hello and welcome everybody. This is Bruce Droz from Alliant Agribusiness. I would like to welcome back our listeners to our podcast series. Today, I'm with Max Macias, Senior Loss Control. Max has a lot of experience in the loss control field for agriculture and food accounts and is a key member of the Alliant Loss Control team. Max, remind me and tell our audience a little bit about your background.
Max Macias (00:37):
My background is in agriculture, obviously growing up in an ag community from a young age, being involved in the industry, my undergraduate and graduate work, both at Cal Poly have been in ag science education. And I've been doing this loss control services for our clients, we're going almost now on 30 years. And so really enjoy it and have a great time with furthering that message of safety and risk management, then the whole aspect of insurance program.
Bruce Droz (01:09):
Well, one thing I think that is on everybody's mind is the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we all do business. So how should an employer or a business think about their safety and loss control program in the context of the COVID pandemic and where we are right now?
Max Macias (01:29):
Bruce, let me take a step back and at least go into what we've done through the pandemic. And then we'll talk a little bit about what we're doing as we're coming hopefully out of a pandemic following CDC guidelines and all the local and state and federal regulations. We try to continue to provide the services in a safe and effective manner, be it through Zoom webinars, etc., where we can. And we've been able to accommodate clients on a small group setting. And I pride myself, I know the team does as well, the fact that with clients that have been with us through this pandemic, we've been able to maintain a consistent level of services in a safe way and continuing to further that safety message. We’re always continuing to build on that safety culture that we look for within our clients’ places of business. Now coming out of the pandemic, we're seeing more and more companies, particularly with the essential workers and the field workers, etc., that 80-90% of their workforce, thankfully have decided to go ahead and get vaccinated. Therefore, we’re being allowed to get the groups a little bigger, a little more consistent with the safety services in the field, which allows us then to continue to provide the services these clients have been accustomed to receiving from us. The other thing that we try to do is as we come out of this pandemic, a lot of companies have had to modify their program. And what we're saying is, look, this may be a great time to hit the “reset” button. What that does is that it allows us to assess where the program has been, maybe where it was even pre-pandemic and helps us to bring it up to the next level. Again, as we try to look for that safety culture building and getting those programs that focus on loss drivers and getting the frequency numbers down. The good news is a lot of companies through the pandemic have seen a great reduction in frequency of incidents. And that's a great thing, but let's not just rely on outside factors, but rather let's get back on a good solid program.
Bruce Droz (03:36):
Max, I really liked the word that you used: reset. I think that it is a key word that folks can use this opportunity to take a second look at their program and get a reset on their program. But you used another word I want to come back to. And that's culture. Culture is something we're hearing a lot about just in society today, but let's talk about safety culture. What does that mean to you?
Max Macias (04:01):
What it means to me is ultimately ending up with a program whereby everyone's involved in that safety culture that's needed to promote on-the-job safety day in and day out. We've had clients that have a good program based on maybe a new safety manager that came in and they brought in a program, and it works effectively. Then that safety manager decides to either move or retire, get hired away, etc. and that program then leaves with that individual. Perhaps it's an outside consultant, even like us. We come in, we're conducting the safety meetings and trainings and everything's moving right along, and the company then decides to possibly change horses. And after a particular year, they go ahead and trade to another company. We then are no longer there to promote that safety program. I would conclude that if we have a safety program, that's a standalone, we can basically move on with internal or external players within the safety program. And that program continues. And so essentially, maybe in the field, we have what are called the crew leaders field supervisors. You may lose one due to retirement, etc. We fill the hole, but basically, we have the program in place. All we do is continue to reinforce that safety message, that culture that we keep referring to. And I appreciate the fact that these things are now being focused on.
Bruce Droz (05:22):
Right. And it needs to come from within and needs to be a part of the fabric of the company. And we've seen this in cases where it works really well. One of the common denominators I believe is that top management or even ownership believes in the safety culture and espouses the safety culture. it's got to be totally supported by top management and ownership.
Max Macias (05:47):
When we come out to a client, let's say it's a new client and we go out and we're going to go ahead and promote the safety services. And again, the way we apply our approach to loss control, getting upper management to buy into what we've been essentially talking about here is so key to the fundamentals of let's get this program off the ground. Now, once we do get some upper management buy-in, it's our job as loss control professionals to come in and understand where our client is. There may be some clients that can hit the ground running. And when we're talking about this, resetting the button, it's up to us to recognize those strengths that those companies have with upper and middle management to promote the services that we're trying to get across to the client, ultimately ending in reduction of incidents, accidents, etc. And, I couldn't agree with you more, Bruce, the fact that upper management buy-in goes a long way. It's essential.
Bruce Droz (06:45):
Thank you, Max. And I think another point we'd like to just touch on is going back to what we started with, which is the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, agriculture was deemed to be an essential business right out of the shoot. And isn't it amazing that the store shelves were never bare. Isn't it amazing that agriculture stepped up and kept the American public fed and it continues to, to this day?
