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ME & MY MENTOR Creating a safety culture

Small commitment = big payoff by Tony Gibson, Gibson Landscape Services

Q. I know safety is important to my company in many ways, including my bottom line. How do I create a culture of safety?

As with all things, safety leadership starts at the top. Safety is a culture that has to be spoken and walked, put into action every day. It has to be integral to everything that’s done throughout the day. If not, one little thing will fester into larger things and large losses will result.

Promoting your company, employee safety, and financial well-being is going to be tough if you have a safety problem.

The best way to start is to document your safety program. Establish your program’s purpose and objectives. Our in- surance company helped us with this.

Watch your Experience Modification Rate (EMR), a calculation of premiums paid vs. dollars paid on losses. EMR is like a report card, and the results stick with you for a long time. One mistake will stay with you for four years. A lot of our work comes from the pre-qual side and requires a low EMR. Tat motivated us to start. Eventually, we had a loss or two, which hurt us financially and could have kept us from getting business

eventually. We wanted to overcome those losses, so safety became a culture for us.

Develop a safety manual. Tere are lots of templates available; we took some we found online through OSHA and made modifica- tions to fit our company.

Implement safety tests and training for procedures and equipment. Te fore- men and superintendents on our teams all are OSHA certified, at varying levels.

Have weekly meetings. Every Tuesday morning we do tailgate or toolbox topics (superintendents pick something timely) and everyone signs in. Sometimes it’s only 10 minutes, but these little sound bites start breeding into the culture and keep safety in the forefront. People start talking about it, it spreads to other employees and before you know it they are correcting the way a fellow crew member is doing a task.

Stay on top of it. If an incident occurs, we have a meeting right away to discuss and problem solve.

Make it pay. We have a weekly safety bingo program. We track all employee work hours and keep a tally of instances by crew. Every week, crew leader names of teams with no instances go into a pot and we have a draw- ing. Tat crew leader gets a $25 giſt card.

Tony Gibson Gibson Landscape Services

Gibson believes in earning confidence through hard work and that “nothing worthwhile is easily gained,” a philosophy evident throughout the company that he began with 10K in 1998. Upon graduating from Auburn University with a B.S. Horticulture, Gibson found a membership in MALTA to be the perfect re- source to establish vendor relationships and credibility.


“As the leaders of our industry, we must raise aware- ness for unifying our message of professionalism and innovation.”

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