Four Techniques to Effectively Communicate Safety in the Workplace

effectively communicate safetyEffectively communicating safety is a topic all interested stakeholders need to increase awareness. Not only is it required by law, but is reduces workers’ compensation program costs and promotes a better workplace.  When communicating safety, proactive employers and other interested stakeholders often struggle to find an effective means of communication with employees.

 

 

Effective Safety Communication Methods

 

There are many things employers can do to promote workplace safety and communicate important concepts to employees.  Simple suggestions that are effective include:

 

  1. Safety Equipment & Required Signs: A safety coordinator should review and determine what safety equipment is required in each area.   This should include a review and determination of the location signs may be needed, and where they are needed.  This consists of a review of the primary workspaces, individual offices, computer rooms, stairwells, bathrooms, other common areas, and parking garages and lots. Signage should be ordered and installed promptly. A periodic review should also take place.  This is something that can be done at the beginning of each month, and include an annual audit to ensure full compliance.

 

  1. Safety Awareness Posters: Every safety program should ensure all employees are aware of safety concerns in each area or location. These can be thought-provoking or humorous signs to highlight safety issues. Never hide safety awareness signage. Make sure they are placed in high traffic areas and rotated regularly.  A diverse workforce demands signs should be in all languages that are used in the workplace. These posters can be ordered from several vendors specializing in non-English signage.

 

  1. Safe Days Posters: Employers seeking to implement an effective safety program must communicate it to their entire workforce – and continue to do so on an ongoing, and regular basis. It is important to communicate to the whole workforce how well (or poorly) the safety program is working.  Steps should be taken, such as recognizing, and rewarding the efforts of employees for making the workplace a safe environment. Standard tools used to promote a culture of safety can include a chart highlighting the number of consecutive workdays without an injury for the facility, and also by department. Competition between departments can add increased consciousness of safety.

 

  1. Safety Recognition & Incentive Programs: Safety program incentives can be used to create employee interest in the safety program and motivate employees (and managers and supervisors) to act and work safely. But, if the incentives become the focus of the safety program and actual safety is not the focus, then the incentives become interference in obtaining a true safe working environment. Instead of the emphasis of the safety program being on the incentives, the attention should be on training the employee how to work safely. Educating the employee in the proper performance of their job will have a more significant impact on the overall safety record of the employer than an incentive program. If the employees do not know how to work safely, the incentive program will fail.

 

 

Other Safety Considerations

 

Engagement and follow-through by all interested stakeholders, including a company president or CEO.  If employees see active engagement and participation by everyone, the message will be reinforced.  Failure to do so will result in a failed mission, and the objective will never be completed.  Leaders need to lead by example.

 

It is also important to understand that safety is a continual process.  Once an effective program is in place, it requires frequent maintenance and review.  Improvements can always be made with involvement from all employees.

 

 

Conclusions

 

The best way to reduce work injuries is to prevent them from occurring.  The implementation of a safety program can accomplish this, along with an effective means of communication.  Now is the time to engage your workplace and promote a safe working environment.

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is the founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center.

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2019 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

DOL Strength Levels – Does Oversimplifying Job Demands Increase Exposure To Injury Risk?

DOL Strength Levels

This article originally appeared on MyAbilities.com

 

Article Summary: The DOL strength levels classify jobs into 5 separate categories defined by force/weight, and frequency of exertion. The classification system leads to a broad oversimplification of the demands of work, which in the worst case can lead to over and underestimates of physical demands of over 500%. A much more granular system is needed to better understand the different physical demands of work, and how that can be used in return to work, and injury prevention.

 

 

The Department of Labor’s strength definitions are widely used when determining the physical demands of a job, or the capacity of a worker when it comes to post-offer of employment testing,  return to work, disability management, and functional capacity evaluations. These strength definitions aim to look at the material handling component of jobs, and state what is required of the worker to be able to successfully perform that aspect of the work. Strength demands of work are broken into 5 categories – sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. Each of these demand levels have a force and frequency component – stating what weight a person can lift, push, pull, or carry at a given frequency (Table 1).

 

DOL Chart

Table 1. Force/Weight, and frequency characteristics for the DOL levels of Sedentary through Very Heavy.

 

 

Most Common Jobs in America Are In Medium Category

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common jobs in America are in the medium category – but this varies greatly by industry. Management and technical jobs have more of the light jobs, whereas construction, trades, and manufacturing jobs have more of the heavy jobs (Figure 1).

 

 

 

5 Levels of Classification Lack Granularity

 

While these five levels of classification of strength are useful in providing an initial look at the demands of work, there is not a lot of granularity when it comes to establishing how a worker is capable of performing these tasks.

