How one company reduced its injury rate & related costs

by on July 26, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

There were too many lost-workday accidents at a northern Kentucky company.

That meant too many calls to injured workers and their families, and more difficulty scheduling work around those injured workers. Not to mention higher workers compensation costs.

The safety director and the company owner agreed the company needed to get tougher on safety. Here’s what they did to reduce injuries and bring down workers comp costs:

Stepped up number of audits
The safety director started by stepping up the number of safety audits he conducted. He hit all the work sites at his company at least once every two weeks.

One key: The audits were a surprise – the superintendents of the sites didn’t have a clue when he was coming. They just knew he’d be there soon.

Eliminated ‘he said/she said’
During the audits, the safety director used to write up superintendents and workers for any safety violations. One problem that repeatedly occurred: a “he said/she said” situation.

The safety director would catch a problem out in the field and then return to question the superintendent about it. The superintendent would question the worker, who would usually deny the problem.

To quell that, the safety director began to take the superintendents around with him on the audits – and workers were questioned in front of them both. That helped clarify what happened right away.

Involved superintendents
The safety director realized he couldn’t keep the sites under a microscope all the time. He needed to devise a way to ensure superintendents followed safety procedures even when he wasn’t watching over their shoulders.

The problem: Most superintendents at the company were from the old school, when balancing on steel beams 60 feet in the air without a harness was commonplace. The safety director took a two-pronged approach to changing this:

  • He started to train them regularly on OSHA policies and updates.
  • He diligently wrote up reports of any violations, which were sent to the owner, project managers and superintendents. The superintendents weren’t fond of being linked with too many violations.

That helped, but the safety director needed to take one additional step.

Stopped work when necessary
If serious OSHA regulations were violated at a site, the safety director had the authority to shut down work. He hasn’t yet needed to take that step, but he has stopped particular aspects of projects.

Once, the safety director saw seven workers up 25 feet on a warehouse roof, hooking and unhooking single legs from the horizontal lifeline. Their lanyards were only six feet long, which meant they needed to hook and unhook frequently.

He ordered them down, told them to work on other tasks and wrote up the incident. He then went back to the office and ordered self-retracting lifelines that fit the safety requirements. He kept workers off the roof for two days until the new lines arrived.

Costs down 40%
Since he first started tackling their safety issues two years ago, the number of accidents and safety violations has plummeted. Payoff: Workers comp costs have dropped by about 40%.

(Company name withheld upon request.)

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