“We see it at least once a year in the dealerships we work with. It’s devastating every time.” That’s what Sara Hey of Bob Clements Intl. had to say regarding accidents in the workplace during a discussion about a recent tragedy in which two service department employees lost their lives.
I was shocked. How can this be changed? What can we do?
“Every dealer, manufacturer and the ag media needs to spread the story of safety. It’s getting worse as more and more first-time tractor buyers are purchasing loaders. In this incident, these were professionals who knew the dangers and didn’t survive. Safety must be practiced every second of the day. And we need better resources to educate customers,” says Doug Vahrenberg, owner of Vahrenberg Implement, Higginsville, Mo. Vahrenberg serves on our editorial advisory board.
I pledge right now to be a better resource for you. We have a series of customer safety resources available online now and we will investigate adding more. Go here to share with your customers, www.RuralLifestyleDealer.com/SafetyResources. We have also compiled select stories into two downloadable dealer guides, which can be accessed here: www.RuralLifestyleDealer.com/eGuides.
Tell me what other customer safety topics we can help address. This information can benefit your dealership as well, helping you build relationships with people that goes beyond the dealer/customer relationship.
This year, we will develop employee safety articles. It’s a huge topic, encompassing processes, training, insurance, liability, tools, staffing, management and more, but we will dig in and do our part. I believe it will help make your dealership stronger overall. Again, this is where I’m asking for your help. Share what processes or resources you’re using and we’ll share them with our dealer community.
“Don’t think it can’t happen…” – Paul Mullet, Excel Industries
There may be some tough questions you’ll have to answer as you think about daily work at your dealership. Tim Berman of Big Red’s Equipment, Granbury, Texas (a contributor to RLD and former editorial advisory board member), says, “There should be an open line of communication with management anytime an employee feels like they are being asked to do something unsafe, does not have the tools or equipment to perform duties safely, or is going to have to do something otherwise unsafe to perform their daily duties.”
'Don't Think it Can't Happen'
The reality, however, is that regardless of the preparation and training, accidents and tragedy happen. I talked with Paul Mullet, one of the owners of Excel Industries who recently retired from president & CEO, about the topic of tragedy. He and his company dealt with a devastating tragedy when an employee killed 3 other employees on Feb. 25, 2016 at Excel’s facility in Hesston, Kan., and wounded 12 others before being shot by a police officer.
“Don’t think it can’t happen. Accidents can happen. Things out of our control can happen,” Mullet says. Watch for more comments from Mullet in an upcoming online feature where he shares what they did to recover and move forward, including telling employees, “We’re not going to collapse because of this. We’re going to go back to work and be stronger.”
Keeping your dealerships strong will be a focus as we develop safety resources. It's not just about adding another process or review. It's an overall approach that brings out the best in how your team carries out a safe and efficient workflow, every day.