 

 

NIOSH Lifting Equation – Vast Majority of DOL Levels For Strength Would Be Unacceptable

 

Ergonomists have a wide variety of tools for assessing the demands of work, and many are specific to individual physical demand types. One of these tools is the NIOSH lifting equation (Waters et al., 1991) – a tool that looks at the start and end height of a lift, the frequency and duration of lifting, the twisting required, and how far the worker has to reach to perform the lift. This equation returns a recommended weight limit (RWL) – the amount of weight that could be lifted that would keep the worker’s back safe during work. If you divide the actual weight being lifted by the RWL, you will get a value indicating the overall risk level of that given lift. If that value is greater than 1.0, this lift is above the RWL and puts the worker at a higher risk of injury.

 

Looking at the DOL levels, and a simple lift from about knee height to waist height, I simulated what the RWL would be for the ranges of frequencies and lifting weights from the DOL strength levels (Figure 2). (For those who would like to replicate these calculations, the start height was 30 cm, travel distance was 45 cm, horizontal reach was 40 cm, there was no asymmetry, or coupling factors modification. For frequencies, I used the less than 1 hour factors, and V<30. Each lift was assumed to be 2 s in duration, and the corresponding FM factor was found).

 

Job Demands Table

 

Figure 2. Lifting Index for the minimum, average, and maximum frequency possible (in % of time) for each DOL strength level. Values of greater than 1 (above the black line), would be considered “unacceptable”, as they increase the risk of injury in the lifter.

 

According to the Lifting Index, and the NIOSH lifting equation, the vast majority of DOL levels for strength would be unacceptable and cause an elevated risk of injury for workers. In fact, no simulated task for the heavy or very heavy categories would be a safe lift, and only 2 of the 15 simulated lifts in the medium category would be safe lifts. What is very interesting, is these large ranges spanning the frequencies identified in the DOL strength levels, can produce a lifting index of as low as 0.87, and as high as 4.41, all within the same strength bin (in this case, Medium). That is a 507% increased risk of injury in one strength category – primarily because of the high force levels, and huge variety of frequencies defined in this methodology.

 

The NIOSH lifting equation examines risk during lifting as a factor of the amount of spine compression that is occurring. NIOSH recommends lifts should not exceed 3400 N of spine compression during lifting. The peak spine compression of a lift is an interesting variable to examine, but it doesn’t necessarily factor in frequency – which can be an important variable in assessing risk. Even without frequency, you can see the DOL levels and their corresponding peak spine compression levels (predicted using Potvin 1997’s method) often exceed what’s known to be safe (Figure 3).

 

Spine Compression

 

 

Figure 3. Predicted spine compression level from different lifts, classified by the DOL levels of strength, compared to the NIOSH safe lifting limit of 3400 N.

 

DOL levels that feature 50 lbs or higher as the acceptable lift are in the high risk category. That means, these types of jobs are only appropriate for very strong individuals, if you want someone to work there with a low risk of injury. Even then, over the long term, these individuals are more likely to sustain a back injury in the workplace.

 

 

DOL Levels Do Not Include Other Physical Demands

 

What isn’t included in the DOL levels  are the other physical demands that could lead to an increased risk of injury in these types of work, e.g. lifting at, or above, shoulder height; lifting with a flexed spine; or a poor point of contact for gripping significantly impact the risk of injury.

 

The Demand Score includes the physical demands included with strength, but also factors in reaching, gripping, handling, data entry, and many more (26 different physical demands),  compares these demands against known ergonomic standards, and develops a score from 1 to 100, helping you better understand a job, and how it compares to other jobs within the same industry.

 

In summary – job descriptions and physical demands analyses are very nuanced and detailed things. Boiling them down into one of 5 categories over-simplifies the different factors in return to work and injury prevention, which can lead to either prolonged absences, or exposure to higher levels of injury risk than previously considered.

 

 

Author: Dr. Michael Sonne, VP Innovations and Research at MyAbilities. A leading occupational biomechanics researcher, with a history of developing technologies to automate ineffective processes in the ergonomics industry. In 2010, Mike developed the Rapid Office Strain Assessment – a method for conducting self-guided, office ergonomics assessments, resulting in a reduction of musculoskeletal injuries. Mike has developed global standards for muscle fatigue assessment in repetitive work, particularly in assembly lines. Mike is an adjunct professor at Brock University, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and continues to publish in peer-reviewed journals.

 

 

References:

  • Waters, T. R., Putz-Anderson, V., Garg, A., & Fine, L. J. (1993). Revised NIOSH equation for the design and evaluation of manual lifting tasks. Ergonomics36(7), 749-776
  • Potvin, J. R. (1997). Use of NIOSH equation inputs to calculate lumbosacral compression forces. Ergonomics40(7), 691-707

 

 

Workplace Safety for Non-English Speaking Employees

Workplace Safety for Non-English-Speaking EmployeesThe American workplace continues to evolve and workplace safety for non-English speaking employees is paramount. Stakeholders running an effective workers’ compensation program need to be aware of this issue and implement policy to ensure workplace safety.

