Leverity Insurance Group: Developing an effective safety program that reduces risk at the workplace

6:00pm EDT November 22, 2013
Derek M. Hoch, President, Leverity Insurance Group Derek M. Hoch, President, Leverity Insurance Group

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No one wants workplace injuries. But accidents can happen, particularly when projects need to be finished right away.

“That’s usually where the breakdown occurs. If you have to rush a project through and you’re potentially cutting corners for the sake of efficiency, that’s generally when injuries happen,” says Derek M. Hoch, president of Leverity Insurance Group.

Smart Business spoke with Hoch about complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, which can result in a safer overall workplace.

Do most manufacturers have workplace safety programs?

Larger corporations usually do. Some smaller operations may not have any program in place, as they have had the same employees for a long time and, while they know the equipment and systems very well, they don’t necessarily follow established procedures.

Employees may take shortcuts because they’re comfortable with equipment they’re using. They can lose sight of the fact that doing something in a hurry and not in the proper manner can result in a workplace injury.

How is a workplace safety program developed?

The best way is to sit down with your risk manager — your insurance broker — to develop a program because it’s really about managing and controlling risk. You should work with an expert who can guide you through proper policies and procedures that should be in place.

This plan should be followed by a legal review to ensure that everything complies with OSHA regulations.

A good safety program includes appointing a company inspector who will routinely evaluate the workplace and conduct self-audits to make sure employees are following standards and adhering to policies.

The company inspector asks the same questions and uses the same checklist that an OSHA compliance officer would. These items include required employer postings, record keeping, medical services and first aid, fire protection, personal protective equipment, lockout/tagout, company evacuation plan, tools and equipment, environmental controls, electrical safety and accident investigation.

How often do programs need to be updated?

Programs need to be updated accordingly to comply with workplace and regulation changes. But, more importantly, you need to educate employees by providing refresher courses and holding quarterly or semi-annual safety meetings. The staff should have knowledge of OSHA standards and what the regulations are within their specific industry.

Revisit the program and make it real, because there is a tendency to get complacent in a job you’ve been doing for a long time. Spot checks help to ensure that everyone is complying with company procedures.

What are particular areas of risk?

OSHA’s most frequent citations are for violations of standards covering fall protection, hazard communication and respiratory protection.

Problems are particular to industries. For example, a manufacturing facility presents potential respiratory hazards if employees aren’t wearing the proper protective masks, or losing limbs if they are not wearing protective guards or guards aren’t properly installed on the equipment.

Powered industrial trucks, like forklifts, also can pose potential risks if proper training is not established. Another issue involves lockout/tagout procedures — having machines shut off and started up properly when there is maintenance or servicing work.

If violations exist, what are the potential costs and penalties?

Penalties can be significant, but not valuing a workplace safety program will lead to larger issues beyond OSHA citations, like employee injuries, fires and mechanical failures. Unfortunately, many companies wait until there is an accident before focusing on implementing, correcting or amending a safety plan.

Derek M. Hoch is the president of Leverity Insurance Group. Reach him at (216) 861-2727 or derek@leverity.com.

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