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In the Rental Equipment Industry, Specialization is Key:

In the Rental Equipment Industry, Specialization is Key:

Rental Companies Backing Away From Safety Training


In today’s marketplace, more and more business owners are finding that specialization is the key to success, and equipment rental companies are no different. Whether it’s sales, service or both, rental company managers are finding that it is important for specially trained employees to use their time performing the jobs for which they are trained, rather than taking on responsibilities outside their spheres of expertise such as OSHA compliance training. Financial experts concur that the key to sustained growth is increased productivity, which can only occur through a more efficient use of employee time, in which case it makes sense to outsource activities (i.e. workplace safety training) that are not part of the core business practices.

For rental company managers, equipment safety training falls into this category. For many rental companies, when it comes time to train, it makes sense to call in a professional safety consultant, one with OSHA regulations knowledge and expertise to make sure that trainees get the most out of every training session, thereby minimizing future risk of accidents.

Rental managers and insurers cite several reasons for the shift toward hiring professional safety consultants to do their workplace safety training, not the least of which revolves around the issue of liability.

In fact, one of the major arguments in favor of hiring an outside source to provide OSHA safety training is due to the fact that rental companies feel that they incur unnecessary liability by performing workplace safety training in-house. As a result, rental companies are backing away from providing equipment safety training, turning instead to professional safety consultants that specialize in OSHA compliance training. As Joe Sheffield, Vice President of Grist Equipment in Savannah, Georgia explains: “we like to keep our liability as low as possible. If we can farm out workplace safety training to an outside training company that has their own insurance and their own liability, then that keeps it as far removed from our company as possible. We may even recommend online OSHA training.”

Regardless of whether a rental company can be held accountable for any mishaps that may occur, it is the perception of liability that is motivating many equipment rental companies to make the switch to professional safety consultants. As Regan Evans, manager of Neff Rental in Raleigh, North Carolina explains: “by OSHA’s definition, the liability rests with the end user. However, if there were a problem, regardless of the legal definition of liability, it would certainly reflect badly on our company, which we would like to avoid. From our standpoint, it just makes sense to take the issue of liability away completely”.

Another factor that has motivated rental equipment companies to seek outside sources for safety training is the difficulty involved in maintaining qualified staff to perform workplace safety training. Sheffield elaborates: “it is disappointing and counterproductive to expend resources to get someone OSHA certification to oversee a training program and then for whatever reason, they leave the company, which means we have to go through the process all over again”.

Similarly, Evans argues that safety training by employees constitutes an inefficient use of their time. Depending on the number of people and the type of training involved, it can take an entire workday to complete a training course, which translates into lost productivity for the company. “We just can’t afford for our personnel to take time away from sales or service in order to perform safety training, they are much more valuable in the shop. We feel comfortable letting safety consultants handle the training and letting our employees do what they do best”.

Another issue rental companies take into consideration when deciding whether or not to hire a professional safety consultant lies in the quality of presentation. In most cases, the right instructor can mean the difference between trainees understanding and absorbing the instruction, or tuning it out, which may lead to accidents down the line. An experienced, enthusiastic instructor, one that has most likely been through OSHA training courses, can adjust the training to meet the specific needs of the group, which will better motivate learners.

For example, many professional, instructor-led training sessions can incorporate demonstrations, question and answer sessions, OSHA training center information, workstations, and “what if” scenarios to create even more impact. Most rental company managers feel that they don’t get the same quality of training when it is done in-house, especially when performed by someone who may resent the added responsibilities as being outside their job description.

While using a safety consultant may seem the best of both worlds, Evans also remarks that at their facility, they have seen as increase in sales of do-it-yourself training programs. As he says, “Many contractors are choosing to perform their own training using training packages. Contractors like being able to adjust the training programs to their own needs, and appreciate being able to provide training on their own schedule”.

From a contractor’s perspective, using an OSHA compliance training safety kit makes sense for other reasons. Greg Waters, president of Henry Electric in Savannah, Georgia, sums it up: “My experience has been that the safety training provided by rental companies rarely meets our needs. It is often too general. In our profession, we need safety training that is industry specific. Instead, our organization has had success in purchasing ‘do-it-yourself’ training programs that provide OSHA training materials specific to our trade. These programs are extremely effective, meet OSHA regulations, plus we benefit from the guidance of the safety professionals, and their technical support in using the materials”.

Whatever the reason, the trend is clear: rental companies are getting out of the workplace safety training business. In the equipment rental business anyway, it seems that safety training is best left to the pros.

 
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