 

 

The American Workforce – By the Numbers

 

America has always been a land of opportunity for people with many backgrounds.  In the past, immigration was mainly driven by European populations seeking a fresh start.  Times have changed.  This now includes shifting immigration patterns with people from Africa, Asia, and Latin American countries coming to the United States in search of a dream.

 

Unlike immigration in the past, newer immigrants are not dropping their native language for English.  This presents a challenge to employers as they seek to promote a workplace that reduces work injuries.  Now is the time to act.

 

 

Workplace Injuries and Hispanic Populations

 

The American Society of Safety Professionals has paid particular attention to workplace safety for non-English speaking Hispanic employees who may generally speak Spanish as their primary language.  Studies indicate the following characteristics:

 

  • Nearly 70% of Hispanic employees who died in the American workplace were born outside the United States;

 

  • Hispanic immigrants account for over 20% of the construction workforce in the United States. These are jobs that require employees to work at heights and use safety equipment to prevent falls. Impacted industries include roofing, ironworkers, and other physical labor positions.  A common denominator in these fatal incidents is workers not using proper equipment, work practices used in their native country (or by custom), or not being trained in the use of required equipment; and

 

  • Employees identified as Hispanic account for 15% of all fatal injuries – a rate of 3.7 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) employee, compared to a rate of 3.5 per 100,000 FTE for workers as a whole.

 

 

Avoiding Workplace Stigmas

 

All interested stakeholders in the workers’ compensation system should ensure employees, especially those who do not speak English as a primary language, are treated with respect and dignity.  This is an opportunity to put aside differences of opinion people have regarding immigration (legal and illegal) and make sure employers step up when it comes to making the workplace safe, and ensuring work injuries are reported in a timely manner.  In sum, one’s immigration status should never serve as a barrier to denying workers’ compensation benefits.  This is a policy decision best left to state legislatures, and not one’s personal preference.

 

 

Taking the Next Step – Creating a Positive Work Environment

 

The first step to ensure workplace safety for non-English speaking employees is making sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to employment practices, and safety education.  Steps interested stakeholders should consider can including:

 

  • Hiring safety individuals that speak multiple languages. If an employer has a significant number of Spanish speakers on staff, efforts should be made to have a safety professional who is fluent in that language;

 

  • Educate non-English-speaking employees on proper safety standards and procedures. This includes creating materials in other languages and reinforcing these best practices in the field; and

 

  • Involve all interested stakeholders in the safety process. This includes management, and organized labor.  It is important to lead by example!

 

Additional attention needs to be geared toward employees who generally work as day laborers.  These are people who typically work for someone for a short period of time – sometimes only a few hours on occasion.  People involved in the workers’ compensation system can also ensure these employees understand the system, know how to report a work injury, avoid common errors such as working for employers without insurance coverage, and engaging in safe work activities.

 

 

Conclusions

 

The changing American workforce places many demands on employers and employees.  One such change is to ensure workplace safety for non-English-speaking employees in the workplace.  Now is the time to get engage and ensure these workers understand the process, receive proper safety training, and have access to resources to promote a better work environment

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is the founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center.

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2019 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Five Effective Ways to Communicate Safety Messages

communicate safety messagesCommunicating safety messages needs to be communicated consistently and continually.  It is something that needs to involve all interested stakeholders.  Taking the following steps can ensure the workplace remains safe for all employees, and provide a consistent response once an injury occurs.

 

 

Five Suggested Ways to Communicate Safety Messages

 

A safe workplace starts with an employer dedicated to safety.  There are countless opportunities to communicate safety messages and promote a safe work environment.  It starts with a commitment by all interested stakeholders to be involved in the process and not putting profit ahead of safety.

 

 

  1. Employee Safety Meetings (for all shifts): Taking this step reinforces the message that safety is important in the workplace.  Anyone from the president to mailroom clerk can talk about safety and promote a better work environment, but it is important for those who are perceived as leaders to do the talking – job titles do not matter.  These leaders should also practice what they preach to ensure follow-through.

 

  1. Posters and Bulletins: This can go beyond posters required by law.  Keeping safety reminders visible and in conspicuous places around the workplace reinforces important safety reminders.  Dedicated employers can also have posters produced in different languages if any employee does not commonly use English as a primary language.  Graphics can also reinforce the message of a safe workplace.

 

  1. Newsletters: Every company newsletter should include a blurb about safety.  It can highlight changes suggested by an employee on how the workplace became safer.  It can also update employees on changes to protocols and procedures.  Other common highlights can include information on how to report a work injury and where to receive medical care and treatment.

 

  1. Safety Suggestion Box: People are sometimes afraid to make suggestions on how to improve workplace safety.  Anonymous suggestion boxes can provide people the ability to make suggestions.  It is important to follow-up and highlights how these suggestions improved a defective condition and how remediation was made.

