Creating a risk management culture in your pest control company goes a long way in keeping your employees safe and protecting your business operationally and financially. To successfully do so, you need to consistently and strongly emphasize risk management, and encourage and reward safe working practices.
Kim Kelley Tunis, technical services director, Rollins, Atlanta, and Shay Runion, chief human resources officer of Arrow Exterminators, Atlanta, offered that cogent advice to attendees at a 2014 NPMA PestWorld educational session.
They discussed the importance of recognizing and incorporating “cutting-edge” 21st century technological advancements to effectively manage those risks. According to the two presenters, the best safety systems should be part of a culture that must be ingrained in all employees. That awareness should start at the top of an organization and go down to service professionals in the field. That effort requires an investment — a huge investment up front.
Commitment and trust.
Risk management starts with a commitment and trust, said Runion, “a commitment that policies and procedures must be in place, and a trust ensuring that every employee feels comfortable with the safe practices that are needed. It must be a core value and part of a company-wide vision.”
Runion said her company integrates risk management into its day-to-day work and doesn’t treat it separately by discussing it only during a weekly meeting. Nor is it communicated just by a poster on display. “It’s to be part of every conversation and considered in every decision, and it’s to be personal for each company employee,” she said.
“Tell them why they must drive safely. Why they must pay attention to traffic,” Kelley Tunis said. “Why they must not text while driving. They’ve got to understand and constantly be aware of these reasons.”
Kelley Tunis suggested analyzing the liability risks of using company fleet vehicles. “There are significant amounts of liability and risk associated with your fleet,” she said. “How to reduce that liability and how to mitigate that risk is quite important.”
She reported on recent risk research results involving 11,000 pest control company service vehicles nationwide, which found:
- 39 percent of all accidents were caused by rear-end collisions
- 14 percent occurred while turning into an intersection
- 13 percent occurred while backing up
- 7 percent happened because of sideswipes
- 7 percent were collisions with fixed objects
- 7 percent were collisions with an object on the road
“Take a close look at these numbers,” Kelley Tunis said. “How many of these accidents were avoidable? The answer is they were all avoidable collisions. Ask yourself how much those types of accidents can impact your company’s bottom line.”
According to Kelley Tunis, there are numerous ways of mitigating those risks. “There are technologies today that will help. You need to be aware of them, and more importantly, you need to use them.”
The key, she said, is discovering which technology best fits your needs. “What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for others. You need to measure those risks, analyze those occurrences and determine what works best for you.”
Kelley Tunis cited global positioning systems (GPS) as a great technology that allows companies to be more efficient in routing technicians. “A GPS can save time between jobs and reduces both gasoline expenses and labor costs,” she said. “With this technology, not only do you have navigational capabilities, you also have the ability to identify certain driving habits that may be detrimental to your fleet’s bottom line, such as harsh braking, harsh accelerations or too much idling time. And there’s even a voice-activated GPS that enables in-vehicle coaching and alerts to help a driver modify his or her driving behavior. But you need a company GPS policy to take advantage of that technology. That’s critical.”
Kelley Tunis said UPS has a GPS routing system in place that actually minimizes or eliminates left turns. The company realized that left turns increase gas mileage, increase driver risk and increase time spent waiting to make the turn. “UPS estimates a savings of millions of dollars each year because of their policy that dictates this proprietary routing software,” she said.
Online Safety Education.
Concerning driver safety programs, Kelley Tunis called attention to a number of online courses that can be taken. “Some of these programs provide a discount on personal car insurance,” she said. “The key is having a progressive, disciplined safety program in place and then reinforcing this with in-cab training. Technology is available that you can take advantage of. These programs are great and help identify some negative habits that a driver may not necessarily be aware of. They’re an exceptional way to teach and reinforce good driving habits and definitely can minimize your fleet’s risk of driving accidents.”
On the subject of people risks, Runion listed the hidden costs of hiring the wrong people and then firing them. “There’s the loss of your investment in training that wrong person, there are the costs of lost productivity for each week that position is open, lost productivity during the learning curve of the new hire and the lost productivity of those helping that new person on the job,” she said. “There’s also the possible loss of revenues because of customers canceling because your service employee has left the company.”
She pointed to other costs as well, such as severance pay for the person leaving the company, advertising for new hires, background checks, drug testing for the new hire, etc.
Runion cited a 2008 study by the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) that found the cost to replace and hire new staff may be as high as 60 percent of an employee’s annual salary, whereas total costs of replacement, including training and loss of productivity, can range from 90 to 200 percent of an employee’s salary, or four times someone’s salary. “Those figures vary,” she said. “The costs are pretty substantial when you look at high turnover rates. People risks are huge in our business.”
Use Hiring Technology.
To minimize people risks, Runion suggested that human resource managers consider using hiring technology products such as pre-employment online assessments, behavior surveys and personality profiling. “Our company looks at our key performers — our best service professionals out in the field — and surveys for benchmark data. We actually do that for every role in our company.”
To help make the right hiring decisions, job candidates at Arrow are surveyed to learn their demonstrated behaviors and then compare them with the behavioral traits of the company’s key employees. “It’s a great tool that also provides you with interview questions for an individual based on how they’ve responded to the survey,” she said.
“There’s also a behavioral survey that selects for higher-integrity traits — helping you learn and understand about a candidate with issues such as drug addiction, theft, etc.,” she added.
Runion also mentioned the DiSC assessment, another personality profile tool that provides insights into natural and adaptable behavioral styles in relation to the workplace, leadership, management, sales and other situations and environments. It’s a profile that’s a blend of four primary personality or behavioral characteristics and their relationship to each other.
Worker's Comp Claims.
Further discussing people risks, Runion said companies “hire their employees’ worker’s compensation claims.” So, according to her, it’s a good idea to carefully analyze your worker’s comp claims. “Look at the categories they fall under. It’s very important to establish policies and procedures and have them in place to do progressive discipline if an employee doesn’t follow your policies.”
She reiterated the importance of encouraging and rewarding safe working practices. On that subject, she said Arrow decided to start a new Safety Foot Forward program because slips, trips and falls had been a big issue with the company. “It was an operational risk we were facing so we started a partnership with the Red Wing Shoe Company. All of our new employees receive a $75 voucher for their local Red Wing store and purchase the appropriate footwear.”
Health and Wellness.
Discussing employee health, the two presenters maintained that company self-insured health and wellness programs could make a positive impact. Runion mentioned that Arrow has a self-insured “Healthy, Wealthy and Wise” program. Rollins also has such an effort called their “Healthy Path” program, according to Kelley Tunis.
These programs can include weight management, exercise programs, tobacco cessation, employee assistance programs and financial planning. It stands to reason that you can reduce your overall health insurance costs by having healthy employees on board. Don’t forget, “employees are your company’s greatest asset,” said Runion.
The author is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee. Contact him via email at email@example.com.