6 Tips to Maintain Safety in a Tight Labor Market

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PLM safety

It’s a hot labor market this summer. Workers are on the move, and with positions opening and being filled faster than ever, the revolving door of new employees can be difficult to keep track of. As a steady flow of new workers comes through the door for lumber and building material dealers, it’s possible that safety training can start to fall through the cracks. It’s a challenge we all face and a risk that cannot be ignored.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has fallen month over month since April of last year, to a current low of 5.9 percent. People are flooding back into the workforce, and with hiring up after a year of shutdowns, lumber and material dealers will have their hands full with training their new workers.

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PLM safety

Inconsistent management of safety standards can destroy a business. Aside from possibly leading to higher insurance premiums, poor safety standards can also result in an increase in potential losses for your business, damage to your company’s reputation, and injury to your employees. If lumber and building material dealers do not maintain a high standard of safety, they will quickly find that they will have more than a hiring and training problem.

Lumber and building material dealers can reduce risks, prevent confusion, and maintain a safer work environment by following these six steps:

1. Hire the Best

While it can be extremely challenging in a labor market such as this, hiring managers must maintain high standards when screening potential candidates for a position. For example, smart lumber and building material dealers will continue requiring drug tests of new hires and refuse to overlook potential substance abuse issues. Also, pay special attention to your drivers. They have the highest potential of generating losses due to accidents, and only by hiring qualified drivers can you work to avoid potential damages. Regardless of the limited pool of candidates, hiring managers should be sure to complete thorough background checks and only bring on board qualified candidates who pass these screenings. The best workers tend to have the greatest work ethic, so by hiring quality you can minimize risks and potentially hire team members that stay for the long term.

2. Develop and Implement a Training Strategy

Managers at building material dealers should be properly prepared to train new hires, as well as provide refreshers to existing staff. To do this, they will need to be up-to-date on the latest safety guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other reputable sources. In particular, those responsible for training should be experts in handling accidents and emergency situations. Making sure your managers are armed with the resources they need is essential to supporting their training success.

The old adage “failure to plan is planning to fail” is especially true when it comes to safety. While each job will have its own risk and its own needs when it comes to training, having a written strategic plan to guide the training will ensure every new hire –  even in a high-turnover situation – receives the training they need. A written strategy can become a go-to source for new hire training as well as a refresher tool for existing employees. This plan should detail everything from how to drive a forklift, safely load and unload materials, as well as how to stack materials safely.

3. Lead by Example

Safety is more than talking the talk, you have to walk the walk. One of the best ways to promote an atmosphere of safety for employees, is through good housekeeping practices. Equipment should be inspected regularly from the HVAC system to the forklifts and regular maintenance should be performed. Shop space should be inspected for potential hazards like power cords lying around, inventory stacked dangerously high or improperly stored combustible materials. Before you can teach safety to your team, you need to show what a safe business looks like. Never underestimate the importance of walking the walk; business owners should be walking their floors and identifying risks alongside their supervisors.

4. Keep an Eye on Driver Safety

As mentioned above, it’s critical to review employee records before hiring. This can be particularly important if the candidate is going to be behind the wheel on the company’s behalf. Hiring managers at building and material dealers need to be extremely cautious of new hires with less-than-perfect MVR records, as well as those who have limited experience on the road. Keep in mind that a commercial auto accident not only could raise insurance premiums, inventory could be lost or damaged or worse, the driver or another person could be injured or killed. Hiring managers would be wise to train and retrain their drivers, remind them to avoid distractions like their cell phones, and implement risk mitigation devices like braking assistance or blind spot protection.

Additionally, telematics can be particularly helpful in supporting training programs by capturing valuable driving data to inform managers on driving practices and unsafe behavior behind the wheel.

5. Keep Records

If you are hiring new staff throughout a season, it will be important to ensure that every single person has been properly trained. To keep track, maintain good records on who has or needs certain training. A simple spreadsheet for who is going through training, who needs training, and who has completed each step in your training plan will help you keep up with your teams and support your managers. Records can also be helpful in a possible claim investigation demonstrating that your company was not negligent in its safety protocols.

6. Don’t Rush

As the same training is conducted over and over in a high turnover job, it can be tempting to cut corners and streamline the onboarding process by skipping steps. Don’t fall into that trap. Your training plan is there for a reason, and ensures that each employee receives the critical knowledge they need to keep the workplace safe and productive. Also, consider training for the fundamentals first, then adding training and responsibilities in phases to bring a new hire up to speed quickly and ensure they receive proper training over time, rather than all at once. High workplace safety standards may be time consuming to maintain, but they will pay off in the long run by reducing the chances of personal injury or property damage.

PLM safety

The key to any safe workplace is the people in it. With proper planning, and by following the above steps, you can ensure that your employees have the training they need to keep your workplace safe and productive.

For more than 125 years, Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company has been supporting customers in their efforts to maintain safe workplaces and more. To find your local loss control representative, visit our Loss Control Center and use the interactive map. You can also reach our customer service team at CustServ@plmins.com or 1-800-752-1895.

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