 

  1. “Toolbox” safety talks conducted informally by supervisors with their employees: Safety should be emphasized every workday.  Supervisor and managers can play an important role in explaining to their direct reports on how work injuries impact company and program efficiency.  Do not be afraid to go beyond the basics when it comes to safety.

 

 

Other Requirements: Beyond the Basics of Workplace Safety

 

Training records must be kept that refer to federal and state regulations related to workplace safety.  It is important to offer safety training in languages that match the workplace demographics.

 

Employers should also consider the implementation of a Safety Recognition Program.  Before developing a Safety Recognition Program, consider the following:

 

  1. You cannot “buy” safety, but you can expect safe behavior and recognize employees who deliver.

 

  1. Concentrate on results (i.e., fewer injuries) AND on behaviors (i.e., use of personal protective equipment, safety inspection scores).

 

  1. Establish clear, measurable goals for both results and behaviors.

 

  1. Employees should know that there will be serious consequences for not reporting accidents.

 

  1. Awards should have true value and be more than just cash (something tangible to remind the employee why they won the award and presented by senior management during an employee celebration (pizza party, for example).

 

  1. Senior management must completely support the Safety Recognition Program and be visible in the process.

 

  1. Consider rewarding individuals for safe behaviors and groups for safety results.

 

 

Conclusions

 

Now is the time to communicate safety messages and promote safety in your workplace.  This requires all parties to be fully engaged, and leadership in management to follow through on their commitments.  This includes effective communication and engaging employees on all aspects of a safe work environment.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is the founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center.

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2019 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

5 Considerations For Effective Safety Program Incentives

Safety Program IncentivesSafety program incentives are a popular tactic as all good risk managers understand the importance of preventing injuries. From the employers perspective, the buy-in of the employees into the safety program should be a given, as the employer sees the safety program as protecting the employees from injury. However, the employees, especially the ones who have never been hurt on the job, may view the safety program requirements as hindrances in their performance of their work.

 

 

Unintended Consequences of Safety Program Incentives

 

To encourage employee participation in their safety programs, employers often add what they see as incentives for the employee’s to participate. For example, the employer may offer gift cards to local businesses with the size of the gift cards tied to the number of days the employer has gone without a report of a work comp claim. While some employees will view the gift cards as bonus compensation, it may have the unintended consequence of causing an employee with an injury to not report the injury due to peer pressure. If the injury develops complications due to the lack of timely medical care, the injury gets reported late and the cost of the medical benefits is higher than it would have otherwise been.

 

 

Safety program incentives can be used to create employee interest in the safety program and motivate employees (and managers and supervisors) to act and work in a safe manner. But, if the incentives become the focus of the safety program and actual safety is not the focus, then the incentives become interference in obtaining a true safe working environment.

 

 

Train Employees to Work Safely

 

Instead of the emphasis of the safety program being on the incentives, the emphasis should be on training the employee how to work safely. Educating the employee in the proper performance of their job will have a bigger impact on the overall safety record of the employer than an incentive program. If the employees do not know how to work safely, the incentive program will fail.

 

 

A tactic taken by some employers is to tie performance bonuses for managers and supervisors to the number of injuries reported at a work site. If the managers and supervisors are more interested in the bonus then they are their actual safety performance, they can go outside the lines of propriety by pressuring employees to not report claims or by delaying the reporting of claims until their bonus is paid. Any incentive program from managers and supervisors must have built-in safeguards to be sure all claims, big and small, are reported timely.

 

 

The safety program needs to be constructed where the employees are motivated to act in a safe manner and to promote safety with their fellow employees without anyone feeling there will be retribution for reporting an injury. If the employees feel there is retribution or retaliation for reporting an injury, the number of reported injuries may declined slightly, but the actual number of injuries does not decline.

 

 

When safety programs are tied to return to work programs, with only lost time claims being counted by the employer in awarding safety incentives or bonuses, there can be an abuse of the return to work program. There are situations where the employee following an injury is unable to perform any meaningful work for the employer. If the employee is returned to work anyway and sets in the cafeteria or break room all day doing nothing, it will have the unintended consequence of demoralizing other employees who see the injured employee as receiving preferential treatment.

 

 

Progressive Discipline Can Create Morale Problem

 

Some employers have tried tying safety programs to progressive discipline where injured workers are reprimanded for unsafe acts that result in an injury to themselves or others.   The problem of using progressive discipline is it usually has three or four steps including a written warning, probation, suspension and termination. Only the most careless of employees will have three or four safety violations or at-fault injury claims where they can be terminated for repeated violations of the safety program. While the progressive discipline approach can reduce safety violations, it can also create a morale problem, especially if the employee does not feel he/she acted in an unsafe manner.

