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Safety Is A Badge Of Honor

Safety Is A Badge Of Honor

By Jonathan Crandall, Chief Visionary for JC Grounds Management - Snow Business Magazine

Protecting your team and the public is vital – do you have a plan?

I remember being 16 and invincible, or so I thought. I unfortunately have stories of close calls from that time in my life, most of which could have been avoided. Fast forward to today and, oh, how things have changed. Today, safety is the most important thing at JC Grounds Management and during family or personal time. I think of how many moving parts we have in our business and how so many of those parts are moving under intense pressure. In the winter services profession, we typically operate at night in the worst weather conditions for long hours and under time pressure to get areas cleared and passable for the client ASAP. So how do we balance risk and efficient production? For example, what if slowing down a bit so we can be safer leads to more unsafe conditions for others (e.g., a slippery area at a hospital)? The answer is that we must do our best to be safe in all situations. Nothing we are doing is more important than making it home safe to our loved ones at the end of the day.

Preach safety

My friend and co-SIMA board member John Janes of Caterpillar, Inc. told us at a board meeting that
Caterpillar’s No. 1 metric was recordable injury frequency (RIF). CAT has been able to make an amazing

improvement on this number, reducing it by 93% in the past 8 years.
John went on to say "I average five group meetings a day. Each of these meetings starts with a safety
slide/safety share. At 220 workdays per year, I am reminded approximately 1,100 times per year that we/I
care about everyone’s safety and believe that every injury is preventable." When speaking with John, you
can hear how much he really believes in this message and how it is an absolute part of Caterpillar’s culture.

Create a rest plan

Once after a long storm in Boston, I received a call from my friend Jeff Tovar, who operates Tovar Snow
Professionals in Chicago. Jeff has always been good at checking in with his friends after a big storm to ask
how they made out. The storm he was calling me about happened to be a long-duration, heavy snowfall

Where does safety start?

I asked Brad Chase, ASM, our operations manager, where he feels safety starts. Brad said safety starts
at the interview and that hiring right is the first step. Does the applicant fit our core values? Ask
questions around safety during the interview process; run a driving record check; run a criminal
background check; and then check references regarding safety.

The next step is to do our best to set our employees up to succeed from a safety standpoint, as well as
from quality of workmanship and efficiency standpoints. He mentioned several key elements that will
drive the employee’s success:

  • Provide hands-on training on the equipment they will be using until they are proficient
  • Show them the do’s and don’ts of the job they will be performing
  • Provide answers to common issues
  • Provide them with, and train them on, processes, including path of motion and the JC way
  • Provide digitally available site maps and site tours prior to the season
  • Perform pre- and post-season meetings to share the good and the bad
  • Provide PPE, including high-visibility gear
  • Provide equipment that is in great condition and the right fit for the job
  • Have a rest plan for long events
  • Train on how to de-escalate conflicts and properly communicate with peers and clients
  • Provide equipment with backup cameras and alarms, and good lighting
  • Train and hold everyone accountable to DOT checks
  • Lock out and tag out equipment

I was tired and concerned about our people as I usually am during the larger events. Jeff asked how our rest
plans were working, and I was happy to share they had been a key driver in our ability to service that event
so well when many of our competitors were having service failures. Several years prior, Jeff had shared with
me that in the very early days of Tovar, staying on the clock until the job was done was considered a badge
of honor. But that in the past 10+ years, his company’s culture had changed and working straight through
storms had become a badge of stupidity!

He emphasized that our brains and bodies need to be able to rest so that we can be safe, perform at our
best and be able to persevere.

At JC Grounds Management, we had set basic rules around hours worked, but nothing that was formal.
After hearing Jeff’s story, we implemented a formal rest plan. Prior to each forecasted long-duration event,
managers must complete a rest plan for themselves and any crew members who would not normally shift
out. These plans are now instrumental in promoting quality of life and safety among our teams.

Things can change in an instant

What is the result of not following a comprehensive safety plan? Our insurance partners Rob Barresi and
Jason Hansing at Starkweather & Shepley shared some intense stories regarding accidents they have
personally dealt with.

One claim was for a 47-year-old construction worker who fell from a ladder. He was not using a 6-foot
ladder properly and fell off; he was offbalance and when he stepped backward to land, he did so awkwardly
and fractured his heel. The employee needed surgery; and there were complications since he was allergic to
the metal rods that were inserted, which caused an infection. This infection spread to his heart, and he
needed open-heart surgery. Ultimately, he lost his leg from the knee down. It is amazing how not being safe
can literally, in just seconds, change your life forever.

We are dedicated to continuously improving our safety programs and educating ourselves and our team as
best we can. I hope this article and some of the ideas shared will help others be a little safer this upcoming
season. Have an amazing summer and prosperous (and safe) season ahead.


Start Planning for the Upcoming Season

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