Thefts and accidents spoil productivity and profits

Out of sight, out of mind" may apply to some situations. But when it comes to reducing costly accidents and the theft of outdoor power equipment, you can ill afford to ignore a major risk, insurance expense and a drain on productivity and profitability.

Accidents and theft of equipment cause millions of dollars in losses every year. Depending on the policy, your insurance firm likely picks up the tab for medical bills and property loss. But your business--whether it's a golf course, college campus or lawn-care operation--sustains significant losses in employee downtime and administrative costs from accidents and thefts that insurance doesn't cover. Insurance experts estimate that reducing losses could save as much as $4 in hidden costs for every dollar in actual insurance claims. The bottom line: An effective accident- and theft-prevention program is a sound investment that improves productivity and profitability.

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Curbing accidents Many business owners mistakenly believe accidents are a normal part of business. Not so, say safety experts. You can prevent most accidents, which you typically can trace to two causes: operator error, which is often linked to the amount and quality of training, and defects in the equipment. The solution: You should develop a routine, formalized procedure to ensure that operators inspect equipment regularly, that you've trained your operators properly and that you thoroughly analyze any accidents so they won't reoccur.

Why are these steps so important? Accidents cost money in different ways. Consider an example of an employee who has disabled the blade-brake-clutch on his mower so the blade doesn't stop running when he lets go of the handle. He tries to clear the chute of the mower by poking it with a stick, and he severely injures his hand. Until his lacerations are healed, he can no longer work. While he recuperates, the company may suffer from:

* Losing the worker's productivity during his time off from work * Paying overtime to other workers to complete his work * Having to hire and train a new employee who is less efficient, at least for awhile * Being unable to schedule certain work because of the loss of that worker.

When it comes to preventing accidents, common sense is a good place to start. For example, too many employees think that many types of power equipment are no more difficult to operate than a car--an attitude that often leads to dangerous, risk-taking behavior and accidents that you could prevent through adequate training.

How training can help Training should concentrate on those areas of greatest risk. In a rush to "get the job done," operators often drive too fast, setting up situations where rollovers and falls are more likely to occur. Another problem is workers' inclination to disable safety features that they feel "interfere" with productivity, such as a rollover protection system (ROPS) or a backup alarm. In one case, a worker removed an ROPS from a riding mower because it interfered with the operator's work around trees. The operator was later killed when the mower rolled over on a hill, and he fell out and was crushed.

Had that worker received the proper training describing the purpose of an ROPS, as well as training on how to mow an incline properly, he may have avoided the accident. His training could have taken one of several forms. For example, his supervisor or the business' owner could have supplied manuals or presented short seminars to all the equipment operators. After all, training need not constitute a major expense--although, if you consider the costs that an accident can incur, even an expensive training session is worthwhile. Your equipment manufacturer or your insurance company often can supply training programs at little or no charge.

Some specific steps you can take to reduce accidents include:

* Buy equipment from a reputable dealer who backs up his or her equipment. Whether you buy new or used or rent a piece of equipment, your dealer should provide you with an operator's manual. Equipment dealers have a duty to warn any renter or buyer about the proper operation and any special hazards of any piece of equipment.

* Take advantage of manufacturers' or your insurance company's training programs. * Inspect every safety device before use, including the ROPS, seat belts, parking brakes (which often aren't adjusted properly), backup alarms and tires. * Use the equipment as it was designed to be used. Don't make any product modifications, such as removing the ROPS or disconnecting the backup alarm. * Be sure all safety features, including warning decals, are in place. If they become worn, replace them. * If an accident occurs, research it thoroughly to determine its cause and how you can prevent it in the future. Keep meticulous records.

The losses of theft Preventing theft also involves some training and common sense. More than other crimes, theft is a crime of opportunity. The simplest targets attract thieves. And just because you haven't had a theft yet doesn't mean you're safe.

Strong doors, cylinder locks, fences, barriers and proper lighting all have value, depending on your specific circumstances. Work with your insurance company's safety department to determine your needs. Some points to consider, however, include the following:

* Do you provide adequate lighting for all site points where a break-in might occur? * Do you have any blind areas where a burglar could work unobserved? * Are your fences, gates and locks in good repair? * Do you know the police and sheriff's patrolman in your area? * Have you recorded identification numbers and descriptions of your equipment? * Do you instruct your employees to remove the keys from all vehicles and equipment when they are finished using them?

Finally, keep in mind that even the most powerful door and the strongest lock cannot keep out a thief who has a key. Make sure employees can account for all keys and that only authorized personnel have access to them.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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