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Employees damaging farm equipment

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  • Employees damaging farm equipment

    How do people deal with this? It can be such a budget breaker!

    It ranges everywhere needing to replace a $15 pitchfork due to broken tines every month to, as happened at a farm in our area, an employee letting a brand new $90k tractor roll into the pond.

    I usually just grin and bear the pitchfork thing (mumbling to myself about not having broken a tine myself in 20 years) and farm insurance would cover the tractor (and the company would go after the employee, right?).

    Its the middle range stuff that is so hard to bear with the margin we are at boarding horses. For example, in the last year, 3 fence posts have mysteriously been broken in the farm lane between 2 pastures that goes to the manure pile. The tractor has a bucket and even though the tractor is 6' wide and lane is 9' I imagine someone just wasn't paying attention and/or was driving to0 fast, thereby smacking the post with the tractor. There is definate gouge mark on the posts that looks like tractor-stike. The posts will need to be dug out at probably $100 a piece at least. Last month, an employee backed our RTV (gator-type thing) into the riding lawnmower. The lawnmower was out in the open and easily visible where she would have seen it when she drove the RTV into the area and 5 minutes later left the area. She left a note saying she was distracted thinking about something else and couldn't see the lawn mower because she had stacked hay on the back of the RTV and couldn't see it. The smashed hood and grill parts come to a toal of $550 and now she is refusing any financial responsibility for the negligence. She says "that's what insurance is for". Never mind that this is below the deductable and making claims has the potential to increase one's premium, it's just such a non-honorable way to be that it is driving me crazy!

    From the reading I've been doing, it is illegal to withhold pay for such things unless someone has previously signed agreement to do so and even then, you have to be sure that the withholding doesn't take their pay below minimum wage.

    Ideas?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Schiffon View Post
    How do people deal with this? It can be such a budget breaker!

    It ranges everywhere needing to replace a $15 pitchfork due to broken tines every month to, as happened at a farm in our area, an employee letting a brand new $90k tractor roll into the pond.

    I usually just grin and bear the pitchfork thing (mumbling to myself about not having broken a tine myself in 20 years) and farm insurance would cover the tractor (and the company would go after the employee, right?).

    Its the middle range stuff that is so hard to bear with the margin we are at boarding horses. For example, in the last year, 3 fence posts have mysteriously been broken in the farm lane between 2 pastures that goes to the manure pile. The tractor has a bucket and even though the tractor is 6' wide and lane is 9' I imagine someone just wasn't paying attention and/or was driving to0 fast, thereby smacking the post with the tractor. There is definate gouge mark on the posts that looks like tractor-stike. The posts will need to be dug out at probably $100 a piece at least. Last month, an employee backed our RTV (gator-type thing) into the riding lawnmower. The lawnmower was out in the open and easily visible where she would have seen it when she drove the RTV into the area and 5 minutes later left the area. She left a note saying she was distracted thinking about something else and couldn't see the lawn mower because she had stacked hay on the back of the RTV and couldn't see it. The smashed hood and grill parts come to a toal of $550 and now she is refusing any financial responsibility for the negligence. She says "that's what insurance is for". Never mind that this is below the deductable and making claims has the potential to increase one's premium, it's just such a non-honorable way to be that it is driving me crazy!

    From the reading I've been doing, it is illegal to withhold pay for such things unless someone has previously signed agreement to do so and even then, you have to be sure that the withholding doesn't take their pay below minimum wage.

    Ideas?
    Set the standards from the start. Let your employees know what is and isn't expected of them. Ensure they know how to use and store tools and equipment and ensure they know what is proper use and what is abuse.

    If they abuse or misuse things then interview them and ascertain if it was because they can't use it properly or won't use it properly. If it's can't then give them another chance and retrain. If it's won't then warn them that if they do it again this will culminate in their dismissal.

    Follow it through.

    Here it is most definitely illegal to withold pay unless you have express agreement. But stopping pay won't stop them taking you for a mug.

    You need to act like a manager and set standards and might be wise to change the behaviour of those you employ. In future ensure you don't employ gob-shite staff telling you it doesn't matter if they do damage because that's why you have insurance.

    Comment


    • #3
      I'd almost be inclined to fire the irresponsible employees. A couple of "You're fired" sessions, and you and your farm will get the reputation that employees must be responsible for their actions. Yes, accidents happen, but "that's what insurance is for" is backtalk, and not to be tolerated.
      My Equestrian Art Photography page

      Comment


      • #4
        You'd think it would be self-evident, but apparently part of taking on an employee now means you need to back them into a corner and inform them in no uncertain terms that damaging farm property will NOT be tolerated and any damage that takes more than $50 to fix in a three-month period and for which no restitution is immediately forthcoming is automatic grounds for dismisal.

