For many years, the Watco Safety Team has kicked off a program called Winter Freeze to put the team’s focus back on safety during a time of year that is known to have a higher rate of incidences. This year’s Winter Freeze safety program will focus on the positive behaviors surrounding safety, what each of our team members are doing to prevent accidents, and create a safer Watco. This practice ensures safety is a focus at all times, not just when there are incidents.

Watco is committed to creating a safer workplace for our team members, their families, and our Customers, and we’re going to reward team members who are doing their part in strengthening our Safety Always culture. Team members who send in near-miss and safety suggestions will receive $200 if their submission is selected. Up to $10,000 in safety bonuses will be given out during the Winter Freeze Safety Program.

Each week during Winter Freeze, a few of the best entries will be chosen to highlight. Not only will team members be asked to identify an issue, but they will also be asked to develop a solution. The team members who are selected will receive a bonus, and their input will be featured on Watco Vision, social media, and other communication platforms.

“For us to create a strong safety culture, we’ve got to be able to have open, honest conversations about what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change. And we have to trust one another.”

Travis Herod, SVP Safety & Training

Travis Herod, senior vice president of safety and training said, “Nothing is more critical to our overall success than our team members going home safe every day. Truly exceptional safety requires that we don’t just follow procedures, comply with OSHA standards, and wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Exceptional safety happens when we look for and report hazards, give team members feedback on safe and at-risk behavior, make suggestions for improvement and, most difficult of all, admit when we have made mistakes so lessons can be learned.”

A few winners from last year’s Winter Freeze include Justin DeWitt, Steve Lowther, and Eric Poore. Each of these three team members were given a bonus for their focus on safety and their solutions to safety issues.

Cahokia Terminal team member Justin DeWitt earned a bonus last year for reporting two situations that could have turned into accidents and correcting them.

Justin, who works at the Cahokia Terminal, even reported two near-miss conditions, which could have resulted in severe injuries. The first incident involved a metal cage around a ladder at the facility that was loose and in danger of giving way. In the event of a team member falling or leaning up against the protective cage, it is possible it could have given way, resulting in a fall. This type of condition is precisely the type of near-miss we’re looking for, not waiting for the event to happen, but noticing the problem, and correcting the problem, so the equipment is in proper working order, and can prevent the fall in the manner it was designed to do. The second report involved a piece of conduit from old equipment in the area still hanging loose, which could cause a tripping hazard, potential electrical hazard, or a condition where a forklift or a moving load could catch, and pull down the conduit and what it was attached to from above. Another great observation and correction.

Steve Lowther, at the Grand Rivers Terminal, noticed when starting up a conveyer belt system, the belt start-up audible warning system was inoperative. The team recreated the situation. When the alarm failed to sound, the equipment was removed from service immediately, and repairs made over the following days rather than continuing to operate the equipment with the defective safety device. The alarm notifies persons in the area the machinery is starting, and operating without it would create a genuine hazard.

Grand Rivers Terminal’s Steve Lowther stopped work when a conveyor alarm wasn’t functioning and earned a bonus for his observation.

Eric Poore, at the Ann Arbor Railroad, reported a near-miss situation. He was riding the side of a railcar in his yard in Toledo, Ohio, when he encountered a close clearance situation due to tight track conditions, which resulted in a near-miss condition. During the shove in the yard, clearance between the car he was riding, and equipment on the adjacent track, became very tight, due to the length of the car he was on, and other long cars on the track immediately adjacent. Recognizing the condition, he stopped the movement but was unable to dismount until stopped, because of the extremely tight conditions. By taking the time to report this near miss, the Ann Arbor Railroad was able to issue a notice on their Daily Operating Bulletin to prohibit riding equipment in the area.

The Ann Arbor’s Eric Poore reported a near-miss situation in the Toledo, OH yard, earning him a Winter Freeze bonus.

These were just three of the many items sent in where the team members received a reward for their safety focus. The Winter Freeze Safety Program kicks off on December 1, and team members should be on the lookout for more information regarding the changes to the program and where you can go to input near miss and safety suggestions.

Remember, our families depend on us to make good decisions while at work so we can continue to provide for their well-being and to come home to them each day. Safety is more than talking the talk. It’s walking the walk, and safety doesn’t end when our work shift ends, our team members and their families are part of the Watco family. We care about you and want to make sure safety is a priority at work and at home. Not only do we want our team members to go home safely to their families after each shift, but it would also be nice if they went home during the holiday season with some extra money as a reward for that commitment to safety.