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Tune Up Your Safety Program
It’s late summer, which means ginning season is right around the corner. And a few of you are already well into it by now. We always joke that repair season is over when cotton shows up on the yard. There are always a million things that seem to never get done in a timely manner. Don’t let your safety program review be one of them.

One of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s key safety program elements is review and improvement. This feedback mechanism should be built into yours. At least once a year, review how your safety program worked (or didn’t work) and where improvements can be made.

Step Up Your Game Plan
I can’t tell you how many ginners have a good-looking safety program that appears to have all the right stuff. And then in the heat of battle (night shift or someone quits), some part of the training never happens for the new guy or gal or something big breaks down and you skip the weekly safety meeting.

These are the types of things you need to look at to determine how to do them better. Ask yourself, “How can we make sure everyone gets properly trained and all of the safety meetings are held when possible?” Maybe you’ve already taken care of this. Perhaps you gave the new people limited duties and had them come in early the next shift to watch the videos and complete the training. If so, that’s great. It’s also a good idea to look at your training to see if it’s relevant. How do you know if what you are showing or telling your employees is even sinking in?

Program evaluation means setting safety goals for the program and then measuring the results to see if you’ve achieved those goals. Look at each aspect of your safety program: management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification and assessment, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and communication with outside contractors.

Determine if goals are being met and where improvements can be made. Take a few minutes in the next few weeks before cranking up the gin to see if there’s any aspect of your safety program that needs improvement… I bet there is.

Dusty Findley of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association contributed this article. Contact him at 706-344-1212 or dusty@southern-southeastern.org.

Hanging Together To Face The Challenges
There’s no doubt we live in interesting times. Maybe I should say we live in challenging times. Every time we turn around, it seems something new is thrown at us. These tests can cause a lot of pain, but they can also result in personal and business growth. As an industry, we are facing low prices, very few safety-net provisions, labor issues and government overreach.

These are tough times. We’ve faced them before, and we’ll get through them, but not without work and likely some sacrifice. Ben Franklin famously says, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately.”

That phrase comes to mind whenever I look at what we face as an industry. One thing that cotton has had that nearly all other commodities struggle with is unity. Organizations can either be torn apart with strife or shine as a unifying force holding the industry together. The groups that make up the cotton industry are individually struggling with their own challenges. However, we need to pull together for the common goal of keeping cotton as a viable commodity for the American farmer.

So, what does that mean exactly? I certainly don’t know right now. That’s why we meet. That’s why we form organizations. That’s why we hang together. We meet challenges head-on — together. We need to form policies that guide the direction of our industry so we can present unified ideas and not a bunch of competing ideas to the outside world. Division equals weakness; organization equals strength.

Unified Voice Called ‘Refreshing’
If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it 50 times from Capitol Hill staff: It is so pleasant when cotton comes to Washington with a unified voice. They say it is refreshing to hear the same message from people across the country. They say many commodities don’t do this. If cotton is going to make it through these challenging times, it has to be by doing it together.

That’s why being part of Southern Cotton Growers and the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association is so important. But simply being a member isn’t enough. Active participation is an essential part of membership. Members need to talk to the board members who represent them, and board members need to bring those ideas and concerns to the board as a whole. Then and only then can debate take place and understanding of the process occur. Sometimes we get what is best for us, and sometimes we yield to what is best for others. But we always compromise and come together.

I’ve loved being part of this industry and enjoyed how it has come together for almost 30 years. For the most part, unity has brought prosperity. We’ll come through these challenging times, but we need to hang together or we will most decidedly hang separately.

This article by Dusty Findley of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association first appeared in the January 2017 edition of “Viewpoints,” a souvenir magazine distributed at the Southern Southeastern Annual Meeting.

Cotton’s Calendar 2017
Aug. 8-10: Cotton Board/Cotton Incorporated Joint Meeting, Durham, N.C.
Aug. 16: Plains Cotton Cooperative Association Board Meeting and Delegate Body Meeting, Lubbock, Texas
Aug. 17-18: 2017 American Cotton Producers/Cotton Foundation Joint Summer Meeting, Westin Buckhead Atlanta Hotel, Atlanta, Ga.
Aug. 23-25: National Cotton Council Mid-Year Board Meeting, Peabody Hotel, Memphis, Tenn.
Sept. 20: PCCA Annual Meeting, Lubbock, Texas
Sept. 20: PCCA Board Meeting, Lubbock, Texas
Sept. 20: Staplcotn/Stapldiscount Annual Meeting, Greenwood, Miss.
Sept. 25: Calcot Ltd. Board of Directors/Auditors Meeting, Phoenix, Ariz.
Sept. 26: Calcot Ltd. Board of Directors Meeting/90th Annual Meeting, Phoenix, Ariz.
Oct. 11: Plains Cotton Growers Inc. Board Meeting, Bayer Museum of Agriculture, Lubbock, Texas
Oct. 18: PCCA Board Meeting and Delegate Body Meeting, Lubbock, Texas
Nov. 15: PCCA Board Meeting, Lubbock, Texas
Dec. 5-7: Cotton Board/Cotton Incorporated Joint Meeting, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Dec. 20: PCCA Board Meeting and Delegate Body Meeting, Lubbock, Texas