Images Courtesy Lansing Building Products

Safety at a dealership or lumberyard should be the first priority and second nature. Unfortunately, that's too rarely the case. Everything is routine and simple until it isn't, and then it's easy to say, "We should've done this or that."

The team at Lansing Building Products is working to address safety concerns so they never have to look back on a situation and wish they'd taken more action.

"Safety isn't a place you ever fully arrive at," says Ted Lansing, executive vice president of human resources with Lansing. "It's always something you have to be reinventing yourself on. You have to continually implement best practices."

Coming out of the recession, sales were growing and overwhelming the number of employees at Lansing. Taking care of customers took top priority, and precautionary measures suffered. After a few years with more safety incidents than usual, Lansing's leadership team realized it was time for a change—from the top down.

"We knew we needed to get serious about safety," says Lansing. "We're always talking about our culture. It's what separates us as a company. You can't have a good culture and bad safety. We realized we had a problem and we needed to do something about it."

That something started by hiring Jeff Parker as vice president of risk management and Jim Melton as safety manager. Together, they brought 50 years of experience to Lansing. "They got the message and got to work with all sorts of suggestions, the majority of which were approved," Lansing says. "When they speak, we listen."

Some changes were easy, like requiring reinforced boots to reduce foot injuries. Other ideas sounded good but in practice were tougher to implement.

Images Courtesy Lansing Building Products

"It seems intuitive to say to wear safety gloves all the time," says Parker. "Well, try counting out vinyl sheeting; that can be tough to do."

The two men also spearheaded efforts to update the company's safety technology, adopting a software program called I-auditor that helps design checklists for safety audits and expands the inspection criteria to include 210 questions. The results, stored in the cloud for universal access, are thorough. The app not only helped Lansing be OSHA, NFPA, and DOT compliant, it also helped lower the dealer's property and casualty insurance premiums, already provide a measurable return on investment. This also marked the implementation of a safety awareness campaign, transforming the company mission statement of "excellence from the inside out," into "safety from the inside out."

Associates can now anonymously raise concerns through the company intranet, and mangers are expected to mention safety issues in meetings regardless of topic.

"It's cliche, but you have to have the support and agreement of the senior management team," Parker says. "You can't just throw money at it. When they go into the branches and they're running around in sandals and short pants and no safety gear, what message does that send? If they're not willing to walk it and talk it, you're wasting your time."

The management at Lansing is putting the full force of its team behind promoting safety best practices. Already, the company has seen its annual loss costs cut nearly in half, but the dealer isn't ready to rest on its laurels.

"This was an opportunity for us to evaluate our own safety program," Lansing notes. "We did it more for ourselves as a practice than we did to win anything. We're still figuring it out. We're still trying to be better."

Safety manager Melton was unavailable for comment for this article. He was in the field, traveling to inspect the safety of one of Lansing's 77 facilities.