How Does Your Safety Program “Pair” With Your Workers?

With the intensity of the wine season gearing up and peak times just around the corner, how prepared are you to protect the health and safety of your workers? Protecting your employees is crucial to attaining your orchard and vineyard goals and having a successful operation. Having a solid and functioning safety plan in force results in better productivity, enables your workers to thrive and contribute to the performance of your business.  A good safety program is a win –win for everyone!

Regardless of the size of your operation, it is your responsibility as an employer, to have a safety program in place.  Depending on the size of your operation, your safety program may be informal or it may need to be more formal in nature – every winery is different. You’ll obviously want to abide by any government safety regulations that apply but there are also several safety management practices that will help you better demonstrate your commitment to safety, provide a safer working environment for your workers and yield you more efficiencies within your business.  It is not uncommon for a winery to produce a safety manual from an online template, issue it to their workers, briefly review it during a new employee training session and in turn, believe they have an effective safety program. Even though doing this is important, there are additional ways to visibly support your safety program to the point where it actually becomes “operationalized” into your day-to-day activities.  Outlined below you will find some of the ways we have found to be very effective to visibly demonstrate your support of your safety program.

Effective Ways to Promote a Safety Program at a Winery

Safety Policy and Program

  1. Draft a safety policy statement and sign it, better yet, have all of your supervisors sign it too.
  2. Make sure that your workers receive this policy statement either through an employee handbook, an employee bulletin board posting or through new employee orientations and meetings.
  3. Safety responsibilities should be formally assigned to a single individual to coordinate safety compliance efforts, accident investigation, and emergency procedures.
  4. Verify that appropriate safety responsibilities are also defined for everyone else.
  5. Work with either your insurance carrier or your insurance broker to establish an internal claims cost containment or return to work policy to reduce post-accident injury expenses.
  6. Hold supervisors accountable in annual performance reviews in part for safety objectives and/or the accident results of their workers.

Safety Rules and Standards

  1. Workers need to know how to safely do their job by having general work procedures and safety rules developed for your winery operation. High risk procedures like confined space entry, lockout / tagout, any work at heights, etc., need to be in writing.
  2. Safety rules are as important as any other part of your business. Write them so they are simple and easy to understand. Distribute them to all workers and have them sign an acknowledgment of understanding. Also post them in a common area as a reminder to everyone.
  3. Have a disciplinary system in place to deal with any safety rule violations.
  4. Develop a plan for winery emergencies like natural disasters and fires to make sure your workers know how to effectively respond in emergency situations.

Safety Training

  1. Make sure you have a safety orientation plan in place. Complete the orientation before workers begin a new job. Workers need hands on job training.
  2. Train your supervisory personnel so they can conduct safety inspections related to workplace safety hazards or applicable regulations in their area on a regular basis.
  3. Review your winery operations to determine the safety training needs for all work areas. This would include areas such as: emergency response to fire or injury, confined space, electrical safety, handling of chemicals, fall prevention and wearing of personal protective equipment, just to mention a few.
  4. Supervisory safety training sessions should be held regularly, addressing the following: accident investigation, conducting safety talks, understanding workers compensation, complying with government safety regulations, completing safety inspections, and controlling employee accident costs, as needed.

Safety Inspections

  1. Formal safety inspections should be conducted regularly by supervisors or other management staff. Document the results of these inspections.
  2. On a daily basis, supervisors should routinely conduct informal safety inspections with any negative findings documented and corrected.
  3. Consider developing customized safety inspection checklists for each area to ensure your inspections are thorough and consistent.
  4. Have a follow-up system in place to make sure that systematic corrective action is being taken on the deficiencies noted during safety inspections.
  5. Regularly update your safety inspection procedures and checklists by utilizing information generated in accident investigation reports so you can prevent recurring incidents.

