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Safety is No. 1 at RentalMax — a true team effort

By Connie Lannan

March 22, 2023

Katherine Habel

Katherine Habel

Safety is a top priority at RentalMax, headquartered in Carol Stream, Ill. That’s why the company trains consistently and relies on employee buy-in, because safety is a team effort, says Katherine Habel, training specialist, and Mike Matuszewski, safety specialist at the company.  

Why does safety take such precedence? It’s simple. “A safe and healthy workplace not only protects workers from injury and illness, but it also can lower injury/illness costs, reduce absenteeism and turnover, increase productivity and quality, and raise employee morale. In other words, safety is good for business,” Matuszewski says.

“We encourage our employees to look out for each other and keep each other safe. It’s everyone’s job to do that,” Habel says.  

At RentalMax, which has 10 locations, the safety message begins on day one.  

Mike Matuszewski

Mike Matuszewski

“We have a five-day shadow program for all new hires,” Habel says. “They shadow someone who is assigned to them, ask questions and familiarize themselves with the equipment, building, emergency evacuation routes and such.” 

During the second week, Habel and Matuszewski begin the onboarding practice with new hires. This includes training on mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), the American Rental Association (ARA) Professional Driver Education Program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace safety program, propane and forklift training, equipment familiarization, and a review of the fleet safety manual and employee handbook.  

“We spend a lot of time pushing all aspects of safety and our culture in general with our new hires,” Habel says.  

Lift training at RentalMax

On day 45, Habel and Matuszewski test new hires on all aspects, from core values to their understanding of hitch ratings, loading and unloading equipment, tie downs and servicing the equipment. If the employee fails any of those aspects, that person receives more instruction and is retested 45 days later.    

Training doesn’t stop there. Drivers take a refresher course every six months, all certifications are updated when needed and Habel sends all employees two equipment trainings/videos each week. There are weekly safety talks and a monthly Safety Committee meeting. 

They use the training resources of ARA’s RentalU and distribute all their own content via that platform. “This has been a great platform for us to use,” Habel says.  

The goal is to prevent an incident from happening, but it is reported immediately if it does. Then an entire protocol is put in place to address the issue, implement additional training, etc.  

Employees are encouraged at all times to be involved and make suggestions. Safety boxes are at each location, where people can leave issues or suggestions. When Habel visits locations, she asks for concerns and suggestions. “Some of my best training topics have come from our employees,” she says.   

It’s a constant focus. “You can never take your eye off the ball. It takes constant education, communication, prevention and, most importantly, employee participation,” Matuszewski says.