        Barring such an understanding, any dipshit that rolled my tractor into the pond or backed a gator over the lawnmower would be doing a hell of a lot work by hand without mechanized conveniences for a LONG, LONG time.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Schiffon View Post

          Ideas?
          none sorry...we have 12 employees...some never tear anything up...others do it every day and sometimes to cut our losses we must fire them..one man making less than $300 a week caused $6700 in damages in 2 days and wanted us to take it out of his pay...

          we could only send him on down the road...until they actually "care" there is nothing that you can do...

          best
          Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
          I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hire carefully and manage effectively.

            In order for me to use a forklift at work I had to take a written one hour OSHA approved pass/fail class and then demonstrate the ability to use it in a safe manner by negotiating an obstacle course, half an hour of snaking that thing through spaces six inches wider than it was, drive up and down a ramp forwards and backwards and then out on the workroom floor stacking, unstacking and moving pallets, loading them on and off trucks, fitting a line of pallets into a slot slightly wider than the pallets, etc.. Took about four hours and the trainer was a real hard nosed military guy so you got it done or failed.

            By managing effectively, we kept our dock clean and organized. If the forklifts were not in use they were parked in the same place every time, and we picked the parking space based on the most effective spot - out of the way and not blocking pallet storage areas so we never had to get off one and move the other to put stuff away.
            And we did fire people (though the union got them their jobs back). Without a union, I'd say train them well and then hold them accountable. If they just don't care then they don't need to be part of your team.
            Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
            Incredible Invisible

            Comment


            • #7
              You bust it well, your laid off until we get it fixed with no pay.

              I did get rid of my school boys that cut the grass because they cost more in aggravation and it just became easier and more efficient to do it myself. When said boy graduated, wanted a real job in our machine shop - well work is good, employees are great and we just are not hiring at this time.
              The View from Here

              Comment


              • #8
                I have the very same thing with volunteers. And sadly, they want to drive the tractor and use the implements. Only thing, they dont know how.

                I hate it when people voluntarily do some work, they never do these things when I am around. It always ends up costing me a ton in repairs. I think if people themselves had to pay each time there was damage or repairs needed, they might be a bit more careful.

                Wish I had an answer.
                Our horses are not seen as the old and disabled they may have become, but rather as the mighty steeds they once believed themselves to be.

                Sunkissed Acres Rescue and Retirement

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have found you get what you pay for offer a low wage you get help thats not very good. Offer a good wage and you have many people to choose from and many very good experianced ones. No different then any other job.
                  Quality doesn\'t cost it pays.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by draftdriver View Post
                    I'd almost be inclined to fire the irresponsible employees. A couple of "You're fired" sessions, and you and your farm will get the reputation that employees must be responsible for their actions. Yes, accidents happen, but "that's what insurance is for" is backtalk, and not to be tolerated.
                    Absolutely! Good employees arise from good management! I would never speak to a boss like that!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My father always said to me that we farmers hire minimum wage people and expect that in a short time they can drive our 100,000 dollar tractor. It is so easy for us because we have done it all our lives, that we think it is easy for everyone. We would never dream of putting them in our 100,000 dollar car, but the tractor is DIFFERENT. Most people have more experience with a car and hence better reflexes. We are then surprised when they get into trouble. It happens quite often on big farms and you just don't hear about it. Big wrecks,big injuries. Unfortunately it is very hard to find responsible, good heavy equipment drivers who have skills with animals and don't require huge paychecks. It is just part of farming.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Think about budgeting in those repairs. Offer an amount each month as an incentive- whether it's $50 to the "head guy" or $25 to each guy (or girl of course). At the end of the month, they get that incentive or bonus amount if you haven't had any "careless" repairs. That way, it's not coming out of their pay, but they get a bonus if they are responsible and proactive in caring for the equipment.
                        http://patchworkfarmga.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Explain to employee that unfortunately the insurance does not cover the cost of the repair, because it is below the deductible amount, and therefore you are unable to continue to support their salary. This person needs to understand cause and effect.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I'm with County on this one. I pay my stall cleaner almost double the local going rate, and I picked her from many candidates. She knows as much about horses as I do, is 150% reliable, keeps the stalls and barn immaculate, and even does chores I don't ask her to do. And there's the added bonus of when we go out of town, I have absolutely no worries because she's in charge. I recognize, however, that big barns who need many workers may not have that kind of luxury in terms of affording help.

                            I wouldn't be so upset with one or two incidents - my husband backed our truck into the bushhog the other day in a similar scenario to that described by the OP - and people do make legitimate mistakes. I do recognize that one or two incidents add up over time in terms of cost, but a mistake is a mistake. It's the repeaters that would worry me, and I think Tamara in TN expressed that best. Some care and some don't. If it's just a job to them, there's not likely much you can do about it.

                            On the manure forks, I've had 2 break in the last 6 months when husband and I were using them. They seem to be made more and more cheaply. And we are not tough on our forks -we have a small barn of 5 horses and aren't exactly sword fencing with the things or using them to dig holes:-)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My mechanic of many years, used to call my employees "the machine killers" . One year I had close to $5,000 in repairs due only to negligence and irresponsibility, mostly to the ATV's. There has never been a year until recently when employee recklessness cost me plenty.

