My first few months of work in the tool rental department of a home improvement big-box store was almost the end of me. I worked hard and injured myself more times than I care to admit. I had a lot to prove to the men behind the counter as well as the customers in front of it.
The first injury came while hooking the trailer of the Ditch Witch trencher to a customer’s truck. I struggled with it, and man, was I nervous. The customer bent down to help me, and I quickly moved out of his way, only to smack the back of my head on the trencher’s teeth at full speed.
Then came the ladder incident. I tilted this special metal ladder for the tool rental department back, rolled it down the narrow aisle, and accidentally ran into a corner of the shelf. It would have been no big deal had I tilted the ladder down to my waist, but it was actually just at my shoulders, and I received a solid smack in the mouth. How I avoided breaking my teeth is beyond me, but it was another accident report and a trip to the dentist.
ROOKIE SAFETY MATTERS
Safety is an important topic: one that is emphasized in many an HVACR company. Emphasized or not, though, injuries happen. What happens when a rookie installer is running down the stairs with parts or tools and he trips? Who’s responsible when a unit’s weight shifts and comes crashing down on a limb? Why even talk about safety? It seems like a “duh” topic to any sane contractor in the HVACR business. Of course they are safe. They talk about it, train their employees on it, and get insurance discounts because of it. Safety is important.
Safety was important to me, too, while I disinfected cuts and scrapes from the latest tool that had risen up against being cleaned. Not missing work was important as well. What was even more important was stopping the constant pain levels that ebbed and flowed with the injuries I caused myself by working hard, lifting heavy things, pushing to be better at my job, and being safe. That’s the point.
Inexperience can be detrimental to the rookies you have in your business. Despite being trained and following all safety precautions, they are new to the job and have something to prove. It is not that they are reckless cowboys who laugh in the face of safety — well, maybe some are — it’s that they are pushing themselves to their limits to prove that they belong there.
Too much experience can be detrimental to the veterans you have in your business as well. They have the knowledge and the tools, but experience means years, and years mean changes. Not only does the veteran technician have to avoid safety complacency, but they also continue to change in their physical capacity. It often starts small, but increased wear and tear from years on the job leaves them trying to prove that they still belong there too.
These performance situations can be dangerous for employees as well as the contractors who hired them. It is not good having injured employees at any time. Work injuries open up the company to liability, fines, and increased insurance rates, not to mention the dangers of possible employee substance abuse from the medications they may be prescribed.
The next time there is a staff meeting, talk about safety, but also talk about and acknowledge the value of each employee on your staff. Foster a mentorship environment, and be the one that bridges the gap between the rookies, the veterans, and the technicians in the middle.
As for me, the most danger I face at my job with The NEWS is random papercuts. So I think I will be OK. Catch up with me another time, though, and I will tell you the one about cutting down trees and my new knee ligament.
Publication date: 12/17/2018