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July 31, 2014 | Elise Schafer
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Pre-harvest Safety Lesson

Reinforce your safety culture before the busiest season arrives

Reading a text message from behind the wheel takes the average driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the entire length of a football field blindfolded.

You may have heard this before, but I learned it from Kyle Whisler, commercial manager for Archer Daniels Midland Co., during the opening ceremony of ADM’s Beech Grove, IN, wheat milling facility. Every ADM meeting begins with a Safety Moment. It doesn’t have to be grain handling related or even occupational related. Kyle chose to focus on distracted driving, as the temptation of chiming cell phones during even a short commute is all but unavoidable these days. Through policies like the Safety Moment, ADM has created a safety culture that goes beyond on-site considerations and extends to personal well-being. This attitude was fully on display during my facility tour. From requiring safety glasses, earplugs, a hard hat and a hair net to be worn before stepping inside the mill to reminders to keep hands on stair rails, ADM employees have clearly embraced the company’s values. It was a fantastic example of the kind of culture Feed & Grain has always encouraged its readers to instill.

The message is especially timely as we head into what is expected to be a record harvest year for soybeans and a corn harvest estimated to be on par with last year’s. Trucks soon will be racing in and out of elevators and although railcar delays are inevitable, when they arrive, crews will be bustling to quickly load and send them on their way.

Before the busy season arrives, now is the time to conduct a safety audit, test your hazard monitoring systems, repair any parts that aren’t in working order and perform preventive maintenance on conveying and material handling equipment, scales, probes, dust collectors and dryers.

Also, never turn a blind eye to a potentially unsafe behavior, or worse — an OSHA violation. Enforcing safety rules may not win you any popularity contests, but it’s one aspect of a manager’s job that can’t be taken lightly. Not addressing concerns early on could lead to a tragedy. Borrowing words from this issue’s Manager’s Notebook column: “Often our first instinct when confronted with a crucial moment is to remain silent and do nothing ... [but,] it is important to hold people accountable, and not speaking up is not holding people accountable.”

Doing this, plus regularly sharing safety tips (not just company policies, but real-world information) shows employees you care about their well-being and helps create a safety culture.

Here’s wishing you and yours a safe harvest season!

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