                              Now, if I see someone driving too fast or otherwise being a bit reckless with the machinery, I let them go. I've learned that they are just too expensive to keep around.
                              www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                              "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                              Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Maybe Buck should fire himself

                                Well, sounds like Buck Davidson's little camper issue was a 'mistake.' If I am understanding correctly, he "severed the propane connection." As in, "oops, did i do that ?"

                                big machinery. s--t happens. As mentioned above, very, very few agricultural employees (for the sake of argument, I'll say virtually NONE) are given proper, extensive training in the use of farm equipment. Can't train your people, or can't 'afford' to hire good help ?? Guess what, it's going to cost you one way or another. And even then, I think Buck will affirm, costly 'oops-es' will occur.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I also agree with county. You get what you pay for with employees. Barn workers are not slaves. They are not your children. You do not get to treat them any differently that the people you supervise at your regular job just because they work at the barn.

                                  I very, very much doubt it is legal to ask employees to pay for repairs to equipment they use to do their job. It's absolutely unheard of in regular non-barn employment unless explicitly stated upfront. Otherwise you bear the risk when you hire them to use the equipment and don't train adequately or implement proper procedures and then enforce them. If your barn workers are so careless and know so little about safe vehcile operation you are probably lucky you haven't been sued when an untrained worker got hurt in one of these accidents.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I'll add too - sometimes employees' attitude toward employer's equipment and animals has a lot to do with how they feel they are treated. Not to say this is true for the OP or anyone else on here, just that I know I'm personally inclined to sull up if I feel my efforts aren't appreciated in any sense and/or someone is always watching over my shoulder. As both an employee and a supervisor, I like to feel and make people feel we are working toward the same goals and helping each other out. I do recognize the OP and others might be dealing with different types of folks here than are motivated via that method, so that is a consideration in some cases.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      We've had some really experienced and detail-oriented employees over the years (and we've also had a few that were not worth a dime but thought they were). Things get broken even with the best of workers and one thing I've attributed that to is the fact that some of the equipment gets used more by them than it does by my husband and myself. I will say that we see more broken manure forks, broken hose nozzles, and other mundane things (they can wear out fly spray bottles faster than I can fill them LOL) but I don't worry about any of that as long as the job they're hired to do gets done correctly and efficiently. As a matter of fact, one of my very best employees in the last 15 years went thru 3 manure forks in a matter of about 8 weeks. She was so embarrassed about it that she voluntarily went out and replaced the last one she broke although I would not have asked her to do that.

                                      When it comes to the big equipment though, we are very choosy about who we let drive things. Just because you can get someone to clean stalls, feed, water, etc., doesn't mean they are qualified to operate farm equipment. I did have to laugh when one of our employees backed her own vehicle into one of our flatbed trailers in broad daylight in a huge open turnaround area though! It crunched her car pretty good and didn't even ding the trailer.

                                      I think if you are looking for someone who can do the heavy equipment and the miniscule everyday barn stuff, you need to interview very carefully, set rules in writing and have them sign that they have read them, and then realize that accidents still will happen on occasion.
                                      Susan N.

                                      Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        If you ARE going to let the employee who damages stuff go, tell them when you pay them off that week. Don't let them come back to the farm after that.

                                        Retaliation damages to your machines and tool could be REALLY expensive.

                                        Son was working at a machine shop as a temp. Shop had lots of cheap labor employees. When they felt they needed a break, they would often toss tools into the machines making parts. They got the paid "break" while machine was fixed. Often shut down the whole line, but they didn't care. Employees came and went quickly. Shop shut down from being "too expensive" to run with all the repairs to machines. Shop owners went elsewhere for a new work force that could actually do some work.

                                        I have worked with well-paid employees who could not bother to do the "required" maintence on the vehicles they drove. Supposed to be a daily check with each new driver, but they just signed off, no actual checking. I got in trouble with my boss about that. He wanted to know WHY it took me so long to get going each day. "No one else takes 20 minutes for their vehicle check!" Well, we got into it right about there. I showed him how the vehicle was NOT being checked, as he gasped when I showed the TOTALLY DRY dipstick in the $500,000 truck. Took some time to add the couple gallons of oil needed to show on the dipstick. Showed him the broken headlight I had reported 2 WEEKS ago, but no one else ever mentioned. Took him around to the OTHER vehicles we all took turns driving, how things were NOT being checked out. ALL the repairs mechanics did, were from MY REPORTING slips. Kind of a revelation, though he was exactly the same kind of driver when he was doing it. Those guy drivers were paid the same as me, but could NOT BE BOTHERED, to do what they were paid for in pre-checks on vehicles. Mechanics all said they wished they had more women drivers, because our reporting PREVENTED most problems from happening. We only had one female driver in an accident, and she was run off the road, in over 15 years. Not so for the guy drivers, and we did do the same amount of driving times, miles on the road.

                                        Some folks just don't care, you can't make them care no matter what you pay. They do need to go before they cost you more. Pay them, then tell them good-bye and don't let them come back.

                                        Comment

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