Safety First with Doug Hoffmann
Jan 30, 2019
Jesse Wiant: Thanks Stef, so as companies grow, safety becomes a topic with a lot more time spent and concern put on it from the standpoint to properly trained employees, so we make sure everybody goes home safe. Here at UFC every month we have a safety training that is required for every employee, just to know the nuances in order to have that safe workplace. UFC has multiple divisions that have different safety needs or requirements that each employee is expected to be trained on for their day to day activities. So like Stef said, today we have Doug Hoffman joining us. We're going to talk more about what it takes to have a safe workplace. So thanks Doug, maybe just give us a quick rundown of what your day to day activities are and what you handle here at UFC.
Doug Hoffmann: Well, thanks guys and welcome everyone. My activities consist daily, just to put it in a nutshell, to make each and every employee go home safer than what they showed up for work. That involves, as you noted, to some job specific training, daily safety tips and training and then of course the monthly training. Also Job specific when it comes to doing their specific jobs, some internal training that is needed. Each and every employee is important to us here at UFC and their safety as well.
Jesse Wiant: Well, as I said to start, UFC has many different divisions and I know myself, I can't tell you the safety requirements or training that's involved or needed for each of those divisions. Doug, maybe just touch on a couple specifics that the listeners maybe wouldn't be aware of that different departments within UFC need to be trained up on.
Doug Hoffmann: Well, as you said, train safety of course is one of them because we do have some rail and loadings of both corn and fertilizer. There's transporting of that in and out of our elevator and our establishment here. Also, we have a confined space training, involving a lot of grain bin safety type and areas of smaller spaces. There's also lock out, tag out training involved in whenever you're working on a piece of equipment or something that we need to release the energy and make sure and lock it out before anybody's working on it. There's also a job specific, we have respiratory fit training for handling chemicals and the list goes on. PPE awareness and safety zones that we've got, I would say that's probably a generalized, that everybody within the company knows the PPE zones and the safety zones there, the required of what they're supposed to wear in different areas.
Jesse Wiant: So with that said, I mean that's a lot, there's 300 different full time employees here and somewhere upwards of 500 with seasonal and part time employees. How do you handle all that? I mean, is there anything in place at UFC to help you. I mean, you're a one man show, Doug.
Doug Hoffmann: Well, what we do is we have a safety committee. We've got a couple of different safety committees, one is the generalized safety committee. It's made up of employees from different locations and departments. So, what that is, is we go through basic safety topics. A big one is incident reviews, near miss or first report of injuries. We reviewed those, talk about what actually happened in this case We do that investigation and if it's something, if it's policy or protocol, we need to change then that will go accordingly. Well these then branch out to their locations or departments and act as sub safety leaders at these departments or locations as well. So it's kind of one committee and then spreads out to over and fosters over the whole company. Another thing we do is we have, each year Jesse, what we call and you know we do what's called Safety Week. It's held in July. It's what we do is totally devote that week to safety. Hopefully not limited to just that week of course, but we put a full emphasis on safety. Activities include, we start out Monday with the employee picnic. Everybody comes, our employees are invited to a picnic out on the parking lot out here at the Berdan Center. We bring kids activities and safety activities. Last year we had a fire house, we had a fire extinguisher demo, and then also into the health. We had blood pressure testing, we had a massage table there and we even had a, what do you call it with the needles, acupuncture, a Gal with acupuncture there and then there's a different booths with healthy eating and different activities and it's just kicks off that week of total safety devotion here at UFC. Each day, you talked about our monthly trainings, we have a safety topic daily that week. Then there's different safety activities that we do throughout the week. Everybody in the company is given a safety t-shirt with a logo for that year and they are to wear it on that Monday and then close out the week on that Friday. And then, customers or patrons if you've gone around to our locations and seen these lime green banners hanging. That's our safety slogan for that year. So it's a total week of devotion to safety that we put on every year. And then one of our other committees is basically what we have set up in the last year, it''s what we call Soar to Safety.
Jesse Wiant: Okay. So I guess maybe touch on that, how is that different or what makes that different than the safety committee?
Doug Hoffmann: Okay. The Soar of Safety is basically, it's a behavioral safety designed to actually have employees, just notice each other performance. And it's based totally on a positive, if you see somebody doing something good, like wearing eye protection or hey, I just seen him driving across the yard with the forklift and he had a seatbelt on. Hey, that's a positive thing. What you do then is you interact with them, say, Hey, I noticed you were wearing your seatbelt. Nice job way to stay safe that way. It's a matter of then small form you fill out, notice that safe act, send it in and each month the locations will send them to myself and as a Soar to Safety committee, we will review these actions and it has come about that we have noticed already from doing this that we notice a lot more of a per se, seatbelts wearing on forklifts or wearing safety glasses at all times. So it's a positive reaction and you know how we all respond to positive, much better than a negative. We feel it's working tremendously.
