Why workers’ compensation coverage is incomplete without an effective safety program Featured

8:01pm EDT February 29, 2012
Why workers’ compensation coverage is incomplete without an effective safety program

It’s obvious that business owners want their employees to be safe on the job. But to truly impact worker safety, posting some signs and giving instructions isn’t going to cut it. There needs to be a program in place that takes into account the company’s distinct needs, the jobs employees’ perform and the laws the company must comply with.

Having a professional assess the workplace and assist the employer in preventing injury and promoting safety is a big step toward protecting employees as well as the business, says Clark Fain, general manager for the Entera Group of Companies.

Smart Business spoke with Fain to learn more about what to consider when implementing a safety program that will have a real impact on keeping employees healthy and productive as well as keeping the business out of trouble.

How does a focus on safety benefit the company’s bottom line?

A formal written safety program focusing on workplace safety reduces the costs of injuries to employers. The costs of claims may include medical costs, pharmacy costs, loss of time at work, morale issues, retraining, even replacing an employee. These expenses can and will decrease bottom line profits.

Accidents cannot be totally eliminated, but the number of compensable workers’ comp injuries can be reduced. Focusing on safety with a formal, written risk management plan that is implemented and enforced is almost mandatory to a well-meaning employer.

Accidents are expensive, period. A reduction in accidents through a focus on safety rewards the bottom line and benefits the employer and the employees.

What are some ways companies can improve safety?

For many companies, there are numerous ways safety can be improved. Each employer is different by job category and size. The utilization of a risk manager/safety engineer trained to advise and consult should result in a list of written recommendations for each individual job to improve safety on each job.

In general, monthly safety meetings, awards for days without a loss, recognition of employee safety, awards for individual workers and furnishing employees with a safe workplace are ways to improve safety. Constant reminders should be a part of any efforts to promote safety.

What should be the components of a good safety program?

First, a good safety program must contain common sense so it is understood by all. Secondly, a complete written job description to clearly explain to the worker his job and whether he is suitable for his job is very important. How many times have we heard, ‘he doesn’t know what he is doing?’ Following a job description should help to alleviate the problem of someone doing a job for which he is not trained or suitable.

Thirdly, a safe workplace is the responsibility of the employer. If employees are hurt, your bottom line suffers in several ways, including higher workers’ comp premium, less days of production, decrease in production and lower employee morale.

And, lastly, the impact of a risk manager/safety engineer tailoring the program details to each work site job is a valuable component of a good safety program.

Where can companies find help in developing a program?

There are numerous risk managers and risk management programs. Finding the right one can be time consuming and expensive. We have used the same company for 20 years because we have been pleased with the results. We have designed with them a six-page report that numerically scores from 1 to 100, with 70 being a minimum score. Scoring helps companies to see where a program may be lacking and help to focus the conversation when making recommendations for improvement.

The components of the report are too numerous to list here, but the report gives the employer a numerical written score on how they rank from a risk management/safety standpoint. The report normally takes three to five hours of on-site work and two to three hours of office administrative work for a company of 10 to 250 employees. Other factors could cause the report to take more time.

Our group of companies can provide a program to assist those employers seeking a better way.

How can companies ensure employees are on board and the culture of safety remains consistent?

Measuring the results of a safety program is not easy. Your company’s loss ratio is one method to use to evaluate your results. There is national and state data you can use as a benchmark to compare your results to your peers through your loss ratio. If you have fewer losses than your peers, your personnel have likely ‘bought in’ to your program. If you are experiencing higher than normal losses, it is likely they are not on board.

Safety needs to be a top priority and become a habit ingrained in the employees’ everyday performance through the culture of the workplace. They need to understand that being careful is being smart.

We have developed our safety program over the last 20 years in conjunction with our loss control/risk management company to evaluate results. We offer this program through our workers’ comp coverage and to outside companies. We consider our program complete and very thorough, but we know there can be improvements. The culture of safety is ongoing.

Seldom do employees intentionally hurt themselves. The reality is that a lack of concentration is one of the largest single factors in an accident.

Clark Fain is general manager for the Entera Group of Companies. Reach him at cfain@entera1.com.