 

 

For safety programs to be effective there needs to be:

 

  1. A screening program to prevent the hiring of people who are prone to accidents or who have a lax attitude toward safety
  2. A drug testing program that includes pre-hire testing, post-accident testing, random testing and for just-cause testing
  3. A culture of safety before profits or production within the company
  4. An integration of the safety program into the company’s quality control program
  5. A way to quantify risk and measure the results of changes with the work process

 

To prevent problems within the safety program, employers need to keep the focus of the safety program on training the employees, not on incentives for either the employees or the supervisors/managers. Safety program incentives should be used only as a way of obtaining the employee’s interest in the safety program. Properly educating the employees on how to work safely will have a much greater impact on worker safety than any incentive program.

 

 

 

Rebecca Shafer

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:.

Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2019 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

 

 

25 Ways to Avoid Holiday Workers’ Comp Injuries

Holiday workers' comp injuryThe holiday season can be a great time of year. Joy is all around, decorations abound, and there’s merriment for all. While organizations celebrate, it’s also a time to take extra care to ensure you avoid holiday workers’ comp injuries.

 

Ramping up your safety measures is especially important during the holiday season to protect workers — from hazards related to putting up or removing decorations, the extra debris that may inhibit walking, and alcohol-related problems at celebrations.

 

 

The Decorations

 

Overexertion and same-level falls are the leading causes of workers’ compensation payouts each year, according to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. The insurer’s 2017 annual study said overexertion — lifting, holding, pushing, pulling and carrying or throwing objects — cost employers $13.79 billion. Falls on the same level incurred costs of $10.62 billion.

 

While most if not all such incidents can be avoided, prevention efforts may be especially difficult during the holidays. Employees dealing with decorations are more prone to overexertion-related injuries, while other workers may be more at risk of falling over decorations, cords, boxes, and other items left in walkways.

 

Lacerations, strains, and sprains from lifting heavy boxes or trees, falling from chairs or desks while hanging decorations in workspaces, and getting poked in the eye by a pine needle are among the 337 holiday-related injuries in 2016 reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

 

Basic safety precautions can eliminate these and other risks of holiday workers’ comp injuries  related to decorations:

 

  1. Keep trees away from radiators, fireplaces and other sources of heat
  2. Make sure the tree has a stable platform
  3. Artificial trees should be fire resistant
  4. Check lights for fraying, bare spots, gaps in the insulation or excessive kinking in the wires
  5. Turn off all lights or decorations when not in use
  6. Use a step stool or ladder at the appropriate height for hanging or taking down decorations
  7. Make sure wires don’t impede walking, and are always properly secured and covered
  8. Avoid overworking employees involved with decorations by rotating them and/or providing extra rest breaks
  9. Make sure workers remove all boxes and other items from halls and walkways
  10. Retrain workers on proper bending and reaching techniques
  11. Rope off areas where workers are installing trees, lights and other decorations
  12. Have the decorations installed and removed at times when the least number of employees will be affected

 

 

The Parties

 

A holiday party can be a great way to show employees your gratitude for their efforts throughout the year. You want to make sure there are no unnecessary injuries, especially when alcohol is involved.

 

State laws vary regarding an employer’s liability for accidents caused by inebriation. Even if a commercial general liability policy protects a business, there are still risks of injuries to employees.

 

Injuries that occur during such celebrations may or may not be considered compensable under workers’ compensation, depending on state law and the circumstances. In some states, courts have found company functions to be a part of employment when the employer presents the party as a way of compensating workers or requiring their attendance.

 

The best way to avoid alcohol-related injuries is to serve only non-alcoholic beverages. But if the company wants to include alcohol in the festivities, here are some steps that can prevent injuries and claims:

 

  1. Make attendance voluntary and assure employees that non-attendance will not affect their standing within the organization
  2. Emphasize to managers that they must lead by example and drink in moderation
  3. Advise employees to act responsibly and drink moderately
  4. Designate a sober driver. Whether it is a non-drinking employee or a car service, such as a taxi or Uber, that will at least ensure workers get home safely
  5. Do not have an open bar. Employees tend to drink less if they have to pay
  6. Have a voucher system to limit the number of drinks served if the company does opt to pay for alcohol
  7. Serve only beer and wine rather than hard liquor or fruity drinks that may be consumed way too easily
  8. Hold the party earlier in the day, as people tend to drink more later in the evening
  9. Serve food to help counter the effects of alcohol
  10. Serve alcohol for only a specified time period. Toward the end of the night, stop allowing alcohol and serve coffee.
  11. Include an additional activity, such as dancing or a magician, so people have something to focus on besides just drinking.
  12. Invite family members. People are less likely to drink excessively when spouses and kids are present
  13. Have the party at an off-sight restaurant with trained bartenders who know when to stop serving a customer

 

 

Conclusion

 

Decorations and special celebrations are great morale boosters and show you care about your employees, but they can often lead to holiday workers’ comp injuries. Using common sense and strictly adhering to safety measures will ensure everyone has a good time.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center.