Jesse Wiant: So just to touch a little bit on that. In my former career, I guess we had worked on implementing like what you're talking about, a behavioral safety program that definitely took some time to adapt to, from the employee's standard or level where they had to get used to somebody watching them. But like you say, it's not pointing out the bad things, it's pointing out the things you're doing well or the things you're doing the correct way to build on that because like you say, Doug, I mean, it's so much easier to learn to get better from the positives versus the negatives. What I see here as, I'm on the steering committee or the Soar to Safety aspect of UFC, it's very similar to what I experienced before. It was slow to kind of start where people were Kinda like, oh, what are you guys doing now? But now it's gotten to the point where the positive reinforcement, and then there's also a drawing or whatever for something small at the end of every month where we're rewarding the employees for doing things the right way. I mean it's becoming more widely accepted program for us. So like I say, I think it's working, you don't see guys jumping on a forklift and not using the seatbelt for that example. So I'm just the little things and getting those done right is, I mean that makes everything safer.
Doug Hoffmann: Oh, exactly and what we have found is that the trend, it's easier for our employees now they're feeling more and more comfortable to say something and that's the good thing because in safety, it's all about if I'm going to see somebody doing something wrong and don't say anything, then that's partly my fault as well. If something were to happen. So what we're doing, a twist on it, when an employee is doing something positive, as recalled the safety that that's a plus and we're finding that the takeoff of this is actually in the positive. So it's working.
Jesse Wiant: So Doug, like I said before, we've got roughly 300 full time employees and upwards of 500 with seasonal and part time employees. How do we make sure that the seasonal or part time employees get the proper training when maybe they're only here a couple of weeks out of the year?
Doug Hoffmann: Well, basically when a new employee comes in, we have got what we call on-board training. The whole thing is related with the HR department, dealing anywhere from what's involved with insurance and all the way to what's involved with you as an employee, but also safety aspects of it. It then goes to the location portion of it, of the site safety. What do you do in case of a tornado? Your emergency action plans? Those are all things that we need every individual and every employee to know, it's great importance. And then also their jobs specific. After we get done with the formal, the starting paperwork, then it moves on to the location, the job specific or the location specific. So, and seasonal, a lot of times for example, in agronomy they're brought in before the season starts, just like the full time employees. It's a training session, annually that they do. So they're caught up seasonal and part time as well. Another source of training that we do for seasonal, part time and full time, is our annual Right to Know training. That is something that OSHA mandates that we as an employers must have a training annually for every single one of our employees. And it involves a lot of the safety operations, deals with what we deal with the company. But then also it's called the Haz Comm portion of it. We have to review anything involving Haz Comm, meaning with chemicals and anything from what the SDS is, what do you do in case of a spill, all the way down the line there. So that's one part of it. We also talked about our PPE, levels of PPE again, what PPE must be worn where. There's certain things that are mandated that you must cover with your employees on the annual Right to Know trainings.
Jesse Wiant: So you had brought up the EAP or the emergency action plan and one of the things, I guess I've never really put a lot of thought into until recent. Just never had never thought about it, I guess, like the sign in sheets at all of our locations. To me that was just part of the procedure, right? If it's a chemical rep or anybody that's doing work at that location that's not an employee of UFC needs to sign in. I always thought, well it's just to cross the t's and dot the i's, right? I started thinking about that, well what if there is a tornado or what if there is a fire? We've got to be able to account for those people as well. So, I mean, I think that's something that maybe gets overlooked to a point. That like, me for example, not really thinking about why or how this is affecting anybody else, but I mean I started thinking, well what if somebody is doing some work on the leg for us or something and we have a fire. Well, how do you account for them? So just a little thing that I've noticed I guess, or picked up on here in the last, I don't know, a couple of years.
Doug Hoffmann: Oh, and it's a very good point and that's exactly what that sign in sheet is designed for in case of an emergency then we know who to account for within the realms of the business or the location. Exactly that. Getting to the second part, that a lot of the employees don't realize the importance of it, see, that goes back to some of what I have to do again, back to my daily activities. Those are all small thing. I don't mean they're small, but yet in the realm of things, it's one of those small things that I have to try to go out and police and make sure that everybody. So I do take a little bit of responsibility there and take the initiative to try to make sure that everybody is aware of that. And that's why coming up, well in this month, we go through every year in January, we, at our monthly trainings, we review our emergency action plans and those are things we talk about. Okay. Are you having everybody, all visitors sign in? Just think to yourself, where's the nearest fire extinguisher to your office or by your office, or in your area of work? Where would you go in case of a fire? Where do you go in case of a tornado? All of these are very important things because we all know in the case of an emergency, we're all going 100 miles an hour. It should be implanted into your brain even though you're going 100 miles an hour.