Max Macias (07:13):
Absolutely. And I think to go along with the fact that it's been a challenging time, notwithstanding general society, but the fact that the workforce within our ag industries has been there through the toughest times. And I think that says a lot for our industry, our state's industry. When it comes to agriculture, the leaders within the agricultural industries is right down the line. The fact that we've hopefully put our part in as well to make sure that folks stay on the job and stay safe and protect themselves, provide for their families and keep those shelves stocked.
Bruce Droz (07:53):
Max, we talked about the reset. What kinds of things might you suggest in terms of the reset for an employer? We had a question from a client here recently about tweaking their safety incentive program. I know that word incentive is a little controversial, but what are your thoughts on that?
Max Macias (08:09):
When you mentioned the controversy on that, some years back when OSHA was essentially wanting folks to not really have an incentive program, being that it could result in incentivizing people not to report injuries just in the name of breaching that safety goal. But instead, what we try to do is promote a safety recognition program, whereby efforts’ consistency within safety meetings are being held consistently, maybe injured employees are attended to promptly and they're returned to work as soon as possible. Recognizing those safety efforts, I believe led us into a better area. Whereby again, employees are felt like, I'm being protected. Everything's being done to keep me out of harm's way. If I do happen to be injured, I'm going to be taken care of. And I want to get back to work as soon as physically possible. These safety recognition programs are definitely an excellent way to hit that reset button, allow us to get back and get everyone going in the same direction when it comes to the safety effort, continuing to build on that culture that we keep referring back to. Developing that ongoing safety culture to help us reach our safety goals.
Bruce Droz (09:21):
Along those lines, what we've seen in certain cases is the ability to foster a team environment within the employee group. If a certain shift or a certain crew would be judged on their safety performance and reinforced in a positive way, it can help the team members look out for each other and almost kind of self-police unsafe conditions if it's set up correctly. But that's the key, isn't it?
Max Macias (09:48):
I believe so. And I think to go along with that within the teams, it's the crew leaders that can set up a healthy competition where we're all trying to reach that goal and knowing that what I do on my team affects indirectly your team and vice versa. So, yeah, definitely. I believe everyone getting on board is the key, particularly with when it comes to these recognition programs and all these awareness efforts that we tried to promote.
Bruce Droz (10:17):
You alluded to a potential negative, having more of a punishment aspect versus a positive reinforcement. I'd like to talk about that just a little bit more. Can you maybe revisit that topic and drill down a little deeper on what you mean, and specifically what the difference is between negative reinforcement versus a positive reinforcement atmosphere?
Max Macias (10:37):
When it comes to a corrective behavior, relating to safety, I may be a supervisor that has promoted safety throughout the year and let’s say I happened to have a new team member that isn't necessarily applying his efforts in the way that's expected to resolve in production with safety and ends up getting injured. It would be very difficult for me to come in and start chastising someone, right? Or maybe one is his immediate supervisor, his immediate crew leader, but rather, I believe my efforts are better served to come in and reinforce. Let's try to prevent this from happening again to this individual, to any other individuals on this team or any of our other teams. I just simply believe that reinforcing it in a positive manner just brings so much more of a positive, expected result, rather than reinforcing behavior in a negative way, thereby giving a bad example, I just don't believe those things tend to have lasting positive effects.
Bruce Droz (11:39):
Max, I want to say thank you for spending some time with us today. Just to recap, we talked about the really good timing right now, as we come out of the pandemic, to look at your loss control safety program in terms of potential reset.
Think about that safety culture, which is a whole lot more than just talk. It's got to be lived and breathed by the whole organization day to day. And some of those specifics you shared on positive reinforcement, I think are key. Anything else you'd like to share before we wrap up today, Max?
Max Macias (12:12):
Again, I appreciate the opportunity to come in and talk a little bit about how we go about promoting our services and conducting the services. I just say that to go along with the three points that you just made, as loss control professionals, it's our job in this particular time, to look at where our clients have been coming out of this pandemic and how we best set them up for success, as we start turning these corners, get back on track with positive reinforcement programs, recognizing safety efforts and minimizing those employee exposures to get those results that we want.
Bruce Droz (12:48):
Very good Max. Well, once again, this is Bruce Droz of Alliant Agribusiness talking with Max Macias of Alliant Safety and Loss Control. For more information, please visit alliant.com.
Alliant note and disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance. Please note that prior to implementation your legal counsel should review all details or policy information. Alliant Insurance Services does not provide legal advice or legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please seek the services of your own legal advisor or ask Alliant Insurance Services for a referral. This document is provided on an “as is” basis without any warranty of any kind. Alliant Insurance Services disclaims any liability for any loss or damage from reliance on this document.
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