COMMENTARY: Safety means preparing for the unexpected
Manheim has a long and dedicated track record of making it a priority to try to ensure the safety of its employees, clients and guests, both in the lanes and on the lots.
And yet, the unprecedented events of 2020 — a global pandemic, social and political unrest, devastating wildfires, and a hurricane season for the record books — were a wake-up call that safety concerns can happen in both expected and unanticipated ways.
At Manheim, safety is a core value and at the heart of everything we do. It is a commitment that served us well last year.
In March, when COVID-19 hit, our ongoing technology investments paid dividends, allowing Manheim to pivot to all-digital sales nearly overnight. From that moment, every decision we made was in support of the health and safety of our clients, team members and the communities we serve. By late November, we were able to safely phase-in a return to live, in-lane physical auctions, due in large part to our employees and clients abiding by our safety protocols.
That same year, Manheim was severely impacted by a different type of disaster. In the overnight hours of March 3, 2020, a powerful F3 tornado with 175 mph winds ripped through Middle Tennessee, causing death and destruction.
Our Nashville location took a direct hit, suffering extensive damage that General Manager Sam Chaple described as a “punch in the gut.” Manheim was able to punch back and recover six months later by grit, determination and execution of our business continuity plan. It includes procedures to protect the safety of our team members, clients, and locations before, during and after severe weather, and is supported by information and relief resources available from our parent company Cox Enterprises.
Tips to create a safety culture that’s prepared for the unexpected
June is National Safety Month, an occasion to promote the importance of workplace safety and the need for continual improvement. Our program focuses on enhancements of best practices, training, and resources to protect our company’s most valuable resources: our clients and our people. It’s a bold initiative that empowers Manheim’s roughly 12,000 team members to take an active role in their own safety, and the safety of those around them, and to address safety concerns or conditions on the spot.
Fundamental elements of our safety culture offer practical ideas that can help others in our industry and beyond create a lasting safety culture that it is prepared for any challenges. They include:
- Establishing an Environmental Health and Safety group or safety committee to draw on employee expertise, share risk mitigation best practices across locations, and support team member safety engagement.
- Implementing a safety assessment process focused on continuous improvement and building a safety-minded culture.
- Having a business continuity plan in place for severe weather, such as tornados, winter storms and hurricanes, to prepare teams and operations for natural disasters.
- Requiring all relevant team members to complete the NAAA’s Auction Safety Certification and Lane Safety Training program.
- Implementing transparent employee engagement programs to report near misses, injuries and property damage.
- Providing positive employee reinforcement through recognition and reward programs to encourage continued engagement.
- Actively working with the NAAA Safety Committee to share our safety processes, collaborate on various safety initiatives such as training and workplace violence, and participating in the planning and presentation of industry safety events.
One of Manheim’s most successful safety initiatives is “Near Miss,” which engages all employees in addressing safety issues before they occur. The program has produced a cultural shift when it comes to workplace safety at Manheim, resulting in increased reporting of near-miss occurrences, as well as taking action to prevent future incidents. Another core element is “Take 2 for Safety,” a practice that starts each day with a safety reminder at Manheim’s field locations and corporate sites nationwide.
The National Auto Auction Association also offers a wealth of resources to support a safe workplace. Topics range from training and certification programs to business continuity planning. To learn more, visit https://www.naaa.com/education_training/training_safety.html.
The unpredictable events of 2020 were a reminder for all of us about the importance of having a plan in place for when emergencies and natural disasters strike unexpectedly.
Grace Huang is president of Manheim.