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Down to Earth and Safety

Vitamin Retailer magazine’s 2013 Retailer of the Year, Hawaii’s Down to Earth Organic & Natural started its Safety Program in 2004, when the store had a serious problem with workplace injuries and a resultant significant increase in worker’s compensation insurance costs. Workplace accidents can be significantly reduced if the business implements and enforces a workplace safety program.

A team member slips and falls because they weren't wearing safety shoes. Someone in the kitchen cuts themselves because they didn't wear protective gloves. Or, someone trips over something left on the floor. These examples, with which we are all too familiar, are too many to list and can all be remedied by putting emphasis on workplace safety, according to Cindy Chase-Kruse, the store’s human resources director.

“The increased amount of time and money we invested in dealing with worker's compensation claims turned safety into a major company issue threatening our very existence; we had to deal with this issue as management team,” said Chase-Kruse. “The way to deal with the problem became apparent when our insurance company asked to see our safety policies, manual, and related processes—which we didn't have at the time.”

The store hired a safety consultant found through the Hawaii Employers Council. “Before he agreed to get started, he required a face-to-face meeting with our CEO, Mark Fergusson, to secure a 100 percent commitment to safety, which he received wholeheartedly,” Chase-Kruse continued. “Our consultant quickly helped us develop a Safety Program that had as its goal zero incidents, zero accidents, and zero injuries. It took six months to a year to fully implement the program. After one year, we reduced safety incidents from two per month to one per quarter and, in subsequent years, we have had an even better safety record with only two or three workplace injuries per year. It’s not perfect, but it was a huge success not only for the company but also for our team members' welfare.”

The store’s success was due to a number of processes put into place to promote safety:
• Safety policies, manual and processes were developed to set performance standards for team members
• Safety audit inspections are held quarterly by the General Manager.
• Daily safety walkthroughs are conducted using a checklist several times a day by store personnel
• Safety orientations are conducted at the time of hire
• Safety equipment (back belts, whizzard gloves, etc.) is provided and required to be used.
• Safety Councils were formed in each store, meeting monthly to discuss ways to improve safety, review incidents, and discuss prevention steps that will be taken to improve safety performance
• Mandatory safety meetings are held monthly with all team members to review different aspects of the company safety policy and things they can do to ensure they work safely and in a safe environment
• Regular stretching is required of all team members 7-10 minutes after clocking in for their shifts.
• Included safety as key criteria for team members’ bonus. “The emphasis Down to Earth gives to safety—in both words and deeds—sends team members a clear signal about how important it is to work safely,” Chase-Kruse added.

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