AffinEco’s Commitment to Safety Pays Off

By Matt Ellis

Safety_TrainingIf you’re looking to hire someone to oversee the safety training of a large building services company with a workforce spread across five states, you might want someone with a military background who understands a chain of command, respects the process for getting things accomplished, and isn’t afraid to assert himself. Hytmer Hernandez is that person. A former U.S. Marine, Hernandez says he’s the man for the job because of his integrity and dependability.

“We saw Hytmer as someone who could take control of our safety training program and bring it to the next level,” said Paul Senecal, managing partner of AffinEco.” And he’s done just that.”

AffinEco allocates $250,000 a year for its field safety training program. The company has field safety trainers assigned to each of its regions: Boston, Hartford, Bridgeport, and Stamford. The trainers travel with laptops pre-loaded with the industry’s latest safety guidance materials. They compile the latest industry information and present videos and PowerPoint presentations to all field employees at their worksites. These include up-to-date health and safety materials, including new data sheets that conform to Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) as well as new GHS Hazcom guidelines.

“The safety program is growing,” Hernandez said. “Field safety trainers deliver to me their reports and I review them, document them and file the information for each of our teams.”

Term spreadsheets are organized by topic–chemical safety, equipment safety, driving safety–and reviewed with senior management each month. According to Senecal, the system gives everyone a chance to see how employees are doing and how management can address areas that need improvement.

Work safely and follow established protocols. That’s the message trainers deliver to all employees, whether they are new to the company, or have been on board for 10 or more years. Arisleidys Gonzalez, one of AffinEco’s newest field safety trainers who works out of the Stamford office, says everyone needs to be reminded to “take their time and use caution,” even if they’re doing something they’ve done thousands of times before.

“I always give people examples to help them understand the importance of safety. I say, ‘This may sound silly,’ or ‘You may already know this.’ But, knowing is one thing. Acting is another,” she said.

Senecal says the company’s commitment to safety–which includes field training and Safety Bingo for field staff–is paying off. This year, the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) awarded AffinEco its 2017 Safety Award. Peer recognition is important, Senecal says, but there’s also a financial way to quantify the company’s safety commitment.

According to Mark Fries, AffinEco’s insurance broker from People’s United Insurance Agency, AffinEco has achieved an Experience Modification (MOD) rate of .68, representing a loss ratio that is 32% lower than its industry peers, In other words, the MOD provides a 32-cent reduction on every dollar AffinEco spends for workers’ compensation premiums.

“AffinEco understood the correlation between controlling their claims and reducing their insurance costs,” said Fries. “This required a culture of safety driven by top management and embraced throughout the company.”

And, because its insurance costs are lower, AffinEco can offer more competitive rates to its customers, who come to find out the company they are hiring is among the safest anywhere.

Still, the company is pushing ahead with new safety training programs, including ones focused on one of the most dangerous areas of any job: driving. Rising auto insurance rates can be burdensome for any company that operates a fleet of vehicles and employs an ever-expanding number of drivers.

For his next quarterly safety seminar, Hernandez will present a new auto safety training video provided by Traveler’s Insurance. It reminds drivers how to monitor their vehicle’s safety features, how to incorporate defensive measures into their driving, and understanding right of way rules–especially in complicated intersections. It also emphasizes AffinEco’s strict policy against cell phone use while driving. The video has a quiz component, which all employees need to take and pass in order to keep their driving privileges.

“Most of our people have had training like this, but not all. For many, it was a while back so it’s important to refresh it. Systems and procedures change over time,” Hernandez said.

It’s a common sense perspective that requires good communication to be effective. Gonzalez says she is striving to improve her communications skills in English and in her native Spanish. “I want to know that people are listening to me and that I am being clear,” she said.

Hernandez keeps his goals simple. “We want to strive for perfection and get really close to it.” How’s that going so far? “We’re doing very well!”

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