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

5 Steps To Implement a Safety Action Plan

A Safety Action Plan to identify and eliminate physical, ergonomic, biological and chemical exposures will assist the employer in the reduction of the number of work-related injuries and occupational diseases.  By having a Safety Action Plan, the employer is taking a proactive approach to providing the employees with a safe place to work.

 

This article is too limited in space to provide you with a fully operational Safety Program, but we will give you the broad outlines of a Safety Action Plan to assist you in creating or improving your Safety Program.

 

 

The 5 Steps of a Safety Action Plan   

 

 

  1. Identify all the hazards

 

  1. Establish who is responsible for eliminating each hazard

 

  1. Plan a course of action to remove the hazards

 

  1. Take the necessary corrective actions to eliminate the hazards

 

  1. Establish a system to prevent the hazard from returning

 

 

Step 1: Identify all the hazards:

 

If you have not already compiled a list of potential job hazards that could cause injury or damage to equipment, you should do so.  Incorporate the employees into identifying the job hazards.  Ask each employee to list the 5 biggest safety hazards in their job.  Not only will you see most of the job hazards you have already identified, but you will also learn of potential job hazards of which you were not aware.

 

 

Step 2: Establish who is responsible for eliminating each hazard:

 

Once you have compiled your list of job hazards, place the name of the unit supervisor or department manager, or senior executive who is responsible for the eliminating the hazard.  Lower management can correct simple hazards like improper storage of supplies.  More complex hazards requiring a revision of the work process or a change in the physical facility structure will necessitate the involvement of senior management.

 

 

Step 3: Plan a course of action to remove the hazards:

 

Once the hazard has been identified, and the person responsible for eliminating or correcting the hazard has been identified, a course of action to accomplish the hazard elimination must be determined.  Identifying the hazard will not accomplish anything for the employer if the steps to remove the hazard are not established.  By knowing what needs to be done, the process to achieve the elimination of the hazard can move forward.  The plan of action should include the completion date to facilitate its timely accomplishment.

 

 

Step 4: Take the necessary corrective actions to eliminate the hazards:

 

Implementation of the plan of action is critical to the success of the Safety Action Plan.  Identifying the hazard and determining how to correct it will not matter if the necessary corrective actions are not taken.  The employees who have assisted you in identifying the hazards will judge everything in the Safety Program by whether or not management was serious about removing the hazards.  When the corrective actions are taken, and the hazards are eliminated, the employees will be more safety conscious as they understand management is serious about their safety.

 

 

Step 5: Establish a system to prevent the hazard from returning:

 

Some safety issues, like cluttered storerooms or spills, have a happy of returning if steps are not taken to prevent the hazard from reoccurring.  Management can best address these safety hazards by continuous emphasizing the importance of safety.  Each employee should understand safety is not a one-time correction, but a continuous, on-going process.

 

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:.

Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

 

 

 

The Impact of Fatigue and 10 Ways to Mitigate the Risks

If one of your employees is sleeping on the job, he may actually be doing you a favor. Lack of adequate sleep is a major risk factor for injuries, errors, and chronic diseases. In fact, ‘shiftwork sleep disorder’ has been deemed a carcinogen because of the increased risk of breast cancer.

 

Those most at risk are workers with frequent overnight shifts, rotating shifts, or early morning start times. While you may not be able to change the need for workers on shifts other than daytimes, there are strategies you can take that can help employees be less fatigued and save you significant amounts of money.

 

 

The Sobering Stats

 

Employers and payers are likely unaware of the stunning costs associated with workplace fatigue. Here are the numbers for a hypothetical Florida construction company with 800 workers:

 

  • Decreased productivity: $590,463
  • Absenteeism: $249,962
  • Healthcare: $458,075

 

The National Safety Council’s Fatigue Cost Calculator also estimates the number of employees likely suffering from specific sleep risks at this sample company:

 

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: 101
  • Insomnia: 69
  • Restless Legs Syndrome: 40
  • Shift work disorder: 1

 

‘Shiftwork sleep disorder’ occurs when a person’s internal clock becomes misaligned with his sleep/wake schedule due to shift work. Those affected may experience excessive sleepiness during night work and/or insomnia during daytime sleep.

 

The good news is the potential savings from taking simple actions to mitigate all these conditions are $625,250.

 

The safety risks associated with fatigued workers is higher among night-shift workers and increases with each succeeding night

 

Overall statistics show:

 

  • The risk of injury or accident on the night shift is 30 percent higher than on the day shift
  • The risks are 36 percent higher on the fourth consecutive night shift compared to the first
  • 13 percent of workplace injuries are due to fatigue problems.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board says fatigue is a contributing factor in 20 percent of its investigations
  • Employer costs for one worker with an untreated sleep disorder are $3,500.
  • Up to 90 percent of sleep disorders go untreated.

