There are so many ways KAW employees practice workplace safety, though some are more visible than others. If you’ve visited us in person you’ve seen the safety glasses and ear plugs that we wear each time we go into the shop or tank cleaning bays. You may even have donned some of this fashionable equipment yourself (the safety of our customers is just as important as our own)!
The harnesses the mechanics and tank cleaners wear to enter a tank, the large face shields welders put on, the heavy aprons and boots that protect cleaners from hot water – these are the obvious sorts of safety measures we take every day at KAW.
But around here, safety goes beyond personal protective equipment to truly become a part of the culture. We put workplace safety above all our other core values because nothing comes before the health of our employees and customers.
Of course, the work we do comes with some inherent hazards, which we mitigate with the right equipment, training and mindset. In this blog I’ll look at some of the ways KAW practices our most important core value.
Before a new hire even enters the service or tank cleaning bays, they must first complete extensive workplace safety training. The topics include proper usage of those fashionable earplugs and safety glasses and other protective equipment, lock out – tag out procedures, our procedures for working around hazardous materials or inside tanks, and how to handle spills.
This training is extensive and time-consuming. New hires spend their first several days on these issues alone. That’s what it takes to provide the rigorous training our employees deserve.
The training doesn’t end when a hire begins working on the floor. Weekly safety meetings keep common safety concerns fresh in everyone’s minds. We recently went through a training session on fire safety, a welcome refresher in the drought we’re currently experiencing.
Some of the meetings cover topics you’d expect – staying healthy in high temperatures (ever experienced a Kansas City August?), safely using hand tools, and maintaining protective equipment. Other topics are less expected: practicing safety on slick surfaces, ammonia awareness and how to clean up spills.
Shop Manager Jarrod DeBolt enjoys leading the Repair and Maintenance safety meeting. “Our most valuable asset is our people. Weekly safety meetings are imperative to educate and inform them on practices and procedures that keep them safe in the work place,” DeBolt said.
The meetings are also great opportunities to get feedback from our employees on safety concerns we may not have thought of. A recent example: what to do when safety glasses fog up. That’s the sort of situation that only the guys working in the bays know about, which is why our managers make it a point to take questions and concerns in the weekly meetings.
Tank Cleaning Manager Jeff Choate is responsible for safety meetings in his department. As he put it, “There is a reason our number one value is ‘safety above all else.’ At the end of the day, making sure our people get home safe is our number one priority. Safety meetings are a great way to address topics that are vital to the well-being of the team. Weekly safety meetings keep topics fresh and at the front of your mind.”
One of the more fun ways we keep safety at the forefront is by recognizing those employees who practice workplace safety. Our monthly values drawing invites employees to fill out a card every time they see a coworker following our safety procedures. So far, that has included employees who point out when a safety harness has started to fray, one who kept his work area clean and free of trip hazards, and one who reminds his coworkers to wear their ear plugs.
Around here, we’re a family and families look out for their own. That’s why we hold ourselves and each other to the highest standards of safety, and celebrate it when our fellow workers live up to – or even beyond – those standards.