As we had learned in step 3 – Training, even though it is listed as the third step, it is still an extremely important detail to a successful peak season. With that said, this next step, safety is not only just as equally important as training but in fact, they go together hand in hand. Safety is always a challenge in the workplace but then add in temporary workers and getting them to buy-in to your safety program is even more of a challenge. Then, if that’s not enough include young workers, ages 15-24 and it will be a trial by fire. Even if the temporaries receive safety training through the temp agency, you’ll need to reinforce it even further through your own safety orientation including clearly spelling out the consequences of not following safety rules including those infractions that’ll get them escorted off the premises immediately. (Please note for the purpose of clarity in this article, when I speak of safety I’m also including sanitation as cleanliness is part of safety.)
STEP 4 – Safety
To help make this more manageable for you and easily digestible for temp workers, break safety down into different levels/categories of skills and knowledge.
General safety for all (orientation) – this is safety information you want everyone to know. Evacuation plan including route and assembly area; type of signal used to alert of emergencies (do you use bells, horns, whistles, etc.); required wear needed to be in the general area like appropriate clothing, hairnets, beard-nets and other general P.P.E. like bump caps, safety glasses, steel toe shoes and ear plugs; use of pedestrian ways; cell phone use while working; keeping work area free of clutter and debris; where to place cardboard, plastic and other trash; not using boxes and product in lower racks as stepping stools to reach upper racks; how to report an accident, dealing with liquid spills or other hazards; signage; do not touch let alone operate any machinery or equipment without being cleared to do so by management. I know temp agencies want their people to report accidents to them but I’ve always insisted that they tell us immediately first so we are aware of any issues or hazards and can ensure proper treatment quickly.
Specific safety – this would focus on the area and type of work the temp has been assigned and what equipment they’ll be using. Use of tuggers, forklifts, manual and electric pallet jacks and other vehicles are always a safety concern. Take the time to watch them in action after their training is completed. For minor concerns coaching will help greatly but I strongly reccommend a zero tolerance when it comes to horseplay or willful acts by temporary employees. Another specific area would be use of the compactor and banding of bales for recycling. Only trained temporaries should be allowed near the machine if it is so decided. Even if someone says they had previous experience using the equipment, still make sure they’re properly trained by your standards before being allowed to operate it. Step ladders, stairways, mezzanines and any other means of travel within the building should also be a safety concern. Don’t take it for granted that temporary employees know how to use those modes properly and that they fully understand any associated hazards. I worked in a large plant that used man-lifts to get up and down the 9 stories. We had an outside contractor come in for a construction project who the company assumed knew how to use the man-lift. He tried to save time and bring his tools along on the man-lift and fell, breaking his ankles, wrist and ribs. If they will they be working near Conveyor belts, again make sure they’re aware of the associated hazards and know where emergency shutoff buttons are located and how to use. Will they be operating mechanical pallet dispensers, shrink wrap machines, they need to know and understand L.O.T.O. for dealing with jams or who they need to contact and how.
Bottom line, for a successful peak season look at each job a temporary employee will do as if it’s you first time and see if there are hazards lying in wait and don’t assume they’ll recognize the hazards on their own. When you clearly communicate like with anything else, most workers will learn and comply but you will also find those gems out there who’ll keep you on your toes. I once had a temporary worker, trying to impress me with his enthusiasm, climb up the side of 5 levels of racking like an acrobat to retrieve an item off the top. Needless to say I was not amused.
Next installment – STEP 5 – Leadership