In 1992, we coined the phrase “Total Safety Management” and used it to describe our unique 15-point approach to successfully managing employee safety and workers compensation. We have developed a written safety manual that devotes one chapter to each of these 15 points.
The elements of Total Safety Management:
- Management Commitment. It starts at the top. Members of management must believe in the program and support all the people who play a role in making the program work. They commit time, talent and financial resources. They set the example. Commit your safety policy to writing and religiously adhere to it.
- Goal Setting. We set goals for productivity, quality and financial performance. Why not for safety? Goals help us to achieve our objectives. There are several ways to quantify safety goals. We put an emphasis on measuring the dollars. After all, if workers compensation costs are declining, the accident incidence rate is declining as well.
- Engineering. The first step in employee safety is to “engineer-out” or remove the hazard. Although only 20% of accidents are caused by unsafe conditions, engineering is an important part of the program. Eliminate hazards continually through safety inspections, job safety analyses, good housekeeping and other techniques. OSHA compliance is essentially an engineering task because most OSHA regulations are concerned with either eliminating unsafe conditions or designing controls for them.
- Training. About 80% of accidents are caused by unsafe acts or deviation from proper procedure. Training is simply a method to communicate procedures to employees. It also demonstrates management commitment. It is typically a supervisor’s responsibility.
- Recognition. People need positive strokes. While individual recognition is important, group recognition is more effective. We recommend reward systems in which the entire group is rewarded for achieving a goal such as working a period of time without injury. This type of program also keeps employees honest and controls abuse of workers compensation. Be sure to design your program in such a way that it does not discourage the reporting of injuries.
- Hiring and Developing Employees. Have you ever hired someone you wish you hadn’t? A quality safety program begins with quality employees – people that are willing and able to perform their job duties in accordance with company procedure. Finding those people is easier said than done. Once you do find them, develop and nurture them. Learn how to identify quality people and learn the red flags that lead to workers compensation claims.
- Employee Safety Committee. This is the engine that drives your program. It gets hourly and management employees involved and meets every month. This group sets policy, runs the recognition program and assists with accident investigations. Safety committee members are your ambassadors for safety.
- Record Keeping/Data Analysis. Keep score for your recognition program, prepare OSHA and insurance required documents, keep track of progressive discipline, monitor actual performance vs. goals, document accident and near miss incidents, review open claims with the claims administrator, and analyze claims for type, cause and frequency.
- Loss Prevention Services. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your insurance carrier often offers free site visits and free written training materials. Your state also offers various resources, including free inspections for the purpose of identifying areas that are not in compliance with OSHA. Or, you can contract for expert help with us at American Safety.
- Accident Investigation. Learn what happened. Don’t repeat past history. Investigate near miss accidents. These are a “free opportunity” to learn. Accident and near-miss investigations are a supervisor’s responsibility, but the safety committee can and should assist.
- Medical Community Relationships. Take advantage of your right to pick the doctor if you are in one of the states that allow this. If not, learn how to work with the employee’s choice of physician. Medical providers must understand you are the customer. Develop return to work programs in cooperation with medical providers.
- Light Duty. People recover faster if they are at work doing something. We are required to pay temporary total disability to an injured employee regardless, so we may as well have that person at work doing something productive. The longer someone is off, the harder it is to get them back. Light duty also helps to control abuse. Have “zero tolerance” for lost time.
- Injury Management. These are the things you do from the time of injury until the employee is stabilized. For life-threatening injuries, call 911. When in doubt, call 911. For less serious injuries, drive the employee to the treating physician. Remind the employee of his or her workers compensation benefits. Make sure the doctor is aware of your light duty program.
- Monitoring Recuperation. This is longer term management of injuries until maximum medical improvement is reached. Be supportive. Visit employees in the hospital, send cards and flowers, and contact the family and reassure them. Remember that employees on light duty are also recuperating.
- Investigation, Surveillance & Litigation. Once in a while you may have a hard core case that requires this step. If we perform the other 14 steps well, there should rarely be a need for this one.