When a company has a substantial uptick in workers’ compensation costs, leaders become eager to find ways to reduce insurance costs and spending. When it comes to cutting costs, stopping a few accidents is only the first step. Employers must implement a sound safety program designed to continuously improve. A safety program that is, at the very least, compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards can produce significant savings by reducing illnesses and injuries, saving workers’ compensation money.
How to Build a Solid OSHA Program
There are five simple steps one can take to have a balanced safety program that reduces accidents, produces a safe work environment, achieves OSHA compliance, and ultimately lowers workers’ compensation costs.
- Develop the various programs required by OSHA.
- Integrate those programs into day-to-day operations.
- Investigate all injuries and illnesses.
- Train all employees to develop safety competence.
- Regularly audit your programs and work areas to drive constant improvement.
Aside from being required by law, the OSHA standards are a solid roadmap to incident reductions. Many accidents stem from underdeveloped or poorly implemented OSHA programs. For example, failure to use personal protective equipment could result in excessive lacerations, failure to keep surfaces clear could lead to slips or trips, and improper lifting techniques can result in strains.
Many of the OSHA standards dictate that some type of written program must be developed and then dispersed to employees. Experience shows that companies with fleshed-out OSHA-compliant programs have more productive employees, fewer accidents, and lower workers’ compensation expenses.
Policies won’t get results if they remain on paper; the program must move from paper to practice to succeed. Implementing a policy requires a strategic plan clearly communicated to key participants, solid execution of the plan based on developed competencies, and an inspiring culture that rewards people to do their best.
Just like any business initiative, frontline supervisors are a primary key to success. Every good business person knows that new programs—of every sort—live and die with the frontline supervisor. If the frontline supervisor is competent in the program and desires to make it happen, the program succeeds; if not, the program can be a constant struggle and an endless drain on energies and resources. Equipping supervisors with knowledge and skills through training is vital to the success of any program.
A comprehensive OSHA program integrated into the daily operation and spearheaded by competent supervisors is only the beginning. Successful safety programs do more than just react to issues; they focus on a proactive approach. Accident investigations yield excellent information on both real or potential issues present in the workplace.
Workers’ compensation is designed to recompense employees for illnesses or injuries they suffer in the course of their job. Unsurprisingly, more claims drive up workers’ compensation costs. Reducing accidents, therefore, reduces costs, and the ability to mitigate accidents is significantly enhanced when they are fully investigated instead of just reported.
While accident reports are historical records only citing facts, accident investigations delve deeper to find the root cause and make improvements. Businesses that halt rising workers’ compensation expenses have an effective accident investigation process that uncovers the root cause of the problem. Without discovering the root of the problem, recommendations for improvement will remain fruitless. Again, training proves invaluable because a supervisor skilled in incident analysis becomes a better problem solver for all types of production-related issues beyond just safety.
Every accident should be investigated to find out what went wrong and why. Some may think looking into every accident is a bit excessive and only those that incur significant costs are worth investigation. But ask yourself this: If you only scrutinized serious quality concerns instead of every tiny deviation, would your quality program still be effective? Companies with solid quality programs look into and resolve any deviation from quality standards.
If you only focus on those incidents that are required to be recorded on the OSHA 300 log, you lose sight of the biggest accident category: first aid-only incidents. Many companies fret about recordables or lost time accidents because of the significant obvious costs involved, but they don’t realize that the high numbers of small costs in first aid-only incidents really add up.
Statistics show that for every 100 accidents, 10 will be recordable and one will be a lost-time incident. If you only investigate recordables or lost time accidents, 89 of every hundred go unnoticed. Would you accept a quality program with an 89% failure rate? Reducing your overall rate of all accidents – including first aid-only incidents- will reduce those small costs as well as the incidence of OSHA- worthy accidents. That only happens when each incident is fully investigated to find the root cause, and remedial practices are identified and integrated into the daily operation.
Train and Audit
The last steps focus on training your people and auditing your program for constant improvement. Training plays an enormous role in safety and reducing workers’ compensation expenses. Training’s primary goal is to develop competent people who have the skill, understanding, and knowledge to perform assigned job responsibilities. More than anything else, competence will improve every aspect of your business and drive costs down. Supervisors must have the knowledge and ability to integrate every safety program into their specific areas of responsibility. Every worker must understand what is expected of them when it comes to upholding safe work procedures. Once these programs are fully developed and implemented, they must be reviewed regularly to ensure they remain relevant and effective.
This might necessitate a dramatic change in how you manage your safety program, but if your workers’ compensation rates are high, the monetary savings could be equally dramatic.
- Studies show there is a return on investment and that companies experience direct bottom-line benefits with properly designed, implemented, and integrated safety programs.
- A competency-based safety program is on-track with OSHA requirements and therefore reduces the danger of OSHA fines.
- A competency-based safety program reduces the number of accidents. Fewer accidents means lower workers’ compensation costs. When incidents do occur, competency-based safety programs fully investigate the issue and ascertain the root cause to prevent reoccurrence and provide a safe workplace free from recognized hazards.
- A safer workplace facilitates better morale and improves employee retention. Auditing keeps your programs up-to-date and effective while driving constant improvement.
- A competency-based program develops people who are fully engaged in all aspects of their job and feel satisfied producing high-quality services and goods.
How Can We Assist You?
At Foy & Associates, we are committed to helping you establish a strong safety program that decreases your workers’ compensation exposures. Contact us today to learn more about our OSHA compliance, safety program, and accident investigation tools and resources.
This Work Comp Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2011, 2021 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.
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