Risk aversion Featured

9:44am EDT July 22, 2002
Performance Site Management has decreased its lost-time claim frequency more than 80 percent over the last three years by taking several steps to ensure its workers’ safety.

As a result, Performance was one of nine public companies in Ohio recognized with a 1999 Governor’s Excellence in Workers’ Compensation award.

Performance Site Management, based in Columbus with an office in Cincinnati, is a site development contractor employing about 380 people. Its projects include commercial shopping centers, office buildings, apartment complexes, street reconstruction and water and sewage work. Recent projects include work on the Columbus Convention Center Parking Garage and the renovated Scioto Amphitheater.

Safety is paramount in what can be a very dangerous business, says marketing manager Linda Peck, and the company is always looking for ways to ensure its workers are as safe as possible on the job.

“Yes, we recognize the danger involved, but these are human beings we’re talking about, not numbers,” Peck says. “We don’t do it for the numbers’ sake. We do it for the people.”

The company has an experience modification rating (EMR) of .67. With a base of one, that means it experiences only two-thirds of the number of injuries the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation expects of companies in its industry.

Performance has done several things to create a safer workplace, including:

Hiring two full-time safety personnel.

Safety director Tom Obert and a safety coordinator conduct on-site safety inspections to ensure equipment is working properly and safety procedures are being followed.

They also carry extra safety equipment, including fire extinguishers, glasses and ear plugs, so “if a crew is running low, we can replace it right there,” Obert says. “We do take safety very seriously.”

The also go over all performance safety policies and procedures with each crew at least once a month.

Conducting weekly safety awareness talks.

Tool Box Safety Talks cover topics relating to projects, equipment and seasons, among other things.

“In cold weather, we discuss hypothermia, driving on ice, keeping warm,” Obert says. “In summer, it’s heat stress, rigging, hand tools. They’re things they’re already familiar with, but they’re getting reminders. When you do something day in and day out,” it can be easy to overlook the basics.

Creating an employee recognition program for individual safety achievements.

Employees are awarded T-shirts after six months without an injury; those who are not injured in a year receive sweatshirts.

“Everyone wants to be able to wear the shirts and say, ‘Look what I’ve done,’” Obert says. The design is changed each year, so long-term employees with good safety records have a variety of shirts.

Performance used to award shirts on a crew basis, but “there was peer pressure. If one guy got hurt, no one on that crew got shirts,” Obert said.

That occasionally led to workers limping around with an injury, deciding to live with instead of report it, so that his or her crew would qualify for the award shirts, says Peck.

Requiring workers to immediately report an injury.

The supervisor at the scene determines whether an injured worker needs an ambulance, should be transported to the hospital by someone on the crew, or can be treated on-site with a first aid kit, says Obert.

If the worker must go to the hospital, one of the safety personnel meets him or her there and stays until the worker is released.

Convening a safety committee each month.

The committee is composed of workers from every area of the company and addresses safety issues, including accidents, to see if there is a pattern and if training might be lacking in a certain area.

Requiring all workers to undergo periodic substance abuse testing.

In addition to pre-hire drug screening and randomly testing about one-quarter of its work force each year, Performance administers tests on suspicion. And if a worker is injured on the job and has to go to the hospital, a drug test is mandatory. If another worker is responsible for the injury, that person will be tested as well.

“Workers in the field don’t want to be around someone who puts them in harm’s way. If someone is high, they’re taking a risk,” Obert says.

Placing injured workers with restrictions in light-duty positions.

The goal is to get the worker back on the job as quickly as possible, and the patient resource coordinator follows up with the doctor and the worker almost daily, Obert says.

Light duty options include some positions on the crew, working as a parts runner, and helping around the shop, sweeping floors and answering phones, but the important thing is getting the person back on the job and involved with the company.

Offering classes on hazardous materials.

Obert teaches an annual HAZMAT refresher course to all field and shop personnel, instructs OSHA-mandated classes and offers CPR instruction.

Ensuring all employees understand the daily job situation.

In what the company calls 10/10 meetings, each crew gathers in the morning “to talk about what is happening that day,” Obert says. “They address any hazards” they may face, and how to handle them. The group meets for another 10 minutes after lunch to address the jobs scheduled in the afternoon.

Offering a rewards program which compensates employees who suggest a better way to do things.

In addition to keeping its workers safe, taking precautions presents an added bonus for Performance.

“Safety sells,” Peck says. “It’s a big selling point to clients” if the company can point to a low rate of on-the-job injuries.

But despite its success, the company can still do better, Obert says.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Obert says. “We’re taking additional safety classes, providing more training, constantly looking at new technology to make work a safer place.”

“Our people are our most valuable resource, and we take safety very seriously. Our emphasis is on having our employees go home unharmed at the end of every day.”

And the winners are ...

Other 1999 Governor’s Excellence public winners include:

  • Medical College of Ohio, Toledo;

  • Hamilton County;

  • City of Chillicothe;

  • Herr Foods Inc., Columbus and Chillicothe;

  • Lithko Contracting Inc., Hamilton;

  • Reitter Stucco Inc., Columbus;

  • Royster-Clark Inc.;

  • Traub Container/MacMillan Bloedel Packaging, Bedford Heights.