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Safe and profitable tent rental

Features, Markets, Safety & Codes | August 1, 2013 | By:

Safety and service go hand in hand with successful bidding and profitable tent rental.

The balance of safety and service with price and profit when bidding tent jobs is part of the tent rental industry’s culture. Sadly, the myth has emerged that “no tent rental company can be safe and competitive at the same time.” Hogwash. That is like saying Elvis is working at a diner in Detroit or alligators are running rampant in Manhattan’s sewers. Tent rental companies can be competitive in the marketplace and provide excellent safety and service. The two are not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, safety is the surest and quickest way to increase a company’s profits—faster than any other single program or product.

A safety-focused and compliant company will lower its insurance costs, reduce labor costs, deliver more jobs on time and more profitably and enjoy greater customer satisfaction and retention than a company that tries to save money by cutting corners because “safety is too expensive.” By every single measure or metric, safety offers a significant return on investment.

That fact flies in the face of generations of tent installers who have bragged about bending or ignoring safety rules. The truth is that a company may ignore current best safety practices and get away with it for a while, but sooner or later a serious injury or fatality will happen, and then both the company and its owner will be finished. Don’t let that be your company and your reputation.

Another widespread myth is that “safety is an additional set of practices that have to be added to our workload.” Baloney. Does a hard hat slow you down? No! Do gloves make your job harder? Not if they fit correctly. Do safety glasses make it harder to put up a structure? No!

In simple terms, safety does not add to the cost of a job—unsafe practices do. Sure, there are capital expenses related to Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and training, but those costs pale in comparison to a culture of unsafe work practices. If there is a hazard on a work site, it is management’s job to make it go away, reduce employees’ exposure or provide protection. It is the employees’ responsibility to follow company guidelines.

Minor injury major cost

What is the cost if protections are not in place? Take a simple hand laceration, even if it is not an Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reportable injury. It slows down the crew, which can lead to unbudgeted overtime. If the wound is not handled on the jobsite, it could become infected. Then the employee loses time on the job (now it is OSHA reportable). This also affects the company’s Experience Modification Rating (EMR), which sets the rate for workers’ compensation insurance. Plus a replacement may have to be hired while this person is out of commission. What if it was a crew leader?

This simple injury has just cost the company thousands of dollars—dollars it will pay for with increased insurance rates and lost staff hours. It may have even lost the company a quality employee or a loyal customer. These added burdens could prevent the company from being in the running for many local, state and federal jobs, especially if the company’s EMR rises above 1.0. The math suggests that $3.00 for a decent pair of gloves would have been a wise investment. Implementing PPE programs is a must.

There are thousands of stories about the good old days before OSHA, but here is the hard and fast truth: OSHA regulations represent many best business practices that can lead to a company’s success. And another hard and fast truth: the tent and event industry is not a level playing field. No industry is. If a competent and professional manager in this industry makes personnel and safety decisions based on competition with dangerous and non-compliant competitors, this entire industry is in a race to the financial bottom and extinction. Managers must hold themselves, their companies and employees to the highest safety standards.

Safety as a marketing tool

How do you win bids when competing against companies that don’t practice safe installation techniques? Keep a good portfolio of the jobs that promote your positive accomplishments. Ask your satisfied customers to write testimonials on your quality, service and attention to safety detail. Use those testimonials in your marketing materials. This turns your customer into your advocate.

How do you educate customers on safe installations? The general public typically doesn’t think about safety when renting a tent. Their main concern is the cost of the rental. Make sure your customers know that your contract includes more than just putting up a tent. It includes a safely installed tent so they will not need to worry about tent issues and can focus on other last-minute, event-related details. It is your responsibility to show them the results of unsafe practices and explain in detail why your company is diligent about safe tent installations and why it matters so much to the customer’s—and their client’s—bottom line. A safely installed tent will save your customers time and money. (Always follow installation procedures as outlined in a manufacturer’s installation instructions.)

Safety isn’t limited to installers. Sales people need to understand the ins and outs of safe tent installations because it ensures they will be able to put together a competitive bid that meets all of the safety requirements. For example, it is perfectly acceptable (and preferred) to stake through asphalt. Installation on hard surfaces does not mean that stakes cannot be driven. A properly secured tent will often do less damage than an unsecured tent with an ineffective ballast system. This attention to detail reinforces to customers that a company’s employees are professionals and the most qualified to provide for their tent rental needs. All memorable events are tied to the rental company a customer chooses. So do they really want to risk their reputation by hiring a company that is potentially a liability to the entire tent industry? Probably not.

What safety issue cannot ever be compromised on? Locating utilities. It should be the number one priority for any tent installation. All it takes is a simple 811 call (in the U.S.) for this service.

There is no excuse for not making the effort and so many benefits to making the effort to improve your company’s safety practices. Multiple resources are available to help companies practice continuous improvement and stay up to date on the latest safety policies and best practices. Contact your local OSHA office for advisement services. Speak to your insurance companies and underwriters. Ask employees for suggestions.
Whatever resource you utilize, it is money in the bank.

By Michael Tharpe, director of sales, TopTec Event Tents, with contribution from Ken Keberle, director of quality, safety and compliance, Arena Americas (formerly Karl’s Event Services).

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