Employee-Driven Safety Reduces Cost and Ergonomic Injuries
There have been a number of case studies reporting on the success of employee-driven safety programs. One such study was in Industry Week about how one company is taking additional steps to reduce and prevent worker injury. Worthington Industries, a value-added steel processor in Columbus, Ohio, has adopted a Safe Works Program that goes beyond compliance by calling on its employees to strengthen their safety culture.
Terry Harbinger, Director of human resources explains, “While we succeeded in being OSHA compliant, our numbers showed there was room for improvement. OSHA compliance addresses workplace conditions, which accounted for about 10% of our injuries. We wanted to take safety one step further to address the other 90% of injuries, which involved reviewing decision-making and activities that put workers at risk.”
Behavioral Reinforcement Programs
Instituted in 2001, Safe Works became Worthington’s official safety management program in 2006. By involving their workers through safety councils, they were able to identify injury risks and suggest corrective measures before injuries occurred. The councils evolved into a communication pipeline between workers and management for safety issues.
But it doesn’t end there. They also instituted a Behavioral Reinforcement Program, designed by industrial psychologists, that has co-workers monitor each other for compliance on three safety procedures, for example, wearing safety glasses. By narrowing the focus on safety to three behaviors, it makes it easier to reinforce the behavior for long-term gains. Thirty days of full compliance indicates successful reinforcement and three different safety behaviors are chosen. Employees are awarded with incentives for good results with cookouts and gift certificates.
Worthington obtained outstanding results with its Safe Works program having reduced its compensation claims by 66 percent! Further, it reduced OSHA recordables by 65 percent, absenteeism/transfers/restrictions by 64 percent, and was able to return several million dollars to its treasury rather than as Workers’ Compensation reserves!
Ergonomic Safety Team Saves $250,000
An auto-parts manufacturer implemented a Participatory Ergonomics (PE) safety council that returned nearly ten times the original investment. They were able to identify several ergonomic issues that resulted in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in its workers by bringing workers and management together to discuss safety.
Over nearly a year, 10 physical modifications were introduced that improved both ergonomics. Anti-fatigue mats were installed that reduced leg and back overuse injuries as well as tool redesign that eased wrist flexion injuries. The result produced a reduction of over 50% of disability claims to the tune of $250,000 annually.
These are just a sample of the thousands of companies that are engaging their workforce to prevent and reduce on the job injuries. All companies are required to be OSHA compliant, but taking a few extra steps saves business significant dollars while helping their employees to increase production and enhance their quality of life.