Enforcement is the key to success.
We talk a lot on this blog about having risk management practices in place, having formal written safety policies, being prepared, and presenting a safe working environment for your employees. Policies alone, however, are never enough. Enforcement is the key to safety success.
I recently attended a workers compensation conference. One of the sections, presented a large Missouri work comp carrier, was about aggressively enforcing safe work practices. It was so good to hear this from a carrier. I speak with my clients all the time about policy enforcement and follow through. I am a believer in preventative maintenance and consistent, strong hiring processes. Hearing this philosophy from the carrier reinforces the importance of laying the right foundation and following through. Enforcement is necessary to achieve results. The best-written policies are useless if they are not enforced.
This conference speaker was spot-on and validated my thoughts precisely.
Enforcement is simple: Comply, or go home.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Is your safety manager willing to be unpopular? Do you have the right person in this position? Is this person willing to correct safety issues on the spot, issue write ups, and recommend corrective actions up to and including termination? You need to select your safety personnel very carefully. Many people, especially when they are promoted up through the ranks, are uncomfortable being the bad guy. Safety people, by nature, are the fun police. Do we want to be the bad guy? No, of course not. But sometimes, that is the job. If your safety personnel won’t stand up and enforce the policies, you will not see compliance and safety will not become part of your organizational culture.
Do you have formal, written safety policies in place? How long is the policy? Are there specific safety rules listed in the policy? Are you assuring that employees understand the rules or do you simply require them to sign an acknowledgment during orientation?
Can your core safety rules be summarized onto one page? How important is it to you that employees truly understand what is expected of them? How long do you think you can hold their attention? Keep it simple. Reduce the POLICY to a one-page bullet list of RULES that outline the high level safety rules. Create a one-page list of safety rules (10 to 12 bullet points) and hammer that into your staff. This list should be simple and sensible. Review it at every safety meeting. Post it on every bulletin board. Make this simplified list as common as clocking in at the beginning of the day.
Is your safety manager a desk jockey? Take a look around. The desk is your enemy. We all have administrative and managerial duties but your safety person needs to be on the floor, boots on the ground. Your workers need to know that they will see the safety manager walking around. Do not designate certain areas or times for these walk-throughs. Random appearances are not meant to be punitive; they are meant to identify areas in need of improvement, and to do so in real-time. If your safety person is not on the floor, observing workers, equipment, and processes, he or she cannot identify deficiencies. It is so important to see what takes place on a daily basis, by whom, and how in order to identify your weaknesses as well as your strengths. This information allows you to focus your efforts and your resources in the areas most in need of improvement.
What are you talking about at safety meetings? Are you strictly going down talking points or do you use the resources available through your carrier? Are you asking your staff what challenges they face in completing their work? Are you listening to their feedback and suggestions on how to improve processes or reduce hazards? These are the people doing the work, and these are the people who will be able to explain what works, what doesn’t, why it does or doesn’t work, and provide alternate ideas. Use this think tank.
Walkthroughs and real-time compliance should not be punitive if the situation can be corrected on the spot. Your goal is to correct problems or deficiencies in real-time. Corrective or disciplinary actions should be delivered only if employees fail to comply with safe work practices. If an employee complies upon request (EX: You see someone working without proper eye protection, point it out, and the employee puts on safety goggles), and continues to comply, then a simple correction during your walk-through is sufficient. You may note on an audit form that you observed 7 of 40 personnel not wearing proper eyewear on this date. You may even note who those 7 personnel were. When you return to the floor tomorrow and observe the same personnel again non-compliant, this is when you issue a verbal or written reprimand. There is a time and place for discipline. Allow your safety personnel some discretion, but require them to enforce safety policies, including disciplinary measures for repeat or serious violations.
Reinforce consistency and compliance. Recognize the workers who consistently set a good example for others. Create a culture where workers look out for one another and hold each other accountable for safety. Provide some recognition – free giveaways, a prime parking spot, t-shirts, hats, travel mugs, gift cards – anything that says “Way to go!” Show some appreciation. The ROI far exceeds the cost of these items.
Ultimately, your safety person must be empowered to say, “Comply or go home.” They need to have the authority to send someone home on suspension for failure to comply. Once your staff sees that you are willing to first coach without discipline, but are also not afraid to mete out disciplinary actions, they will realize that you are serious about safety, and you will gain employee buy-in.
If you are serious about the safety of your workers and serious about reducing injuries, get your safety people on the floor, correct safety issues in real time, be proactive and to the point with your workers. This is how you not only reduce injuries, but also reduce those high Worker’s Compensation premium dollars.
Speaking of Workers Compensation Premiums:
Let’s talk a little bit about Worker’s Compensation premium. There is no average premium amount. Let’s get that out-of-the-way first. Every industry, and every sector or subsector within an industry, has a different premium cost. Premiums are based upon job classifications, risk exposures, loss history, and experience mod. So much goes into the calculation of your Worker’s Compensation premium rate. Depending on your industry and the size of your business and amount of payroll, these premiums can be in the tens of thousands of dollars … or more … per year. These are real dollars. These are deep pocket dollars. Every injury that your company experiences costs you hard-earned dollars. When workers compensation premiums increase, businesses feel it. These premiums are big money.
Every dollar spent on worker’s compensation premium is a dollar of profit off your books. Injuries and lost time claims directly impact your balance sheet.
CRMKC is a safety and risk management company. We talk safety. We understand the direct relationship between safety and workers compensation premium dollars. We meet business owners every day who have a “less than positive” attitude toward insurance professionals. And that’s okay. I can handle it. I believe in what I do. I know that, every single time I walk onto a client’s location, I have the potential to make a life-or-death difference. That’s how strongly I believe in safety and compliance.
All safety professionals and executives for your company should share this attitude. They should have a heart for the people doing the work at your facility. They should have the goal of sending your workers home safely after each and every shift. If that is not the goal of your safety personnel, they do not understand the job.
I challenge you to have the guts to do what it takes to make safety a priority, to put the right people in the position, and to build an organization culture that includes safety in your long-term strategic plans.
Safety is not an accident. It is a culture that is developed. It requires commitment from the top. It requires resources and funding. It requires you to take a hard look at your organization, your processes, and your people to identify weaknesses and develop corrective actions. This consistent focus on safety and recognition of safe behaviors gains the respect of your workers and results in tangible ROI in the form of lower workers compensation premium dollars.
Are you ready to make the commitment and prioritize safety for your organization?
Does your company have formal safety policies in place? Are you responsible for workforce safety or risk management? Email us or give us a call at (816) 349-0850 to see how we can help design a safety and risk management plan that meets your unique needs.