Changing the Vision: Staff Buy-In Critical for Safety

MissionCompany News, Facilities

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By Jack Morgan

The goal of running a safe commercial laundry largely comes down to communication…and especially how management and hourly staff view their respective roles in avoiding workplace injuries. In 2009, when Dennis Pieper accepted the general manager’s post at Mission Linen’s Eureka plant in Northern California, it had the worst safety record in the company.

Today, safety at the Eureka plant has improved dramatically. In fact, by the time of Textile Services’ recent visit to the facility, it enjoyed the regional chain’s best safety record. Pieper credits this turnaround to his team’s emphasis on three objectives: empowering employees to prevent incidents; demonstrating the company’s commitment to protecting staff; and applying a multifaceted strategy to drive home the safety message in various ways. Examples of the latter have ranged from handing out jackets with the company’s logo to allowing employees to souse their bosses—including Pieper—in a dunk tank or throw pies at them during on-site companywide safety day celebrations.

“If I had to go back and look at this from what they were doing until what we do now, it was changing the vision,” says Pieper, whose team earned TRSA’s Safety Innovation Award in 2015. “I took this approach, ‘Hey Joe, you’re so important to us as a person, as an employee. I need you every day.’

“It’s also my job, personally, to make sure at the end of the day, I send you home to your spouse, your family in the same condition or better than when you came. We cannot afford to have you injured at work. I’ll do my very best to protect you, so you can still be a provider for your family, your children.”

Words like those cited above can have a positive impact on employees, but they’ll fall flat quickly if the company doesn’t back its rhetoric with action. “It’s one thing for me to talk about it, and then walk out of a meeting and do nothing about it,” Pieper says. “It’s do and show what I say. Let the actions work for the verbal. I can sell anybody on anything in a meeting.” He adds that the effort will fail, “If I don’t do the things, if I don’t follow up and have a reward for them, or a pat on the back, or post the number, or do that type of thing.” Positive recognition includes the aforementioned jackets, plus banners with safety slogans and other recognition programs, along with an array of incentives such as gift cards for route service representatives who score 85% or above in their GPS-monitored trucks (see related story, pg. 30).

Pieper is careful with monetary incentives. He knows that improperly designed programs can encourage staff to underreport injuries. “That’s always on my mind,” he says, noting that no one .. Read More