Every now and then it is good to go back to safety basics. At times throughout the course of a year we will veer off on tangents about certain aspects of safety. It is time to reset for the year, and go back to the main structures of a safety program–what it is, how it works, and why it is effective. How will you limit, decrease, and eliminate your workers comp costs this year?
Run a Safe Operation
Run an actual, real, safe, work operation. That means as a business C-suite occupant you know that on the work floor you have machines with real guards in place, carpets free from rips and holes, non-fraying ropes or ties, anti-slip surfaces on steps, clearly marked hazards, and clean floors.
Upon first glance it all seems too simple. If you do what you are supposed to do, and have what you are supposed to have, safety will all fall in to place. This is only part of the battle, but it is an important part. If/when workers see all of this attention, and new equipment, and investments in safety, they start to think in safe modes as well. If the atmosphere and culture of the shop looks like nobody cares, then your workers are not going to care for their own safety either.
Elect or Appoint an Emergency Response Team
Quick, Bill just caught his hand between two pieces of moving machinery. Point to Steve, “Steve you are next to Bill, what do you do?”
If you were to stage a severe accident in your shop, what do you think the results would be? Would everyone react like the Armed Forces and efficiently get Bill taken care of while someone calls 911 and pages the floor supervisor?
Or would 13 people run around pale-faced while unable to speak while Bill bleeds out on the floor?
The answer to what your perception could be, and what reality could be, will vary greatly. In your mind, you have this well-oiled machine that can do anything without a hiccup. The reality is that if you do not have an ERT, and you do not complete any practice drills, then your staff is in trouble.
The first step is creating the team. It should be a mix of floor workers, supervisors, and a management team member. People that take this appointment seriously, as lives could depend on it. Second is making sure all employees know who is on the team, and how to reach them. Make a special code on the radio if you have to, or a special name tag border. Whatever makes everyone remember. Third, establish the protocol for reporting a severe injury along with the chain of command. Everyone on the ERT has a task—either calling 911, applying wound pressure, alerting other staff, etc. Fourth, stage a few accidents. For optimal results, do not alert workers they are coming. At the same time, you do not need 40 heart attack claims either, so you should stage in increasing severity. Remember the task is meant to be a practice drill, not to scare everyone to the point where they are confused and anxious.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The most common aggravation from a claimant is the lack of communication. They have no idea what is going on, why they cannot go to the doctor they want to, why they are not getting paid, and so on. The best workers comp goal is to have zero claims. Should you have some claims, make sure your adjuster and carrier are good at communicating with the injured worker. Set standards of contact and make sure they adhere to it. That injured worker should get a call from either a triage nurse or the med only adjuster within 24 hours. These little phone calls are what decrease litigation, get workers back to work, and keep the claim moving forward to resolution. Make sure the injured worker’s manager calls them once a week to check in. Every worker likes to feel cared about and that they matter.
Upper Management Needs to be Involved in the Process
Trust me, you can preach all the safety you want. If workers see the upper management breaking the rules, you just lost whatever momentum you had going for you. You will lose it so fast, you won’t believe it. You have to practice what you preach. Even if that means a safety violation write-up for a superior. If they are allowed to cut corners without discipline, then all of your others workers are going to imitate that behavior. You cannot get by with 60% enforcement. It has to be 100%, all of the time, every day.
Author Michael Stack, Principal of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. He is an expert in employer communication systems and helps employers reduce their workers comp costs by 20% to 50%. He resides in the Boston area and works as a Qualified Loss Management Program provider working with high experience modification factor companies in the Massachusetts State Risk Pool. As the senior editor of Amaxx’s publishing division, Michael is on the cutting edge of innovation and thought leadership in workers compensation cost containment. http://reduceyourworkerscomp.com/about/. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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