How safety in the workplace benefits employees and the company's bottom line Featured

8:01pm EDT May 31, 2011
How safety in the workplace benefits employees and the company's bottom line

Designing programs and using best practices to keep your employees safe may feel like the right thing to do, but this decision does more than just ease your mind.

“By implementing best practices and a safety management program in the workplace, employers can not only protect their employees and prevent incidents from occurring, but they can also reduce their annual workers’ compensation costs,” says Randy Jones, the senior vice president of TPA Operations for CompManagement, Inc.

Smart Business spoke with Jones about how improving safety in the workplace benefits both employees and the bottom line, and about what employers can do to improve workplace safety.

Why should organizations focus on safety and how does doing so benefit an organization’s employees and its bottom line?

The most valuable asset that any organization has is its people. Employers should implement and use safety best practices and a safety management program in the workplace. By using those tactics, employers protect their employees and prevent incidents from occurring while also reducing their workers’ compensation costs.

Claim costs are one of the three major factors that determine an employer’s annual premium with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). Reducing and/or preventing workplace injuries and illnesses from happening dramatically impacts costs.

What are some steps organizations can take to improve safety?

In order for any safety program to be successful, an employer must be committed to safety. It is absolutely imperative for management to support the safety process.

There are several simple steps that an organization can implement to create an awareness of safety in their organization, such as:

  • Holding monthly safety training meetings focused on specific topics.
  • Having an emergency evacuation plan in place and practicing it regularly.
  • Ensuring that your organization always has adequate personal protective equipment and that employees know how to access and utilize properly.
  • Posting warning signs where appropriate as reminders for best safety practices, as well as marking all hazardous areas.
  • Ensuring that all equipment has appropriate safety devices installed and is checked regularly for proper working condition.
  • Appointing someone within your organization to do a monthly safety checklist review of the entire workplace.
  • Providing employee recognition for safe work habits.
  • Ensuring that first aid kits are available and easily accessible throughout the building.

Where should organizations look for safety training programs?

Many third-party administrators have in-house safety and loss control departments that offer a variety of onsite and online training programs. In addition, training is available from the BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene.

What types of safety grants are available and how can an organization apply for one?

The Ohio BWC has a Safety Intervention SafetyGRANTS program that is available to state-funded employers in business for at least two years. This program awards safety grants to employers for the purchase of ergonomic, safety and/or industrial equipment. Employers are eligible for a two-to-one matching grant up to a maximum of $40,000, which equates to a total of $60,000 ($20,000 from the employer and $40,000 from the BWC). The BWC requires that the employer provide ongoing documentation, case studies and access for staff to evaluate in order to determine the cost effectiveness of these interventions in reducing occupational injuries. The BWC also offers a safety grant for the implementation of a drug-free safety program and just recently announced a safety grant available for the wholesale/retail trade sector for the implementation of safety controls in their workplaces.

What are the advantages of participating in safety councils?

The BWC has more than 80 sponsored safety councils located throughout Ohio. By becoming an active member, an employer is able to receive a 2 percent rebate on its annual workers’ compensation premium. An additional rebate may be earned if your workplace reduces either the severity or frequency of injuries by 10 percent or keeps both at zero.

To qualify for the rebate, an employer must meet the following eligibility requirements: join a local safety council by July 31, 2011; attend 10 safety council meetings (at least eight through the local safety council; the additional two hours may be through attendance at BWC safety training courses or industry specific training); send a qualified senior-level manager to a safety council sponsored meeting; and submit semiannual workplace accident reports for the 2011 calendar year.

The program does not apply to self-insuring employers, state agencies and employers enrolled in the BWC group retrospective rating programs. Employers enrolled in the group rating program are eligible for the 2 percent performance rebate in addition to their group rating discount, but are not eligible for the 2 percent participation rebate.

How can an organization determine whether it is eligible for these safety improvement programs?

Your third-party administrator’s safety and loss control department should be able to review the different safety improvement programs with you and assist in identifying which ones are the best fit for your organization and management team. In addition, resources are available from the BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene at www.ohiobwc.com or (800) OHIOBWC.

Randy Jones is the senior vice president of TPA Operations for CompManagement, Inc. Reach him at (800) 825-6755, ext. 2466, or Randy.Jones@sedgwickcms.com.