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Building a ‘safety culture’

Westchester District Manager Elvin Mercado

Elvin Mercado sees safety as a matter of employee engagement — for every member of his team.

The Westchester District manager strives to create a “safety culture” within the district, which is part of Northeast Area.

“We want every employee to care deeply about their own safety and that of their colleagues. Building a safety culture is a bottom-up, grassroots ethic,” he says.

The Postal Service encourages all district leaders to follow this approach. Last fall, Westchester District was one of six honorees in the organization’s first Safety Vision and Leadership Awards.

To help other managers and supervisors engage employees in safe job practices, Mercado offers this advice:

• Introduce newcomers to safety concepts. Westchester District regularly holds a “Freshman Friday” event where city carrier assistants meet with managers to share feedback and discuss concerns.

The district also uses Lean Six Sigma techniques as it drives toward its goal of zero accidents.

• Hold daily “touchpoint” meetings that include updates on safety efforts and results. Make sure district leaders receive daily reports on these meetings, which should also address safety progress.

Conduct periodic district-wide safety symposiums. Use these events to encourage employees, managers and supervisors to collaborate and brainstorm ways to raise safety awareness and prevent accidents.

Keep symposium presentations focused on the district’s vision for safety. Use visual aids and demonstrations to make them more interesting.

• Reward good behavior as a means of engagement. Hold quarterly “Breakfast of Champions” events that allow district managers to recognize employees who have achieved safety success.

Westchester District also relies on Counseling At Risk Employees (CARE), a program designed to engage employees using a customized participant action plan to eliminate future accidents.

The district credits CARE with building awareness of the need for safe practices and mindfulness in everything its team members do, especially new hires, each day.

Says Mercado: “The bottom line is all postal employees are responsible for making sure they don’t endanger themselves or others, but it’s up to managers and supervisors to provide them the tools and motivation to ensure that happens.”

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