Hosting the first material handler train-the-trainer class, in Christchurch, was Metalcorp NZ, the family company of SMRANZ President Korina Kirk. Kevin Hickey of TransDiesel (Christchurch), which sponsored my trip, became my guide as I traveled across the country to teach the other two classes, one at Macaulay Metals, just outside of Wellington, and one at a TransDiesel facility in Auckland.
Roughly a dozen scrapyard owners, managers, and operators attended each class. What impressed me most in all three classes was the willingness of the participants to interact with me and each other. They did not hesitate to ask questions and offer comments and stories about what they deal with in their day-to-day operations. Their struggles and obstacles are the same as those I have seen and heard about in the United States and Canada: customers and co-workers who put themselves in harm’s way around mobile equipment, blind spots around such equipment, the need for better equipment care to prevent breakdowns that can result in hazardous situations, and so forth. These issues seem to be universal to the industry, and we discussed them at length. A portion of each class was hands-on: The trainees broke into groups so they could teach each other blind-spot recognition and best-practice inspection techniques around a material handler.
One of the great benefits of doing regional material handler train-the-trainer classes is that owners, managers, and equipment operators came from many different companies and areas of New Zealand to participate. This allowed them to share ideas and perspectives, which doesn’t often happen in day-to-day business. One company’s manager shared with the group its “equal-standing policy” when it comes to safety: Everyone at the facility, whether a newly hired employee or a 40-year veteran, has an equal say when it comes to safety issues that may need to be addressed. This company encourages employees to speak up and be part of the solution when it comes to safety issues. I had the opportunity to talk with many employees at this company, and they all assured me that this was actually the culture and rule at their workplace.
My visit culminated with my session at the SMRANZ annual conference in Auckland. I spoke about creating a strong safety culture, paraphrasing words from Terry Cirone, ISRI’s vice president of safety, and George Adams, president and CEO of SA Recycling and a past ISRI chair, that will always be good guidelines for creating a good and sound business anywhere in the world: “Safety is not the absence of injury, safety is the reduction of risk. Show me a business culture that fosters risk reduction at all levels, and I will show you a business with low injury rates. An open and honest safety culture needs management commitment and employee engagement. It means that everyone has to be on the same page within the organization. Having safety policies, programs, and procedures in place is great for helping guide the business forward and keep it in compliance and within the framework of the law, but compliance is not safety—and safety is not compliance. Fostering a safety culture from the top down and from the bottom up should be the goal of all businesses across the scrap recycling spectrum—and around the world. If we can do this, then we will see injury and illness rates decline.”
Tony Smith is director of safety outreach for ISRI.
Last August, the Scrap Metal Recycling Association of New Zealand invited me to speak about safety at its annual conference and to conduct material handler train-the-trainer classes in New Zealand’s three largest cities.