Protecting And Retaining Employees

Employees are the greatest assets of parks and recreation departments, and municipalities and other agencies implement benefits and reward systems to attract and retain great people. But there are many demographic changes affecting the available labor pool–the workforce is aging, younger workers are demanding more than just a paycheck, and good employees are becoming even harder to find. As employers, parks and recreation managers need to do more to create a superb work environment. Because of these changes, it is critical for managers to ask: Does my spray-equipment strategy support my human-resource strategy?

The following offers some considerations to assist in evaluating spray equipment to determine whether it’s up to the challenge of protecting and retaining employees–specifically spray-technicians. (Note: While this article focuses on spray equipment, many of the concepts apply to other types of equipment.)

Safety

The first and most obvious consideration is safety. Have you examined equipment to ensure that all hazards have been minimized? Here are some risks to evaluate:

1. Acute injuries

· Can a technician reach all components without incurring a bump, scrape, abrasion (e.g., are sharp edges, corners, rust spots eliminated)?

· Can a technician operate all components without incurring a bump, scrape, abrasion, cut or burn (e.g., can he or she roll up a hose without banging a hand)?

· Are all moving parts (including hot engine parts) shielded?

· Do any components overhang the truck, creating a bump hazard?

2. Back injuries

· Can a technician reach and operate key components without unnatural movements or unnecessary strain?

· Can equipment be lifted out of a truck without creating back strain?

· Is the equipment appropriate for the technician in terms of weight, access, etc. (particularly crucial with an aging workforce)?

3. Chemical exposure/Slip hazards

· Are chemicals building up on equipment, creating a chemical-exposure risk?

· Is the equipment designed for easy cleaning to prevent chemical buildup?

· Are walk surfaces free of chemicals to prevent employees from slipping?

· Are walk/standing surfaces treated with non-slip materials?

4. Vehicle load/Control hazards

· Is the load secure, balanced and appropriate for a truck’s capacity?

· Are all components properly secured to a vehicle (e.g., toolboxes, sprayers, water tanks, backpacks, etc.)?

· Is the water in the tank properly baffled to reduce surge that impacts vehicle control?

Here are some ways to find answers to the above questions:

· Ask employees.

· Spend a day observing equipment use in the field.

· Use the equipment.

· Borrow improvement ideas from colleagues, and observe their equipment.

Reliability

Most spray-technicians want to do a good job, but they can’t if equipment is unreliable and subject to breakdowns. In my experience, unreliable equipment is a leading cause of job dissatisfaction among technicians.

Has your spray equipment been designed for reliability? Are key components readily accessible for preventative maintenance? If not, key services cannot be performed, and breakdowns will occur.

Can technicians access key components–such as the line strainer (filter)–to prevent problems from occurring? Are quality components used? When analyzing component quality, don’t just consider expensive parts, such as engines and pumps, because even low-cost items like fittings and clamps can be reliability-killers.

Productivity

Is the equipment designed so that technicians can meet department and personal objectives? Are extra steps required to do simple activities because of the way the equipment is laid out? Are commonly accessed components strategically placed for productivity?

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