written by: Richard Wethington, Training Manager, MD Logistics
As the warehousing industry continues to evolve, safety training programs must evolve as well in order to ensure your team can do their jobs in a safe and efficient manner. At MD Logistics, we understand that a safety program is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. As we looked to revise our safety program, we began with an internal review of our existing environment and safety protocol to see how we could make our warehouses a safer environment for our team without compromising the quality our customers have come to expect from us. For us, we saw an opportunity to give our warehouse team an opportunity to collaborate their ideas and brainstorm any gaps that may arise due to changes to the program. While the MD Logistics safety program was designed specifically for our team members and environment, it might not work for yours. However there are a few general points that lie at the base of a successful implementation of a training program in your warehouse.
Safety Programming of the Past
Having a safety programming is not a new phenomenon for most 3PLs who operate today. Perhaps you host OSHA sponsored and certified training courses, informing your team of proper workplace procedures for forklift certification or Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO). Or maybe you support customer supplied training’s on the proper handling of their products. All of these are standard practice within our industry and all necessary to ensure your team stays safe. However, as the warehouse continues to evolve, there are other opportunities to educate your team on how to maintain a safe environment and strong safety record.
Implementing a Training Program
When you think about implementing a safety training program, consider the type of a curriculum you will present to your team. Before you can begin to build a learning plan, you have to build a program that has the strength and support to last!
A Safety Leader must have a vision and be able to communicate that vision with as many details as possible. It’s important to not only have an understanding of what you want a program to look like, but what is the best way to structure that program, so you can make the biggest impact within your organization. You should also thinkabout how you can measure results; what key performance indicators can you track to measure success? Taking the time to clearly communicate a complete vision will allow you to see some real results; minimize accident reports and overall create a safer workplace.
Now that you have a vision for your warehouse safety and training program, shift the focus to gaining the support from upper level management. Many times, by implementing a program of this magnitude, you are changing the culture of a company, which includes the standards and processes by which everyone is used to. As a result, having the support from the top shows the rest of the organization that its leaders support the changes.
Build a Team of ‘Champions’
Once you have support from upper level management, you have to identify a team of individuals across all areas of the warehouse floor. First, you will need a group of ‘champions’ who you can rely on to carry out the educational programming you develop. These should be individuals who are already leaders on the warehouse floor and have been identified by management to ‘run’ the safety committee in their building. These individuals should be in positions where they engage with and encourage associates daily, have excellent project management skills and lead by example.
Once you have your group of leaders, you can then begin the process of building your safety committee team. In order to get the best results, these members should be comprised of volunteers ensuring that they are interested in making a difference and willing to actively participate in meetings. It’s also a good idea to accept volunteers who have demonstrated initiative and safety consciousness, further solidifying a commitment to building a safe work environment.
Once you have your team, you can then begin to gather feedback from your committee of volunteers to understand where there are training gaps in regards to safety in the warehouse. The best way to do this is by asking the people who are working on the warehouse floor day in and day out. Giving them a voice allows them to feel like their opinion matters and allows you to create a training program with valid concerns from your own warehouse.
Any time a new program is implemented, like one on improving workplace practices with the goal of a safer environment, you are in a way altering the culture of a company. And when the culture is affected, in any way, you run the risk of pushback from your team, especially from those who have been around the longest. Make sure you stay patient with your team, implementing a new program is not something that will happen overnight. Understand that to change a culture will take some time. It’s also important to have an understanding that any time you implement a new program, there will probably be obstacles that stand in your way, threatening to derail your progress and invoke feelings of giving up in your team. It’s important to lead the change by remaining patient and keep moving forward in order to achieve the desired results.
We’ve seen how critical it is to have a safety program in the warehouse with the recent COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has highlighted the importance of having good hygiene practices in place to better protect our team from illness. Not only are practices and procedures important, creating a culture that places an emphasis on safety and cleanliness is equally as important and has the ability to keep your team members healthy and safe when the unexpected happens. As a result of the pandemic, our team has enhanced our cleaning practices to include more robust cleanings of high traffic areas, hand sanitizing stations and offering personal protective equipment in the warehouse to keep our team healthy and our customer’s supply chain’s moving forward!
There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to implementing a safety training program, it really comes down to implementing a program that will work for your unique team and work environment. The most important aspect of a safety training program is to raise safety awareness in your teams as they perform their jobs. However, by developing a clear vision and gaining support of upper level management, building a dedicated team of ‘champions’ and listening to what your team has identified as gaps in the safety training curriculum, you are well on your way to building a training program that will stand the test of time. Developing a culture of safety will also aid you and your team when the unexpected happens, like a global pandemic.