A "Vested" Interest in New Team Members' Safety

 The following is a preview from the April 2019 issue of The Scoop, the quarterly printed magazine for Dal-Tile team members. The issue was mailed to team members’ home addresses and will be posted in PDF format to myMohawk later this month.

Starting a new job in manufacturing or distribution can be overwhelming for anyone, as they ramp up on learning how to perform tasks while completing their work effectively and safely. But for new team members who have never worked in manufacturing or distribution, the risks of injury are also significantly increased.

However, the teams at the Dal-Tile Sunnyvale (Clay Rd.), Texas, manufacturing and Dickson, Tennessee, quartz slab plants have implemented similar programs in order to give brand-new teammates an extra advantage as they learn to work safely and adjust to their new roles.

A signal and an opportunity to help out with safe practices
When the team at Sunnyvale reviewed their 2018 safety incident report, they saw that almost half of the year’s incidents involved team members who had less than one year of tenure with the company — and that approximately half of those took place within the first 90 days of those team members’ employment.

“We realized that we needed to do something more with our new team members during the onboarding process and decided to put all of our new hires in red vests to make it really easy to spot them out on the plant floor,” Sunnyvale EHS Manager Melissa Brooks said. “The red vests allow additional visibility to the powered industrial truck operators, but they also serve as a reminder to everyone to make additional contacts with these new teammates daily — to reinforce our ‘brother’s keeper’ approach to each other's safety.”

New team members wear the vests during their first 90 days, and tenured team members are encouraged to introduce themselves and to especially look for opportunities to give the new colleagues a helping hand or reminder if they notice a potential safety issue. Brooks said the site rolled out the new program in January and thus far the feedback has been positive, as everyone now has an extra reminder to watch out for those new team members.

sunnyvale vest

At the Sunnyvale Clay Rd. manufacturing plant, team member Tanya Fields checks newly packaged product while wearing her red safety vest.

Helping with the transition from orange to yellow
At the Dickson quartz slab plant, the new vest color for new team members is orange, a noticeable contrast to the yellow safety vests worn by everyone else at the site.

“Where our facility is located there isn’t an abundance of experienced slab handlers, because there’s not really any other place like this around here,” Dickson Quartz Slab Plant Distribution Manager Ken Krebs said. “Many of our folks are completely new to this kind of work, so it’s especially important to us that everyone looks out for them while they’re learning.

“The vests are a reminder to me and our seasoned guys of who we need to be aware of, and not just assume that they know all the ins and outs of handling products like we do.”

Krebs said that their team’s program is based on peer review; team members who work with the new hires daily see their progress and decide when the teammate is ready to transition to a yellow vest.

“Our goal is to motivate everyone to work towards safe practices and show others that they’re confident and know how to work safely,” Krebs said. “It also encourages our more tenured team members to be good mentors and share in the success of our new team members. When someone moves on to wearing yellow vest, it means everyone has succeeded.”

QTZ Team Orange Vest Program1

At the Dickson quartz slab plant, tenured and new team members Jon Cundiff, Keith Howell, Scott Bumbalough, Brandon Carter, Chris Griebel, Tommy Adkisson and Donnie Miniard wear the yellow and orange safety vests.


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Tags: Scoop, Dal-Tile, Dickson, Sunnyvale

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