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Workplace (or industrial) safety typically is either completely owned or partially owned by Human Resources.  It tends to be an unimportant part of many workplaces, causing the HR team to shift its focus to issues the company finds more critical: establishing a talent pipeline, implementing the leadership development program, or addressing high-profile employee relations issues.

While we all understand the importance of safety, be weary of ignoring industrial safety in your organization.  Otherwise, as soon as a major incident occurs, the leadership team will immediately ask why better educational and preventive resources weren’t provided to the operations teams.  Additionally, you may have the injured employee and even your insurance company claiming the organization (i.e. HR) was negligent for not placing any emphasis on workplace safety.  Yikes!

As we kick-off 2017, here’s a list of impactful, timely items you can quickly address that will improve your safety program’s effectiveness, and prevent any accusation that you don’t take workplace safety seriously.  The key is to have the right data, and the trick is to not spend time compiling it.  Note that we have an HRCI-approved webinar on this topic later this month.  If you want more details on these items, feel free to join us.

Get a Handle on Your Claims Numbers–But Outsource the Data Collection

Reach out to your workers’ compensation insurance broker or even your workers’ comp. insurance carrier to get key information on your claims.  Ask them to compile the claims data for the last 24 months and, if possible, to visit with you to present the data (versus e-mailing it to you as a cryptic spreadsheet you need to decipher).  Specifically, you’ll want them to come to the table having determined:

  • Which physical areas of your facilities have the most frequent numbers of claims?  Said differently, which areas of your facilities are the most incident-prone?
  • Which body parts most frequently get injured?
  • Which jobs have the highest claims frequency?  Said differently, which are the most dangerous jobs in your organization?

Your broker or your workers’ comp. insurance carrier, whichever you ask to compile the data, will also talk about claims dollars–which areas of your facilities have the most expensive claims, which parts of the body have cost the company the most, etc.  Although very interesting, and certainly relevant to your business leaders, I wouldn’t focus on the dollars yet.  Focus on reducing the number of claims; any claim could become a high dollar claim.  An organization that has a $40,000 leg claim and that’s their only leg claim, but has seven wrist/arm claims which don’t total $15,000, should focus on wrist/arm injury prevention, if it had to choose.

No Need To Spend Time Creating Resources for Leaders, You’re Probably Already Paying for It

Virtually all workers’ compensation carriers and insurance brokers who sell workers’ comp products have ready-made flyers, postcards, videos, newsletter inserts and even full newsletters, pictures, graphics, contest ideas, etc.  All you need to do is ask.  The broker and carrier view these as risk mitigation tools and generally provide them for free.  I’ve never seen a broker or carrier charge for these tools.  When you have the broker or carrier out to review your claims data, ask them to also provide you with information on where you can access these resources.  Typically, they’re in an online portal for the broker or carrier.

Focus on the Right Resources, But Don’t Put Your Employees to Sleep

In our example of having wrist/arm injuries, we’ll want to use the resources focused on wrist/arm safety as well as repetitive motion injury prevention.  However, don’t bore your employees.  If your only claims have been the seven for the wrist/arm and one for the leg, you’ll lose everyone’s attention pretty quickly if you only provide resources related to those two body parts.  Look at other topics that are interesting and inject those into your program.  During the summer, focus on heat safety and even summer insect bites, spider bites, and all of the other terrifying critters that come out when its warm.  If you break-up the content, your employees will actually pay attention to the content.

Develop Your Team–Delegate the Creation of a Calendar

I’m sure there’s someone on your team looking for an opportunity to show you what they can do.  You’ve already created the strategy.  Have an up-and-coming member of your team calendar a monthly focus for 2017 (i.e. slips and falls, wrist repetitive motion injury prevention, back safety, etc.) and note which of the broker- or insurer-provided resources you’ll post in the hallways and e-mail out to the supervisors each month to reinforce that month’s focus.  After the data has been gathered, the calendar’s been created, and the resources have been identified, getting your senior leadership’s support should be much easier.

Getting Buy-In from the Senior Team, But There’s Another Strategy at Work Here

Presenting your senior team with truncated, bottom-line data on your claims rate and claims dollars is a fact-based discussion that would very likely be warmly received (well, as warmly as one would expect given we’re talking about industrial claims data).  During that same conversation, discuss the approach for 2017: which resources will be deployed during which months and why.  Although the point of this is to get buy-in for the focuses and approach for your workplace safety program, you’re also demonstrating a data-driven approach to solving people problems, and (perhaps most importantly) you’re preventing your leaders from being able to accuse HR of being asleep at the wheel regarding workplace safety.  By buying-in to the safety program, they’ve endorsed your approach and have reviewed the same data you have.

Worst Case Scenario Is Actually a Great Outcome

During your conversation with senior leadership, they’ll either endorse your proposed approach for 2017 or they’ll push back.  But if they push back, you’ve likely hit a home run as well.  If they push back and suggest more should be done to communicate specific industrial safety best practices to employees, or if they suggest different approaches, you have elevated a typically trivial aspect of operations (i.e. the workplace safety program) to being something your leadership cares about.  You’ve effectively communicated the data portion and now they have an opinion about execution.  Not bad at all considering the senior leadership for many companies are not actively involved in their workplace safety program!  This is good for employee safety and good for senior leadership’s impression of your strategic value!

There’s more meat to the items above, and there are some quick and easy tips to get your line-level leaders to embrace the safety program.  Join us for our HRCI-approved webinar on jump-starting your safety program and we’ll discuss these strategies and more.