Quick, count to seven. Finished? Another U.S. worker was injured. According to the National Safety Council, an American worker suffers an on-the-job injury every seven seconds. That adds up to 510 workplace injuries every hour, 12,600 a day and a whopping 4.6 million a year. In 2017 alone, businesses lost 104 million production hours thanks to work-related injuries.
Yet, that’s not even the worst of it. Thousands of workers lose their lives every day in workplace accidents. In 2017, there were a total of 5,147 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this number is down slightly from the workplace 5,190 fatalities in 2016, it’s still far too many.
The statistics are mind-blowing. Even worse, each and every one of these injuries and fatalities could have been prevented with a proper safety program.
While there are more dangerous careers than pest management, our industry is certainly not immune to job-related injuries. This is precisely why workplace safety should be a top priority for pest management leaders.
“It is vitally important for pest management leaders to stay up-to-date on OSHA regulations and ensure their employees are following proper safety standards for a number of reasons,” says Richard Spencer, A.C.E., Director of Safety & Risk Management for Arrow Exterminators. “First and foremost, for the safety of the individual team member. Secondly, for the health and welfare of the organization.”
Spencer goes on to point out how a single injury to an individual team member can send shockwaves through a pest management company. That’s because one workplace accident ultimately impacts numerous people—not just the affected team member. “If the injury is severe enough, the team member may miss work as well as not be able to participate in family activities,” Spencer explains. It also affects customers the team member was scheduled to service and the office staff who has to spend extra time rescheduling those appointments, he adds.
“It also impacts other team members who may need to adjust an already busy schedule to help cover the injured team member’s workload,” he adds. “Managers must drop what they are doing to manage the care and injury reporting for the team member.”
In the end, a single workplace injury impacts the business as a whole. “It affects the company’s financial health in medical costs as well as possible insurance premium increases,” Spencer emphasizes.
BUILDING A SAFETY NET
If you want to create a safety net for your pest management workers, Spencer says it’s essential to stay up-to-date on the latest Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. OSHA is constantly updating and revising standards, so it’s easy to fall behind on the latest regulations.
“The newest OSHA regulation that affects pest management leaders is the Silica Dust Standard,” Spencer explains. “This has policies regulating the exposure and control of silica dust when we are performing drilling and chiseling of concrete for termite treatments and foundation vent installation.”
OSHA’s revised silica rule on how contractors should manage their workplace exposures to respirable crystalline silica is being enforced. However, many contractors still don’t realize this rule applies to their business—and non-compliance can be extremely expensive for a pest control company.
Fortunately, PMPs don’t have to go at it alone. Trade associations, like the NPMA, can help pest management leaders stay on top of the latest OSHA standards. “A copy of the study on this new silica dust regulation can be obtained from NPMA,” Spencer explains.
For more information about OSHA standards, visit the NPMA Resource Center at npmapestworld.org/resourcecenter and click on “Safety” to access the OSHA Resources Toolbox.
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY: SIX TRIED & TRUE TIPS
According to Spencer, workplace safety should not be viewed as a training concept—it should be a cornerstone of a company’s culture. “Companies must have a passion for the health and welfare of each team member, and individual team members must have a passion for the health and welfare of each other,” he explains.
Arrow Exterminators follows a safety manual that covers the main hazards its team members face as well as important OSHA information, Spencer says. In fact, the company even branded its safety program with a logo that reads, “Arrow Exterminators Safe: Think Safety! Work Safely!”
“Safety is so important to our ownership and executive committee that it’s one of our company’s Eight Core Values,” he explains.
He offers the following expert safety tips and advice for pest management companies:
1. UNDERSTAND THAT SAFETY IS A TOP DOWN CONCEPT, NOT A BOTTOM UP CONCEPT.
“Safety and the safety culture must be exemplified and invested in by ownership and management first,” Spencer says. “It is not what is said, but what is shown by leadership that will instill the importance of safety with each individual team member.”
2. EMPOWER TEAM MEMBERS TO MAKE THE SAFE DECISION IN EVERY SITUATION.
“Tell them it is okay to stop what they are doing and ask questions if they feel unsafe,” he advises. “Teach your team members to identify hazards in the workplace and how to mitigate each hazard.”
Spencer says Arrow uses the acronym WIN, which stands for “What’s Important Now?” For example, if a technician is at the top of a wooden staircase and is about to walk down the stairs in shoe covers, they would ask themselves, “What’s important now?”
“What’s important now is to not slip and fall,” Spencer says. “What’s not important now is servicing the kitchen. The team member’s mind should be on the most important task at hand.”
This acronym is particularly important when technicians are on the road. After all, traffic accidents are the number one cause for workplace fatalities. When technicians are behind the wheel, what’s important now is keeping their eyes on the road and driving safely.
3. ENGAGE TEAM MEMBERS IN THE SAFETY PROCESS.
Spencer says Arrow instituted a Safety Coach role in each location to keep team members involved. “This is a non-managerial team member who volunteers for the role and receives guidance from the Safety Department,” he explains.
The company also uses contests to get employees amped about safety. “We have had several safety contests engaging our team members from art to video to taking pictures of hazards they came across in the field and explaining the hazard and what they did to mitigate it,” he says. These contests include cool prizes like iPads, gift cards and sporting event tickets.
4. START A WEEKLY SAFETY MESSAGE PROGRAM.
Send team members a 10 to 15-minute message on a specific safety topic each week. “The message should be delivered to the entire team by a non-managerial team member,” Spencer suggests.
5. CREATE A SAFE DRIVER TRAINING PROGRAM.
“Operating a motor vehicle is the number one hazard we all face each day,” Spencer stresses. He says a safe driver training program can be purchased from organizations like the National Safety Council or AAA. Alternatively, you can create your own company program.
6. MAKE SAFETY FUN.
While workplace safety is a serious topic, it doesn’t mean your safety program has to be a downer. “Try to have fun with safety education and training,” Spencer says. An exciting safety lesson will keep your employees entertained and engaged—which means they’re more likely to retain the information.
BY AMY BELL