A safety program that effectively minimizes workplace injuries demands more than basic compliance with OSHA standards. An employer may ensure that anti-slip mats are in place, that equipment bears the proper signage and that workers are completing their annual training on time, but these standard checklist items may not be enough to prevent injuries.

It comes down to the details of how these interventions are executed.

“Building a safety program goes beyond routine inspections and compliance. We have to delve into a site’s unique day-to-day operations to understand its exposures and what’s really driving injuries,” said Jeff Durand, MS, CSP, Director of Risk Control Operations, Workpartners®.

Detailed risk assessments, site-specific recommendations and continual follow-up are essential to make a real impact on the safety environment, drive down injuries — and ultimately save costs.

According to Durand, these are the five key components of safety program design that deliver these benefits.

1) Buy-In from Decision-Makers

Jeff Durand, MS, CSP, Director of Risk Control Operations, Workpartners®

Safety and risk control professionals need the participation and support of management from the get-go. Their input helps to build a better understanding of a site’s exposures, and their support of proposed interventions sets a culture of safety that facilitates worker compliance.

“I worked with the COO at one client who supported everything we wanted to do, and we were able to fast-track our recommendations as a result,” Durand said. “Having leadership on board makes a huge difference in getting changes implemented and actually making a difference.”

Getting leadership’s buy-in demands regular face-to face interactions and consistent communication. This means including them in on-site inspections and walk-throughs — along with their broker or agent, who also has a vested interest in improving a client’s risk profile and will certainly have input regarding the cost-effectiveness of interventions.

“We want to be on the same page when it comes to our recommendations. Face time and perpetual conversation are key. We let them know that we’re here and that we’re all working towards the same goal,” Durand said.

2) Employee Input

While leadership can provide an overview of daily operations and the risk control measures in place, the workers who actually carry out these operations will say what works and what doesn’t.

Durand provided one example of a nursing home that had all the equipment needed for lifting patients safely, yet workers were still experiencing musculoskeletal injuries. After spending more time on site, speaking with and observing workers, it was evident that they were choosing not to use this equipment. In some cases, it seemed easier and faster to simply lift patients themselves. Durand found that the safety educator at that site had recently moved into a different role and had not yet been replaced. So the issue was not lack of resources but lack of consistent training.

“A deep dive into daily operations is needed in order to understand where the shortcomings are. Our recommendations will miss the mark if we aren’t getting to the bottom of where the disconnect lies in the safety program,” Durand said. “That valuable information often comes from workers themselves.”

3) Data-Driven Insights

An organization’s leadership and its agents and brokers need to see how interventions will impact the bottom line. How will injury rates change, and how does this affect the cost of the workers’ comp program?

Durand pointed to the power of business intelligence tools in collecting, analyzing and visualizing data for clients.

“We’re able to upload information, build dashboards and show trends with the click of a mouse,” he said. “We now have a repository for all of our surveys or inspections that allow us to trend things out. We can show where and when injuries occur, how many lost days stem from that, what the cost is, and what the savings will be with a targeted intervention in place. That information would have been tedious to gather in the past. Now, it’s helping us have productive conversations at a faster pace.”

4) Comprehensive Health and Wellness Offerings

Safety programs are complemented by an overall commitment to health and wellness. The combination of wellness, safety and employee assistance programs (EAPs) help to support workers before and after an injury. Wellness initiatives promote health and fitness, which may make workers less prone to injury or promote a speedier recovery. EAPs support a worker and their family through the recovery phase via offerings like financial counseling.

While many employers have these programs, they tend to fly under the radar. Workers may not be aware of everything the programs have to offer — or that they exist at all. Durand described one client that eliminated its EAP completely due to lack of utilization.

“That’s a missed opportunity to reach injured workers and let them know what resources they have, whether it’s six free counseling sessions or a dog walker or someone to help out with caregiving for an elderly parent. Whatever it is, those pieces can relieve stress. It may not sound safety-related, but all of these components are connected when it comes to keeping people on the job or getting them back to work quickly, which reduces overall claims costs,” Durand said.

“Part of our job is helping clients to see the value of these programs and promote them effectively to employees.”

5) Continual Education

At every step of safety program design, education is a critical but often overlooked piece.

“People are wearing more hats and being asked to do more with less. The person in charge of safety may not necessarily have a safety background. We start with getting a baseline of their understanding so we can meet them where they’re at,” Durand said.

Workpartners® developed a series of webinars on topics ranging from program design to training to specific safety exposures like blood-borne pathogens and slip-and-fall hazards, all broken into five-minute “micro-learnings.” These are designed to be simple and easy to fit into a busy schedule.

“We also put together an agency advisory council that educates agents and brokers about Workpartners®’ risk control services and solicits their feedback,” Durand said. “Sharing our expertise and keeping the lines of communication open are top priorities.”

The Difference of a Safety-Focused WC Carrier

As a top regional workers’ comp carrier, Workpartners® has plenty of expertise to share — 225 years’ worth of combined experience among its 13 risk control professionals and leadership team, in fact. The team includes 10 certified safety professionals (CSP), one associate safety professional (ASP), one certified health care safety professional (CHSP) and four members with a Master of Science.

Through their detailed risk assessments and hands-on approach to safety program design, this team works closely with clients to help them save money on high-severity cases.

Achieving results like this is part of what keeps Durand and his team engaged in their work every day, and the effort does not go unnoticed by clients: The carrier currently has a 94% client retention rate.

“I’m genuinely excited about what I do,” Durand said, “and the entire team is happy to be here and to help make a difference.”

To learn more, please visit: https://www.workpartners.com/.



This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Workpartners. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.

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