 

In addition to safety risks, fatigue affects cognitive functions and reduces a person’s attention, vigilance and memory. Fatigued workers are slower, less productive and more likely to make errors. And fatigue is also a high-risk factor for developing chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. One study showed that two consecutive nights with less than six hours of sleep are associated with lower performance levels for six days.

 

 

10 Ways to Mitigate the Risks of Workplace Fatigue

 

Employers should become educated and inform their employees about the problems and costs associated with fatigue. They can also look within their organizations to find the causes of fatigue.

 

Additionally, employers can consider some or all of the following strategies:

 

  1. Forward-rotate shifts, such as day to afternoon to night.
  2. Increase rest time between shifts.
  3. Limit the number of consecutive night shifts
  4. Slowly rotate shifts to reduce the impact on sleep schedules, the Panama shift schedule is a good example
  5. Promote an appropriate culture. If workers are rewarded for work they do after hours or by working longer than is typical, employees will get the message that they need to work excessively to get ahead. Instead, reward employees or teams that meet or exceed their goals within normal work hours.
  6. Discourage after-hours work. Rather than sending emails and expecting responses during off-hours, set boundaries for work to be done within certain hours, where possible.
  7. Encourage PTO usage. Workers who feel they should forego paid vacations or work when they are sick are getting the wrong message – and burning themselves out. They not only are risking their own safety and wellbeing, but could be infecting other employees.
  8. Support flextime. A one-hour start-time difference may make a big difference to some employees. Where possible, allow workers to set the hours that best accommodate their sleep needs.
  9. Provide rest areas. A short, 20-minute power nap can make a tremendous difference to at-risk workers for fatigue. Provide a location where employees can rest if the worksite allows for this benefit. Several Fortune 500 companies now provide ‘nap rooms’ for employees.
  10. Avoid screen time. Using a phone or tablet just before bed can activate areas of the brain that make it more difficult to fall asleep. Encourage workers to turn off their electronic devices when going to bed.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Lack of sleep may be costing your company hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the number of employees and their work schedules. Being aware of the costs associated with fatigued workers and taking action to ensure workers get enough rest can significantly help your bottom line.

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

3-Step Strategy to Prevent Workplace Violence

3-Step Strategy to Prevent Workplace ViolenceMore than 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence every year. While healthcare clearly leads the industries reporting workplace violence, many other industries are also at risk. Employers and payers can significantly impact the rate of violent incidents by understanding the risks unique to their industries and worksites and developing strategies to mitigate them.

 

 

The Issue

 

OSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening, disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. That includes everything from verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.

 

The most recent statistics show that violence in workplaces is increasing, despite lower overall crime among the general population – including homicides. In healthcare, the numbers are 7.8 cases of workplace violence for every 10,000 employees. In the sales industry, half of the work-related deaths are due to homicide. School districts also report higher rates of violence, aside from the much-publicized mass shootings.

 

Despite the high prevalence of workplace violence incidents more than 70 percent of U.S. workplaces do not have a formal program or policy that addresses the issue, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

 

Create the Policy

 

There are three steps to creating a violence-free workplace.

 

  1. Assess the risk. First, you need to determine the violence hazards affecting your workforce. They could vary among employees. A healthcare establishment, for example, could have staffers who deal with potentially violent patients in the emergency room, along with nurses in the field. The risks facing each are very different.

 

ER workers should be aware of potential incidents not only from patients themselves but from family members who may become frustrated. A nurse who conducts home health visits may be vulnerable to risks because she or he is alone. The home health worker should know to ask questions, such as whether there are firearms in the home.

 

Some ways to assess the risks facing your organization include

  • Find out from staff members whether, where and when they feel threatened.
  • Review past records. Incident reports can reveal areas where violence has occurred, and they should be a focus of prevention policies.
  • Check the research. Studies provide clues to areas vulnerable to violence. Within healthcare facilities, inpatient and acute psychiatric services, geriatric long-term care settings, and urban ERs have been shown to be at higher risk than some other areas.
  • Walk the grounds. Are there areas where outsiders can easily gain access undetected? Are there nearby parks where unsavory types congregate? Are there particular areas inside that are at high risk? These are locations where your policy can target safety efforts, such as a door in a remote part of the building that can be entered only by someone with a security badge.
  • Gauge staff understanding. It is vitally important that employees know what to do if a situation begins to get out of hand; otherwise, you run the risk of a controllable incident getting out of control. Do workers know whom and/or where to call? Is there a special emergency security code to dial and are they aware of it? Do they know what terminology to use in an emergency?

