May 26 2020 06:00 AM

When your workers stand out as safety-conscious, your clients are reassured they chose the right team.


Grand slams are the ultimate in baseball. Three players on, batter up and slam! Over the fence and four runs scored, all from one mighty swing. Grand slams are exciting moments, and they win games.

Safety — especially COVID-19 safety — is a high priority right now. Never before has our industry faced so much scrutiny. Company safety responses and programs can be like grand slams, scoring for us and winning the big game of profitability and longevity. Right now, our COVID-19 response is up at the plate with a curve ball of opportunity barreling down at us. We don’t want to strike out on this one. Crowds of customers are watching. They’re nervous. Employees are fearful. We have to get this one right if we’re going to win.

A friend told me she was driving down the street a few days ago when she saw a large crew of our maintenance workers performing prejob, early morning stretches. She said it was impressive and made us look so professional about our work. All wore uniforms. All had boots and hard hats. All had gloves. And especially, all were wearing proper COVID-19 masks. She said we looked like a well-equipped, disciplined team — and added that surely any member of the public would be impressed and assured by the sight of our crews, equipped and behaving so professionally.

Score one for safety creating great marketing. When your workers stand out as professionally safety-conscious, your clients are reassured they chose the right team.

When the COVID-19 shelter-at-home decree was first announced in California, some of our workers became understandably reluctant to report to work. All over were stories of essential business workers getting seriously ill. Our people were right to be concerned. Fortunately, we got out in front of the coronavirus response curve very early. We distributed our COVID-19 response checklists to both crews and clients. We built sterilization kits for every crew consisting of spray bleach, hand sanitizer and wipes. Early on, we provided construction-grade masks for all staff, field and office alike. We reconfigured trucks and routes to provide safer social distancing in all settings, even inside trucks. No sitting three aside, workers are now always one space between. And masks and gloves are required inside the trucks, not just on sites. Trucks and tools are sanitized every morning, during lunch and at close of work. Concerning our office employees, 90% work from home, and the rest are spread into private offices. Masks are required in any common areas.

One more safety score for employee retention and satisfaction. We kept all our employees working. More importantly, they know we truly care for their welfare. Our actions speak to hearts and minds, and our company has perhaps never been closer.

We always have taken safety seriously. We want all our employees to go home in the same shape they arrived. We really care about their well-being. So that means walking the walk, not just talk. Job safety checklists are reviewed every morning. Stretching exercises — done every morning. Lessons are pushed down into crew computer tablets and signed by every employee every Friday. Personal protective equipment gear is a must, including boots, gloves, proper eye gear, earmuffs — the works, and safety reviews are conducted by supervisors on every job site visit.

The result is that our workers have indeed been spared injury. They enjoy remarkably safe workspaces. We have few accidents, and the ones we do have are overwhelmingly minor. Score again for safety really making a true impact in employees’ lives.

Our company got very serious on safety after the Great Recession. As we implemented the meaningful programs above, our accidents plummeted and our workers’ compensation premiums did as well. Today, our net rates are 40% of what they were before. Our safety record and ex-mod are so strong they now qualify us for critical work from which less safe firms are rejected. Safety qualifies us for our largest, most prestigious work.

Safety scores a grand slam! It has given us positive customer impressions, employee loyalty, freedom from tragic accidents and substantial financial savings. It’s indeed true: Safety doesn’t cost — it pays.

Gary Horton, MBA, is CEO of Landscape Development Inc., a green industry leader for over 35 years with offices throughout California and Nevada. He can be reached at ghorton@landscapedevelopment.com.