Looking back at my nearly 12 years with the company, a few things stand out that may be of interest to any reader reviewing the history of the company and my part of that history. The mere opening of the risk manager position is a sordid story, but it provided an opportunity for me. While I cannot go into detail about what happened to cause the position to open, I can say it impacted the job interview and the scrutiny of the position during what I will call the honeymoon phase.
As a claims manager at a local insurance company, my role allowed me to work with other risk managers and become very familiar with their roles. A referral from Vermeer’s risk manager directed a placement service to call me. They started describing the company and I immediately knew who they were without being told their name. I told them I was interested and was sure they would recall who I was since they too had been one of my customers and I had handled their claims.
After roughly five different interviews and several months, I was finally offered the job. I had planned to start the job within three weeks after my notice. In true Wright fashion, I received a call on the third day after my notice was given. I needed to attend the General Foreperson (GF) School which was scheduled for the following week. At that time, my position was part of the group that presented at GF School and Wright knew it would be invaluable for me to see what occurred at the school to bring me up to speed more quickly. They were right.
Seeing the claims as a contractor for the company and reviewing details with management was a long way from understanding the complexity of this business. When I made it to my desk after GF School, I was greeted with a warm welcome and a desk completely covered with paper about a foot tall. It was my first exposure to tailgates of which we currently process about 200,000 tailgates annually. We are now on a path to take these completely electronic. Another major project was to transition from paper foreperson manuals to electronic versions. We will no longer need wheelbarrows to carry the zipper binder manuals. Thank goodness for iPads!
After the paper was cleared from my desk, Jim Lorrigan, our safety manager, must have thought I had caught up (it never happens). He came to my desk, laid a piece of paper down, and said I had to learn it. The paper simply said, “Tree trimmers are not qualified line clearance workers 1910.269.” That began my journey to understand OSHA 1910.269. Since then, I’ve served as a board member on the Iowa-Illinois Safety Council which is part of the National Safety Council, and obtained my OSHA certification to be an instructor for both the OSHA 30- and 10-hour classes.
After getting up to speed on claims and working to set the reserves to cover the associated expenses to cover those claims, I started to understand the business. I read as much as I could, and Jim took me to the field to point out the more critical aspects of the job. I looked at the incidents that we had as an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the business. During those investigations, I got to know and appreciate the operations team.
I also had the pleasure and responsibility to attend the ANSI Z133 meetings where I was fortunate enough to vote on changes in the arboricultural operations – safety requirements for our industry. This consensus standard committee consists of many of the top companies in the vegetation management world. Tied closely to that group meeting is the Utility Line Clearance Safety Partnership. This coalition of companies is solely focused on the safety of those in the line clearance business. The members of this group are the best in class to help the industry move forward
in promoting safe work practices.
Early in my career at my first company annual awards banquet, Jim asked if I was ready for my speech. Then he walked off with that now-famous grin and I thought he was just teasing, but within a couple of minutes, Scott walked by and asked if I was ready to make the presentation. I was briefed on what was done in the past and after a short time, I was up on the stage in front of several hundred people. At that time, we had a saying that I am sure a lot of you reading this can relate to: you either sink or swim. I must have been able to swim, but I am sure glad Wes Tregilgas is with us now as he thrives in public speaking.
As I look forward to the end of my career, I still have a few projects I want to check off my list. At the top of that list, buttoning up the performance reviews process now that it has transitioned to our learning management system. I’d also like to kickstart the full ISO 9000 Internal Audit Program to close the feedback loop.
I have always looked at my job responsibilities as simply serving my internal and external customers in the best way I can. I am not always the best at delivering my thoughts, but transparency helps to compensate for it.
The individuals who have replaced me are the best in class and allow this family of companies to move to even higher success. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to our success and ability to help the company grow while reducing injury and damages.
By Rocky Palmer, Director of Risk Management, Wright Service Corp.
This article was published in “Executive Excerpt,” a section of the Wright Service Corp. biannual newsletter, The Wright Perspective.