 

  1. Prevention/control. The information gathered during the risk assessment can be used to write the specific policies and procedures to minimize risks. While every workplace is unique, several elements should be considered for inclusion in the policy:

 

  • Strong pre-hire checks. In addition to the usual application and face-to-face interviews, employers should undertake background investigations, criminal history checks, drug testing and reference checks.
  • Roles during crises. Employees should know what to do and where to go if violence erupts.
  • Communication. If an incident occurs, it’s imperative to try to at least contain the situation. You should outline ways to communicate with workers so they can avoid the area in question, call for help, and warn others.
  • Reporting channels. Employees should feel comfortable and know how and where to report any suspicious behavior, as that can prevent a violent situation. The person(s) receiving the report should understand how to respond; such as alerting authorities and/or undertaking investigations.
  • Penalties. The policy should clearly spell out unacceptable behaviors and have associated penalties, such as suspension or termination.

 

  1. Train. A policy only works if all involved are aware of it, understand it, and know what to do in a given situation. Ongoing training should be conducted, at least on an annual basis and with any new hires. The training should include:

 

  • A review of the policy.
  • Role playing various scenarios that could occur. Employees should play the role of both the victim and the perpetrator to get an idea of how both sides work.
  • Personal insights. People who have experienced violent situations in that or similar workplaces should be available to discuss the realities of a violent situation.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Violence can occur in any workplace at any time. By understanding the risks, developing policies to address them, and ensuring all employees have clear expectations, employers can significantly reduce the chances of tragedy in their companies.

 

Partner with OSHA and Drive a Culture of Safety

Partner with OSHA and Drive a Culture of SafetyThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created at the federal level on December 29, 1970, with the goal of assuring “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.”  Since its creation, the agency has evolved and become commonplace in the workers’ compensation scene as a means of investigating work injuries and providing information to interested stakeholders.  Parties seeking to reduce workers’ compensation program costs should understand OSHA and view the agency as a partner in making workplaces safe for employees.

 

 

Understanding OSHA Basics

 

There are many misconceptions about OSHA.  It is important to those seeking to provide a safe workplace to understand better the requirements and how the agency is responsible for enforcing safety standards.

 

OSHA standards and agency overview covers most private sector employers.  While it does not cover many state and local government agencies, employees of these entities are subject to protections by the federal act and applicable state programs.

 

The federal act also allows states to create their own OSHA programs.  In these jurisdictions, the state agency receives funding from the federal government to run its program.  This allows states to develop their own standards, provided they meet the federal minimums required under the Act.  There are currently 22 OSHA approved programs that include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

 

 

OSHA Rights and Responsibilities

 

OSHA mandates the creation of a series of rights and responsibilities that impact covered employers and their employees.  These issues are governed by the basic premise of OSHA – employees have a right to a safe workplace.  It is the responsibility of the employer to provide this environment.  Basic guidelines include the following:

 

  • Employers – Requirements to inform employees of workplace hazards and provide training on how to avoid injury. This includes information people can understand, which can include written information in multiple languages.  Accident information needs to be posted in common workspaces.  Prompt response to employee complaints and OSHA corrective action are required.

 

  • Employees – The ability to voice concerns without fear of retaliation. They also should have access to important safety information.  This includes information concerning chemicals and other harmful materials in the workplace.  All employees need to understand how and when to report workplace incidents.

 

 

Using Workplace Safety Committees to Drive a Culture of Safety

 

There are no federal requirements for employers to have an established and functioning safety committee.  However, many state-based OSHA programs require these committees based on the size of the employer.  Even if one is not required by a state program, employers have found them to be effective in identifying issues, mitigating the danger and implementing cost-effective changes that promote worker safety and injury reduction.  Important steps for a committee to take include:

 

  • Prepare a plan for a safe workplace and best practices;

 

  • Create a safety program and written forms;

 

  • Prepare and present annual training on safety-related issues;

 

  • Initiate a workplace “self-inspection” program to review all safety practices and identify corrective action; and

 

  • Generally promote a safe workplace through legal, compliance and human resources departments. Be creative.  Consider hosting events such as a companywide “safety week” to make all employees aware of safety issues and foster a workplace environment dedicated to safety.

 

Additional information and guidance can be found in federal regulations, which are located at 29 C.F.R. §1960.36 et seq.

 

 

Partnering with OSHA for Workplace Safety

 

All OSHA agencies have resources available to employers concerned about safety.  While the nature of these services varies, it does offer stakeholders seeking to create a culture of compliance to work with OSHA on preventing workplace injuries.  Resources commonly found include the following:

 

  • Seminars and education sessions: These workshops are typically offered to employers free or at a nominal cost to educate parties on common workplace safety hazards.  They also offer tips on cost-effective improvements.

 

  • Safety Partnerships: This is an opportunity for employers to have an OSHA safety inspector visit their worksite or location to identify risks without being subject to fines.  The employer is then given a reasonable amount of time to correct any identified safety issues.

 

Conclusions

 

The goal of OSHA is to promote a safe workplace.  By understanding how the agency operates, interested stakeholders can foster an environment of compliance and provide safety to its employees.  In turn, this can reduce workers’ compensation program costs.

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2018 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

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