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Safety National Recognizes 2014 Safety First Grant Winner

Safety National® awarded Russell Del’Re, Safety & Risk Manager at Dressbarn (a brand operating under the Ascena Retail Group), with 2014’s Safety First Grant for presenting the most creative risk control solution related to an identifiable and quantified loss source.

Safety First Grant 2014 Winner


At Dressbarn, the Safety Team had a dream of one day removing all ladders from their stores due to the danger ladder use presents to their employees and the bad ladder-related claims they had incurred. Ladder use was creating several problems:

  • The stores are small, which means ladders have to be stowed in the back store room. Workers have to carry these heavy ladders from the back to the front of the store to hang signs in the windows.
  • Dressbarn requires a spotter, which means that two people are necessary to hang signage. With reductions in payroll hours, many employees are attempting to do hang signs on their own.
  • The majority of Dressbarn’s employees fall into the middle-age demographic and many find the current method of hanging signage to be physically demanding. Del’Re decided to begin researching a solution that would enable them to significantly reduce the use of ladders in the retail environment.


In 2013, Del’Re began his search by looking into existing safety solutions specific to window marketing, but with no luck. He was surprised to find out that there were no products out there. He even went to the mall and looked at what other retailers were using. Everyone was still using ladders.

“When you raise a flag, you don’t have to climb to the top of the flag pole,” said Del’Re. “You pull a string.” Insistent that there had to be a better alternative to ladder use, he went to a safety conference and approached a few vendors with his idea. They came back with the solution – a retractable signage system that allows a single employee to attach a poster and raise it through adjustable cords and stoppers.


The Safety First Grant will allow Del’Re to purchase and create a test market for the retractable signage hanging system engineered to remove the need for ladders for this operation. He anticipates that the system will help prevent injuries, save time and use less labor.

“My philosophy is that, no matter what, employees are not to blame if they get injured at work,” said Del’Re. “There’s a reason they are performing the behavior that injures them and that means something is broken in the process. I believe that the retractable signage hanging system can be our solution and, if so, I want all retailers to know that this product exists.”