A Safety Coordinator Opens the Door to More Contracts

Even smaller portable sanitation companies should train a point person to oversee safety for the good of employees and to land more work

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When the business cycle is slow, Dan Lin, safety coordinator/operator of Supreme Vac in Edmonton, Alberta, jumps into a truck and works in the field. It is this versatility that has allowed the small business to maintain a designated safety person on staff.

The company itself provides vacuum truck, hydrovac and steam services with a large emphasis on safety. All employees are required to have current certifications and safety training, but the company takes it even further by having a specific safety person on staff. This wasn’t an overnight position, but one that evolved over time.

“As a business’ customer portfolio and client requirements grow, it is important to enhance and comply with a safety program,” says Braydon Jeske, foreman/operator at Supreme Vac.

A DEDICATION TO SAFETY

In 2011 and 2012, the company first had an employee designated to manage the paperwork and administration necessary for safety. That evolved to Lin taking his current position in late 2014. What makes him unique in this position is that he also has the required licensure to operate the trucks.

This has given Lin the versatility to spend approximately 50 percent of his time in a safety administrative role and 50 percent of his time directly in the field, operating equipment. He works to make sure Supreme Vac is in compliance with its own safety requirements as well as government regulations and client compliance requirements. He knows what to do; the challenges within the field; and how to monitor as well as document safety plans, procedures, and requirements. It is this combined knowledge that helps him provide safety features for Supreme Vac.

However, most small companies, including portable sanitation providers, are not able to have a designated safety person on staff because of the funds available. Instead, the owners handle the safety role themselves or the employees are expected to simply comply after training has been presented. The need for a designated person becomes more important for that small company to compete with larger companies when bidding on jobs that have a safety coordinator as a requirement.

ADDING A DEDICATED SAFETY PERSON

Lin suggests looking at the type of work a company is currently doing and expects to do in the future. This insight is valuable when deciding to add a staff member focused specifically on safety.

Jeske also recommends focusing on a safety employee who is diversified in skill sets. Lin is that guy for Supreme Vac: while he oversees safety at the company, he can also run equipment in the field during those slow cycles that each business in the industry faces. This means he isn’t just sitting in an office.   

The safety culture, however, isn’t fully dependent on the safety person. The focus on safety becomes everyone’s responsibility. Jeske recommends any person put in the safety role needs to be confident, knowledgeable of policy and procedures, and able to enforce the safety processes and procedures.

STAY FOCUSED ON SAFETY

Even if a full-time safety coordinator is not within reach for a company, it doesn’t mean it should skimp on safety. There are simple things the company can do to keep its employees safe. For example, Supreme Vac always sends two operators on a job. This way, someone is there to handle any potential issues and to assist in potentially dangerous situations, such as spotting and congestion with traffic.

Regardless of whether a designated safety person is on staff, communication is another key to safety. Supreme Vac focuses this communication not only internally with its employees, but also externally with its clients.

The company requests feedback from clients, which may include conversations around processes used as well as equipment and specific concerns. These upper management conversations are important because a client may be reluctant to talk directly with the equipment operators. Talking instead with the designated safety person or someone in higher management is a way to keep those communication lines open.

IS A SAFETY PERSON NEEDED?

Companies can review the need for a designated safety person by looking at current and expected contracts, regular processes, dangerous work environments, equipment used and customer lists.

After that review, consider how management prepares and communicates with employees to safely complete all aspects of the jobs. Companies might just start with basic safety processes and procedures before growing from there — just as Supreme Vac did.

“The bigger the company gets, the more the safety needs to expand,” Jeske says. 



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