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Train smart

Management, Safety & Codes | December 1, 2008 | By:

A good training program is a requirement for long-term success.

In the tent industry, good training is often synonymous with safety consciousness. Employers must emphasize the need for OSHA guidelines while also fostering a respect for the job site and a sense of how to avoid injury. Many employers have established specific training programs designed to help their employees become certified installers along with teaching some of the everyday procedures such as ladder safety.

“We make it a point to follow OSHA guidelines to the letter regarding fall protection, hard hats and those types of issues,” says Dan Nolan, Tents Unlimited, Marietta, Ga. Nolan’s wide-ranging training program includes information on how utilities are marked off, chemical safety and blood-borne pathogens, and he offers certification in fork lift use and drug-free workplace knowledge.

“We make a point of teaching them to be cognizant of what they are doing and what is going on around them,” Nolan says.

Some companies utilize manuals and videos to familiarize new hires with the job they will be undertaking. This serves as an orientation to help them become familiar with a company’s policies.

“[Our new hires] have to sign off on what they have learned in a classroom-type setting,” says Brad Blomme, Big Top Tent Rentals, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “After that two-hour program, they understand what is expected of them.”

Buddy up

A new hire can also benefit from a peer mentor. Many companies feel safer having a new employee shadow a seasoned veteran to learn the ropes. Bill O’Brien at Barrie Tent and Awning, Barrie, Ontario, Canada, says he feels new crew members get a lot of out of working with experienced employees, learning what to do and not do on a job site. O’Brien says utilities can always present challenges to the employees, so he makes it a strict policy to do a thorough locate on the job site.

O’Brien also ensures that new hires learn how to use a sledgehammer properly to avoid injury. “If you miss the pin and hit your leg, chances are that you will wear a cast on that leg for six weeks and my cost for workers’ compensation will increase,” O’Brien says. He notes that those who take the time to learn from crew members with plenty of experience will go a long way toward ensuring their success on the job.

Stay safe

No matter how thorough a company’s training policy may be, accidents are still bound to happen. Blomme says that over the years, his employees have never had anything more serious than a couple of stitches. “Still, we are committed to not sending our people into harm’s way,” Blomme says.

Some companies offer safety incentives to employees to encourage proper practices on the job. George Smith at Mahaffey Fabric Structures, Memphis, Tenn., says he drives home the importance of safety on the job by offering incentives to keep crews on their toes. Whether it is a retailer gift card or a cash bonus, recognizing employees for continued safety practices pays off in the end.

Julie Young is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, Ind.

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