Accident Investigation

  1. Have a supervisor (of the employee) investigate all injuries requiring medical treatment along with any “near misses” to make sure they don’t happen again.
  2. Maintain accident statistics about injuries that occur in your winery operation and review them regularly in management staff meetings. An accident occurring within your facility should be considered a significant winery operational deficiency and you should appropriately take corrective measures for each one.
  3. 3. Focus on fact finding, not fault finding to avoid attributing accident causes to employee carelessness or possible fraud on accident investigation reports. Identify the underlying root cause(s) for each accident.
  4. Have a first aid treatment procedure in place to help effectively reduce the severity of work-related injuries. You should include:
  5. a) A properly stocked first aid kit. The American Red Cross recommends:
  6. b) Eye wash station(s). Grainger has an article describing where eye wash stations should be placed:
  7. c) Employees trained / certified in first aid. First aid training is often available through local organizations such as the Red Cross, local fire departments, EMS, etc. Check your local area listings.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  1. Conduct a hazard assessment of your winery operations to determine any personal protective needs and requirements for your workers. Make sure appropriate PPE is readily available to all workers, they are trained in its use and they follow all established requirements.
  2. Hold your supervisory personnel responsible for enforcing the use of PPE devices. This would include such items as safety glasses, proper footwear, gloves, and hearing protection, etc.
  3. On a periodic basis, review accident and inspection reports to evaluate the use or need for any additional personal protective equipment devices.


  1. Demonstrate safety is a priority at your winery by holding regular meetings with your workers and supervisors to talk about any safety concerns. Keep minutes of each of these meetings with what was talked about and who attended.
  2. Have an “alternative duty” transitional work program in place to encourage injured workers to remain on the job in restricted capacity.
  3. Consider having a constructive policy in place to address workers who have had two more injuries or property damage accidents during any twelve-month period of time.
  4. Establish ideas and plans to motivate all workers to follow existing safety policies/procedures in an effort to achieve specific safety goals through such methods as personal recognition, bonuses, awards, etc.

Mechanical Safeguards

  1. Survey any high accident areas, materials, processes or buildings annually if you are having occurrences to specifically evaluate the adequacy of your equipment safeguards and/or OSHA machinery guarding compliance.
  2. Identify and provide appropriate signage where guarding is required. Develop procedures when guards are required to be removed for service or maintenance.
  3. If protected by interlocks or safety switch, inspect these systems regularly to verify that they have not been disabled or bypassed.

General Operating Conditions

  1. Maintain good housekeeping practices in all of your working areas so as to reduce slip, trip and fall hazards.
  2. Prohibit the climbing on racks in any storage or warehousing operations. Provide and encourage the use of sound, sturdy ladders.
  3. If forklifts are used, provide required training to all operators. Order pickers, if used, must work from an approved platform and wear appropriate fall protection.
  4. Tractors, mowers and other power equipment should be provided with appropriate rollover protective devices (ROPS).

Vehicle Safety

  1. Motor vehicle records should be routinely obtained for all new drivers and updated annually.
  2. Motor vehicle records should be evaluated using a defined point system for all drivers on an annual basis.
  3. A record of training should be maintained on file for all personnel who have access to and operate vehicles, farm equipment, vans or other powered equipment during the course of their employment.
  4. Accident reporting kits should be kept in all vehicle glove compartments.
  5. Drivers should conduct vehicle inspections daily.


At the end of the day, safety doesn’t need to be complicated. You can keep your program simple so that it meets the needs of your winery. Remember that:

  • Safety doesn’t happen without the person in charge and everyone else standing up and taking responsibility.
  • No one single person can be responsible for safety – more people making safety a priority correlated to fewer people being injured.
  • Stay with it – safety isn’t about written rules and handbooks, it’s about thinking about the potential dangers and what needs to be done to keep everyone safe.

By “pairing” these safety program components with what you and your workers do, you’ll be better prepared to meet the busy times ahead with safer and fewer injured employees. You, your employees and your business will all benefit!

  The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments.  Please contact us or your insurance professional if you have any questions. Products and services are offered through Markel Specialty, a business division of Markel Service Incorporated (national producer number 27585).  Policies are written by one or more Markel insurance companies. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary.

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