On July 17th and 18th, 2018, Countryside employees from all locations and departments attended Safety Days in Menomonie. The purpose of this training is to maximize awareness of potential hazards and situations, and minimize harm to employees and those we serve.
To start the morning, the entire group listened to our keynote speaker from Russel Associates who discussed the importance of building a strong culture that incorporates safety as part of the actual job description and not just an add-on afterthought. Our second guest speaker from Eau Claire Energy Cooperative discussed electricity safety. As a group we learned to be aware of what has a charge and what doesn’t, how many volts things like lines on poles and transformers carry, what happens when equipment like a truck or a sprayer gets tangled in a power line, and if it does how to handle the situation when you don’t know if the line is grounded or not. One of the most important takeaways from this lesson was learning that you won’t know if the line is live or not after it’s been torn from the pole, and it could become re-energized while you’re tangled in it, so it needs to be grounded by someone from the utility company. Since the ground may be charged from the line around your vehicle, you should not leave your vehicle if you can help it. If you must leave the vehicle, jump and do so straight down with both feet hitting the ground. We learned how to identify which company the line or transformer belongs to by looking at the information tag and number sequences. We discussed “situational awareness”- meaning, being aware of what is happening around you. Do a check of overhead and underground wires and hazards when driving equipment. Pay attention and be aware of what is happening around you and what you are doing. Always ask for locates for underground wires before digging, call if the locates don’t look right, and to be safe stay 18 inches away from locates in all directions. At home, call 811 before digging, and they will come paint lines on your yard to stay away from. Remember an underground transformer is just as powerful as an overhead transformer. If you have trucks and equipment coming in and out of your yard, call to get the lines lifted- it’s usually done at no cost to you.
Next, employees could choose sessions based on what they were interested in or what was relevant to their departments- whether they’re a driver, a C-Store employee, they work in agronomy or grain or the main office. One that was especially important for us to stay up to date on the latest safety regulations and standards was the OSHA Updates session. We talked in depth about slips, trips and falls- what OSHA is changing to minimize them, and how Countryside can implement changes to keep them from happening. We learned about ladder safety systems and personal fall arrest systems that are being implemented on and around stationary ladders- OSHA has strict requirements for ladder performance maintenance. Personal fall protection includes systems like hooks that anchor you to a line on roofs (for example, we have these at our New Richmond location for when employees load rail cars and have to walk across the cars to open up the lids). In C-Stores, one of the biggest potential safety issues is slips and falls, which can be caused by unsafe or unclean floor conditions, inappropriate footwear, improper hazard identification or insufficient training. The purpose of this session was to eliminate those last two reasons- so our employees are always identifying and taking care of hazards before they can harm anyone. We were taught to look for hazards around our locations such as grease and oil, ice and snow in the winter months, polished floors, improper footwear, loose flooring or poor housekeeping and correct these as soon as possible. Our speaker also went over how the body moves and is affected by a fall before jumping into an overview of ladder safety systems like carriers, safety sleeves, lanyards and connectors. He noted body harness fall protection must be provided when anyone is 4 feet off the ground.
Next door to this session, our own Safety and Compliance Division Manager Dean Danielson discussed how to deliver safety and positive experiences in our C-Stores. He covered things like keeping areas clean, maintaining dispensers and common areas, and more intense topics like handling emergencies, filling out an incident report and starting active spill response. An intricate and often confusing situation, containing fuel spills involves identifying how large the spill is, checking the surface of the spill for porous spots where the fuel could be absorbed, how to prevent the spill from spreading, and who to contact if the spill seems too large to quickly clean up. We also broke down the contents of the spill kit all C-Stores are equipped with and learned how to use them.
Outside, groups got a demonstration of proper fire extinguisher use and a lesson on determining if it is appropriate to use a fire extinguisher on a flame or simply exit and wait for help. Our session instructor told us gas fires are nothing to mess with, a kitchen fire can most likely be smothered (a fire extinguisher will just make a big mess), and paper or wood fires can most likely be taken care of with a water fire extinguisher or hose. Businesses like ours need to have monthly service checks on their extinguishers to make sure everything is in working order, there is plenty of powder in the canister, and the hose is clear. Home extinguishers should still be checked, and you can do this yourself by tipping the extinguisher upside down and tapping the bottom with a rubber hammer to hear the powder move. Everyone in the session got a chance to put out a small contained fire with an extinguisher to practice.
One other session was the driving simulator- shown below, employees had the chance to use a computer program that simulated driving either a semi down the road or a tractor, combine or sprayer through the field. They have a physical wheel that feeds to the screen, and the sprayer simulator has a control pad much like a “real life” sprayer would have. The simulator is going to be implemented in our agronomy department for new employees.
Safety Days is such an important event and training for our employees that we make sure everyone from all locations and departments attend. We take pride in our facilities and our employees and want to be sure that everyone who comes into those facilities walks out without harm. Customer service is at the heart of everything we do, and that goes beyond quality products and good prices- that includes your safety, first and foremost.