Jesse Wiant: Yup. Right. Right. So obviously this is an agronomy podcast, so let's focus a little bit more on agronomy specifically. Dealing with different fertilizers, different chemicals, different seed treatments, are there certain trainings that, that can cover that aspect of agronomy and how to be safe handling those products?
Doug Hoffmann: Yes. Each spring, the agronomy team and myself, we get together the operations managers and we put together a training session for all employees within the agronomy department. What that does is the EPA sets out a standard that every year you must go through the workers protection standard with your employees. It involves working with chemicals, so it involves chemicals safety, what do you do in case of a spill? Here again back to the Right to Know, but we do this workers protection standards and then also we discuss vehicle safety. Whether it's a piece of equipment or it's a semi attending to that piece of equipment. We talk about the PPE needed at various locations and it's all a bunch of safety topics including other pertinent agronomy topics involved with the whole starting with the spring rush of agronomy practices.
Jesse Wiant: You mentioned a different PPE, with the vast array of products that UFC is using specifically chemicals. As we spray, do custom spraying, what is some of the PPE that's required? I mean, obviously there's a label for each product, but I mean, is there here's your standard five things that are required for spraying?
Doug Hoffmann: Yes sir, it's basically your rubber boats, your rubber gloves, safety goggles, and your long sleeves of both pants and shirts are required when working with all products. There are some products, and you alluded to, looking at the SDS labels that require, a mask, that you wear a respirator. If that's the case, then we, if it's required, then we at UFC must also go through the fit testing process for respiratory users. What that is, is basically we have to make sure and give the employee a physical to make sure that they are capable of wearing a respirator if they pass the physical, then we have to go through with what's called a fit test. We put a hood over the person's, I don't mean it in a bad sense, but a vented hood where the person wears the respirator and we shoot some, bittrex, is what it's called. It's a mist. They do various tasks, from walking to jogging to turning your head side to side, up and down. If at any time during this test that they can taste a bitter, then your respirator or your dust mask is not working, you must stop. Some things may be they don't have it on correctly, some may be, just as yourself, facial hair that may stop some of that. There are in cases in times where some of our employees have to shave to get a good fit for those masks. And of course this is required if the SDS, the product requires it. Not a lot of products that we work with, in fact, I can only think of two that we have at UFC.
Jesse Wiant: Obviously we're concerned about the safety of the employees here at UFC, but we're also concerned about the patrons. What advice would you give listeners to practice good farm safety on their own operations?
Doug Hoffmann: Number one, slow down. Take your time. Think about what you're doing. Think about the things you're doing before you get rushed into it. Chemical safety, we talked about it earlier, farmers work with chemicals just as well as we do here at the cooperative here. So use those precautions, read those labels, heed the warnings on those chemical labels. Children's safety, that's a big one, to me that one, always awareness of where your children are at, if they're surround, you, know that that's huge. Another one is animal safety, is big. Animals you can't trust they're not like humans a lot of times that we know what they're going to do. Be careful working with animals we alluded to earlier, grain bin safety, that's another thing, entering grain bins is just a hazard in its own. Anything from crusted grain to the gases that may be admitted, there's many hazards within that. And then the personal safety, take care of yourself during the busy time, get your rest, eat well, relax. I know it's easy for me to say here relax, but you'll get things done, we always do. We always end up getting things done. Also, Jesse, I just want to remind our listeners to keep an eye out for different extension agencies throughout the co-ops or anybody related with the industry on trainings that our consumers or customers could take to make them safer within the realms on the farm.
Jesse Wiant: Well, thanks Doug. Just to kind of sum this up, we ran through the different divisions and how obviously there's some safety requirements, safety trainings that would overlap, but there are division specific trainings that go on as well. We talked a little bit about the safety committee, safety week, and our Soar to Safety program here at UFC and how we're working with employees to help Doug make sure the message of a safe workplace is getting out. Spoke a little bit about more specifically in agronomy, the different trainings as well as a different products and how we handle those. And then just to wrap it up, like Doug said, safety of our patrons is something that's very important to us as well as the safety of our employees. And we don't take either one light, so Doug it was really nice having you on something a little different to talk about versus just strictly agronomy, but I hope the listeners get something out of this where they can apply it to their own operation.
Doug Hoffmann: Thank you and thank all and make sure you have a safe day.
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