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Our Values in Action: Safe

By Jim Olson, Republic’s Vice President, Safety

As the Vice President, Safety, I’m committed to helping our employees put one of the Company’s core values – Safe – into action.  Our commitment to safety is demonstrated daily in the actions of our managers, supervisors and employees who operate the nation’s fifth largest vocational fleet.

In the Q&A below, I’ve answered some common questions I hear from employees. Please read this Q&A to help you understand how you play an important role in maintaining the Company’s strong safety culture, what you can do to stay safe both on the job and outside of work, and how to speak up if you observe a safety violation.

Q: Are all employees responsible for the Company’s safety culture?

A: Yes. All employees, regardless of role, are expected to maintain a safe work environment by taking steps to identify and prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.  This means that all employees should perform their job responsibilities in accordance with our SAFE Handbook, policies and safety programs, in addition to all of the applicable safety and health laws. 

Q: What role do leaders play in maintaining a culture in which safety is a top priority?

A: Leaders should frequently talk to their employees about why keeping our employees, customers, and communities safe is a core value and priority at Republic.  Leaders can do this by ensuring that Focus 6 meetings are completed each month and the additional Focus 6 materials are provided to employees.  Leaders also should encourage employees to report any safety-related concerns and address those concerns as quickly as possible.

Q: I was watching a co-worker complete some work and noticed that he did not use Lock Out/Tag Out procedures before performing the work.  Should I report this?

A: Yes. You observed an employee committing a safety violation and should report it immediately to your leader, another leader at the location, your HR partner or through the AWARE Line.  Failing to Lock Out/Tag Out can put an employee’s safety at risk and by reporting it, you are helping to ensure that your co-worker understands the safety rules and follows them.

Q: I’m worried that I will be retaliated against if I report a safety violation that I observe.  Should I still report it?

A: Yes. You should report any safety violations observed as quickly as possible.  There will be no retaliation against anyone who reports a safety violation.  Retaliation means that an employee is subjected to a negative consequence for reporting a concern or participating in an investigation.  Retaliation is a serious violation of Company policy and is not tolerated.

Q: What is one action employees can take every day to stay safe outside of work?

A: Employees should always wear their seat belt and ensure that any passengers in their car also are wearing a seat belt.  It just takes a second to do, and it can save a life.  Among drivers and front-seat passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45% and cut the risk of serious injury by 50%.  No matter how short your trip or how confident you are in your driving, there are too many factors outside of your control, from poor drivers to debris on the road to unforeseen weather conditions, to guarantee a safe trip each time you’re on the road.

Q: What advice would you give to employees who may consider making an unsafe choice in order to finish up work more quickly?

A: I would tell employees to remember their “why.”  The decisions that employees make every day, at work and outside of work, matter to those who love and count on them.  My “why” is my family—I’m committed to going home safely to my wife and five children at the end of each day.  Every employee has a “why” driving them to work safely.  Sometimes employees need to be reminded of their “why” and how cutting a few minutes off of a task by making an unsafe choice isn’t worth the dangerous consequences that could result.

Q: What safety-related accomplishment are you most proud of so far in 2022?

A: There are two that stand out to me.  First, on January 6, for the first time across the Company, we had zero safety frequency incidents.  This was a huge accomplishment, and we could not have done it without every employee’s daily commitment to safety.

Second, we swept all National Waste & Recycling Association Driver of the Year awards in the national category for the second year in a row.  The Driver of the Year awards recognize drivers who safely operate their trucks, maintain a superior performance record and enhance the overall safety and image of the environmental services industry.  Congratulations to Frank Epps, Jason Tavares, Kevin Johnston, and Richard Denschuick!

Don’t forget that your co-workers, your community, your friends and your family depend on you to make safe choices every day.  If you ever need help dealing with an unsafe situation, let a supervisor know so they can help. Compromising on safety is never an option.  Thank you for continuing to protect the livelihoods of our colleagues and communities by making the safe choice – every day, every time.