This post is a continuation of the interview with retired safety professional, Tom Menzies. Tom built an award-winning safety program at RK Mechanical. If you haven’t had a chance to read the first post yet, click here to read it. The following is a continuation of the interview.
What did you do to help your team remember ladder safety?
The safety training started at orientation, which lasted about five hours. There was a ladder in the orientation center room so we were able to show them exactly what to do – how to inspect and use the ladder the right way. We also stressed the importance of having quality ladders without damages. Employees were trained to inspect their ladders daily, even multiple times a day. If a ladder was damaged, we replaced it, and we made sure they knew we would replace it. As part of ongoing training, we did Toolbox Talks. I would always choose education over enforcement, but enforcement is important as well. No nonsense is important with everything, but especially with safety. Training people is the main thing. If you don’t train them how do they know what you want? Put pressure on the wives
Another thing we did as part of the enforcement was if someone was caught on a defective ladder or using the ladder unsafely, we had them write a letter to their family where they told them why they made the poor choice. When you drive it home with the family, it helps to. You get the family involved, and the wife is going to come unglued (most of the time) and question the choice, reinforcing the importance of safety. The person had to read that letter to his crew too. It makes him think about how his choices impact others.
Tell me about some specific situations dealing with ladders. Do you have any specific stories, close-calls of incidents dealing with ladders?
Anytime someone is doing something wrong on a ladder, I call that a near miss. You just can’t take chances with ladders. Every trade uses them. You have to start with a new ladder. The biggest thing is to inspect it each time you use it. You have to take a look at that thing and make sure it’s in good working condition. You also want to make sure you invest in good quality ladders. There is no need to do anything on a bad ladder.
Tell me some highlights of your career – what things are you most proud of? What things do you wish you could change?
The highlights were getting awards from organizations for the best safety program. My last year before retiring, we got the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Mobile Workforce Award. It’s the highest award you can get. We also got awards from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). I was also named the safety professional of the year.