The national initiative to improve fall protection measures has been a topic that we have touched on in various posts throughout 2013. The statistics are eye opening: In 2012, Falls killed more than 1 construction worker every 2 days, and the trend continues to grow. Have a look at our newest infographic to consider the need for Construction Fall Protection and get started implementing work safety policies to reduce your risk.
The Engineering News Record recently published a list of the Top 400 Contractors. At companies with $10-$30 billion in revenue, the number and size of contracts justifies a dedication to worker safety that small to mid sized businesses can emulate to help shorten the learning curve. Safety is deeply integrated into each of the Top 3 contractors’ day to day business policies and organizational culture. Contracting firms that strive to achieve success may observe this theme as motivation to implement safety at the highest level to increase revenue and support growth.
At Bechtel, the safety goal is Zero Accidents. Safety is integrated into each project via technical field procedures and extensive training. Each employee has ‘stop-work authority’ if they feel a job responsibility is potentially unsafe. To incenitivize safety and communicate its importance to employees, Bechtel provides multiple awards for exceptional safety performance and innovation.
Fluor’s commitment to safety includes a “ZERO incidents” policy. Fluor has received recognition as one of America’s top safety companies by demonstrating excellence in “support from management and employee involvement, innovative solutions to safety challenges and effective training programs.” One such program is the Field Audit system, a proactive approach to identify and mitigate work hazards.
Kiewit has instituted and follows a ‘Nobody Gets Hurt’ policy. Kiewit is focused on preventing even the most minor injuries through employee engagement throughout the organization coupled with a supporting management commitment. “Safety training, observation programs and job hazard analyses” help to support this vision.
Innovative Access Solutions
Innovative Access Solutions provides safety equipment to each of the Top 3 contractors listed above. In addition to the Trucker series of trailer access products, IAS provides custom access solutions for remote locations, unique jobsite requirements and more, in support of construction work safety policies. To request information about safety equipment from Innovative Access Solutions, click here.
Identifying Workplace Hazards is an integral component of an effective work safety program. As a required element of OSHA VPP Program participation, following an organized hazard assessment process can be the backbone of a company’s safety policy. Identifying hazards provides the ability to mitigate risk and evaluate safety effectiveness.
The work hazard assessment process consists of five main components:
- Identify Hazardous Condition
Hazards that can lead to injury or illness range from physical injury risk to chemicals, temperature, radiation, noise, and electrical. Employees need to be involved in hazard analysis from the beginning to assist with acceptance and recognition of benefit.
- Determine Root Cause
Potential root causes can include lack of knowledge, lack of physical ability, improper training, or unidentified hazards. Managers should reassess hazards when new equipment is installed or new work processes developed.
- Eliminate Hazards
Mitigate risks via controls based on level of injury risk, frequency of exposure, and potential harm. Evaluate the level of overall risk to prioritize controls and implement. Identify PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as gloves, safety glasses, etc.
- Control Measures
Risk management efforts can include engineering controls to manage exposure, layout, and access; administrative controls to to manage employees, tasks, and training; and work practices for safety, hygiene, and work area cleanliness.
- Evaluation of Effectiveness
Hazard assessment programs should be evealuated on injury prevention effectiveness. Evaluation tactics include routine inspections; documentation for injury reports and near misses; requesting, researching and responding to employee feedback.
Source: Marine Corp Community Services
Initiating a Work Hazard Analysis
When commencing hazard assessment, plan to document responsible team members, tasks, and step sequence for processes with injury risk. A Hazard Assessment checklist similar to this sample provided by the California Department of Industrial Relations may be helpful. Next, determine and document preventative measures, equipment, and Personal Protective Equipment, and train employees accordingly. Finally, consider residual risk – any risk that remains after controls have been implemented – for future evaluation and improvement.
Incentivizing safety is a controversial topic for management professionals. While the results of incentive programs are generally effective, it is important to create safety incentives that provide the proper focus. The method, motivational factors, and objectives must be properly structured to avoid undermining the desired effect. In fact, businesses that create safety incentives which discourage employees from reporting injuries are at risk of OSHA violations. Fear not, safety professionals, by following a few guidelines you can create incentives that build safety culture across the organization.
Safety Incentive Guidelines
- Make sure you have a safety program in place before creating incentives. Use incentives to enhance the organizational buy-in of a safety program.
- Plan incentives around the objectives you set for the program. Reiterate focus and goals at every opportunity. Reward and promote performance.
- Avoid incentives that may lead employees to fear the consequences of reporting incidents. Remember that incentives are to promote safety, not just meet goals.
- Capitalize on data management technology trends to track and reward long term safety program metrics as well as short term or more focused objectives.
Safety Incentive Program Ideas
- Safety Slogans: Many incentive programs center around the creation of slogans submitted by members of the organization. The advantage of slogan incentives lies in culture building and organizational involvement.
- Safety Quiz: These programs help to ensure employees understand shifting safety initiatives and can also test employee response to real world applications.
- Housekeeping: The cleanliness and organization of work areas often has a direct effect on safety and can be easily incentivized.
Safety incentives can be a means of establishing a sustainable safety culture while reducing the burden on employees. Programs such as number of days without injury or lost time can be effective, but should be structured carefully to ensure employees report injuries. The most effective programs are part of a larger injury risk management safety program, providing support in a way that employees want to participate in.
