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BUSINESS


It can also go in the other direction, Colvin points out. “Get modified to a 75 rating for good safety, and your payment could drop as low as $42,000.”


In Colvin’s opinion, insurers are very good at looking out for their interests when there are accidents, as in fighting the claim. But they are not nearly as good at being proactive with their insured customers. Safety training is leſt up to the individual company.


Meeting the challenge Many in the industry meet the challenge through a combination of safety manuals for study, work-yard briefings, ‘tailgate talks,’ and one-on- one supervisor-employee trainings. Extra care is taken with employees new to the industry or new to the company. With the kind of employee turnover that’s too oſten found in the industry, training never stops.


Franchisor U.S. Lawns, based in Orlando, Florida, and owned by industry giant ValleyCrest Landscape Companies of Calabasas, California, tries to inculcate a culture of safety among its 200-plus franchisees.


Mike Fitzpatrick, U.S. Lawns vice president who has been in the industry for two decades and with the company since 1999, is in charge of all franchise support, as well as the company’s na- tional accounts. He says that U.S. Lawns is striv- ing for a safety culture from the top down, and that the top includes him.


“Safety is a core competency in our business,” Fitzpatrick explains. “It’s job number one. Every single one of our franchisees gets a documented safety manual that’s two inches thick, covering everything from fire prevention to blood-borne pathogens, to the safe operation of motor ve- hicles. Te manual sets out our safety rules and policies, and even diagrams our weekly tailgate talks for crew chiefs and crew members.”


Fitzpatrick is adamant that crew chiefs pay particular attention to new employees. Just as many military casualties occur with a soldier’s first exposure to combat, Fitzpatrick believes that most accidents happen in the first 90 days on the job. He also cites Mondays as worrisome, when


crew members might be unfocused aſter a weekend away from the job.


“We try to do our tailgate meetings on Monday mornings,” he explains. “We’ve got 62 separate topics in our safety binder for crew chiefs to use, and they use their judgment, depend- ing on what’s most relevant. If there’s been a lot of rain, it could be a tailgate talk on wet weather driving. If trees are on the agenda, it could be about safe pruning, or eye safety, or any other thing that the crew chief thinks is relevant to cover.”


Extra care is taken with employees new to the industry or new to the company. With the kind of employee turnover that’s too often found in the industry, training never stops.


Mike Dingman, senior vice president at Val- leyCrest, who oversees the company’s safety program, is also alert to that ‘first 90 days’ win- dow of vulnerability for rookie accidents. “We’ve developed a buddy system on jobsites, as well as created an easy way for new crew members to learn safety habits,” he says. “Workers must wear a green safety vest for the first 90 days. Tere are a couple of simple reasons we do that. One is that it makes them more visible in the field, and second, it allows more experienced workers to keep an eye on them.”


At Stay Green in Santa Clarita, California, Rene Rivera, vice president of operations, and Jorge Donapretry, human resources, say that seven out of ten accidents happen during the first year a new hire is on the job, and many of those during the first 90 days.


“We do an hour-and-a-half orientation for all new hires,” Donapetry says. “And a good chunk of that has to do with safety procedures.” Te


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UAC MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012


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