Change Your Culture

Ask any business owner in the heavy truck market what the key to his success is and you will almost always hear “my people.” The managers, salespeople, clerical workers and technicians in your operation are your business’s most valuable asset.


Yet one of those groups operates in a potentially dangerous environment. The U.S. Department of Labor measures a variety of hazards including striking an object, striking against an object, being caught, compressed or crushed, over­exertion, falls, slips and trips — all of which can happen in your shop.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets regulations and recommended practices to help ensure workplace safety, but the implementation is left to you. Sure, OSHA can come into your shop for an inspection, but the reality is inspections most often happen after an incident or if someone files a complaint.

The safety of your service shop starts with you and the attitude you display toward its importance. If you simply pay lip service to it, safety will take a back seat to other pressures like completing work quickly.

One good way to get your employees on board with safety is to start a safety committee. Task the committee with investigating your current safety practices and determine if the rules you have in place are being followed. They should walk around the shop and notice if aisles are clean and free of debris, ladders are being used properly, jacks and stands are placed under trucks that are being serviced.

If they find any conditions they consider dangerous, they should develop procedures that eliminate the hazard.

If you simply pay lip service to safety, it will take a back seat to other pressures.

Once you are sure all hazards have been identified and procedures developed to reduce the risk of those hazards, have the committee develop a safety manual that is then distributed to your technicians.

The safety committee should meet on a regular basis to review the shop’s safety performance and to deal with any new issues that develop.

Shop safety is about instilling a culture of safety in your business. Safety has to be seen as one of the key tenets of your business by all your employees to be most effective.

Mike Skinner, general manager of Skinner Diesel, Columbus, Ohio, has done just that. He says his safety committee has created a culture of safety. “People now know if something isn’t safe, or isn’t being done the way it should be, that it’s going to be addressed.”

He adds, “You don’t want to be the one guy doing things wrong.” That is the kind of culture you need to strive for.

A serious accident in your shop can have repercussions long after the event. You can get a reputation as an unsafe place to work, which can limit your ability to attract quality technicians.

And don’t forget the financial consequences of a failure to make safety a priority. Workplace accidents can raise your insurance premiums astronomically. If the situation gets bad enough it can result in your business being unable to even get insurance, which effectively puts you out of business.

While all your employees contribute to your success, your technicians are the ones who work in a potentially dangerous environment. So take the time to shift your culture.

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