A worker injury comes packaged with costs far beyond worker’s compensation claims and potential litigation expenses. Direct costs are significant; In 2009, worker’s compensation benefits paid totaled $58 billion, a 150% increase from only 6 years prior. Yet, considering direct costs alone when factoring a return on safety investment or justifying safety and health initiatives is painfully incomplete. Companies that have dealt with even minor worker injuries have experienced the hidden costs and indirect bottom line factors that can lead to catastrophic side effects or unanticipated benefits. Studies have shown that work injury prevention programs are effective both on a bureaucratic and a business level. Considering the complete picture of a work injury can be the most effective motivator for investing in safety risk management programs.
Hidden Costs of Work Injuries
The worst case scenario for a work injury, a death or debilitating injury, carries the most hidden costs for a business organization. Large workers’ comp claims hike up premiums and can even lead to inability to change or acquire insurance. From here, consider the effect on the co-worker when an employee suffers an injury on the job. In the worst case, counseling may be required for co-workers, as the work facility becomes a haunting reminder of the incident. Lack of sensitivity to this scenario can lead to worker absenteeism and forge foundational cracks in the management-employee bond. Injuries don’t have to be major to carry hidden costs, however. Companies with a reputation for aloofness to safety, experience a large number of worker injuries, or fail to support national and economic safety initiatives can have a hard time retaining and hiring employee at competitive salary levels.
Indirect Costs of Work Injuries
The indirect costs of a work injury are more easily foreseeable but still difficult to factor in monetary terms. It is important to realize their reach to fully anticipate the event of a work injury, even if the variability of the costs makes them difficult to forecast. Indirect costs can include training and compensating replacement workers, damaged property, production delays, administrative expense, and morale and reputation factors. These side effects and reactionary costs can add up to total up to 20 times the direct costs and are usually considered as a multiple factor in projections.
Indirect Safety Benefit & Opportunity Cost
Remember the hidden costs of a work injury? Hidden benefits are just as closely tied to safety initiatives. Safety programs are beneficial for the business, the worker, and the economy as a whole. A 2001 Liberty Mutual report on Safety Investment ROI shows that 61% of executives see a 3-1 return for safety investments, likely due to improved morale, productivity, industry reputation, community support, and HR advantages. Safety can be a core business value and produce competitive advantage as a positive safety reputation becomes recognized by customers, vendors, and staff. It doesn’t have to be though. An attentive and effective safety program can economically support strategies ranging from quality to customer service, while still producing indirect benefit. Ignoring this agenda for lower return investments is often an opportunity cost for businesses.
When a complete picture of work injuries and safety benefit is considered, it’s easier to see the wisdom in investing in injury prevention and championing proactive safety programs.
Injury prevention programs have led to a significant reduction in workplace injuries while contributing to improved productivity, reduced turnover, improved OSHA compliance, reduced worker’s compensation claims and premium rates, and higher employee satisfaction. The costs of a worker injury can be devastating to individuals families and affect businesses on multiple fronts. In 2009, worker’s compensation benefits paid totaled $58 billion, and indirect costs have been estimated at 1.1 to 4.5 times the direct cost.
Indirect Costs of Worker Injury
- Wages paid to absent, injured workers
- Time lost due to work stoppage following injury
- Administrative time processing injury-related tasks
- Employee training and replacement following an injury
- Productivity loss due to new employee training
- Replacement cost for damaged material and equipment
Injury Prevention Programs: Effective and Scalable
As of 2012, 34 states, and countries around the world, have instituted required or incentivized injury prevention programs. The results of state programs are remarkable; work injury rates have been reduced by as much as 60 percent. Participating businesses have reported additional benefits and some have even encountered more sales opportunities due to their commitment to safety.
Despite the evidence, many businesses are slow to adopt injury prevention programs. The perception that implementation will be costly and burdensome, particularly for small businesses, can be difficult to overcome. The reality has been quite the opposite. Injury prevention programs are scalable when business owners focus on basic tenets: leadership, participation, hazard identification and prevention, training, and continuing improvement. The effect on the bottom line is also a positive, due not only to reduced workers compensation premiums and payouts, but also indirect morale, productivity, company image, and process improvements.
Mandatory Policy or Incentivized Benefit?
In a 2012 OSHA white paper, the effect of state programs was reviewed and the results are of interest to businesses considering an injury prevention program. Incentivized programs in Colorado, Massachusetts and North Dakota resulted in noticeably higher effectiveness compared to mandatory programs in other states. By providing a worker’s compensation premium reduction incentive, states reduced work injury by at least 20%, compared to mandatory programs with 10-20% reductions.
In addition to the basic principals of injury prevention and company-wide safety commitment, these results may be a factor to consider for businesses seeking to maximize the effect of injury prevention programs. Employees who believe their management team cares about safety risks are more motivated, aware, and productive, leading to advantages above and beyond cost benefit. Anyone who has held a management position knows that while blunt force may get the job done, it often comes with costs ranging from employee resentment to undermining the system.
Incentivize to Promote Safety Culture Investment
Incentivized programs may help to avoid unintended indirect costs while still reaping the benefits. By incentivizing safety initiatives, employees are more likely to perceive safety as a culture as opposed to a business owner’s cost saving agenda. Further, incentives will help to communicate safety as a company value with a higher purpose than simply complying to policy. Providing incentives for safety could be based on Key Performance Indicators constructed from hazard assessment initiatives and include cost savings sharing. Employees that are motivated by incentives will perceive safety not as a management priority but as a mutually beneficial investment.