An analysis of the 2017 Public Entity Employee Safety & Loss Control Survey by Frank Altiere III, RIMS fellow and president of PMA Management Corp., highlights the importance of strategic loss prevention. “Now more than ever, the best strategy is to take a holistic approach to risk management to prevent claims from occurring in the first place with loss control strategies,” he writes. The most successful safety strategies cited in the survey involved employee safety training and improving the safety culture.
While 3 out of 4 survey respondents indicated that they planned to conduct more training, a majority also indicated that their safety programs were either underfunded or significantly underfunded. With that being the case, it’s hardly surprising that respondents listed “Developing strong safety attitudes among managers and supervisors” as the top challenge to workplace safety.
Risk pools to the rescue
Given the desire to improve safety culture through training and the reality of shrinking budgets of members, the services of loss prevention specialists associated with risk pools are especially timely. The ability to deliver training to member organizations that may not be able to otherwise afford it is a tremendous benefit. To truly change a culture, however, it may take more than training. Fostering the engagement of employees will go a long way toward developing the strong safety attitudes members demand.
“A hallmark of a strong safety culture is employees who are engaged in safety and are empowered to advocate for a safe culture,” Altiere notes, citing studies that confirm the dramatic effect engaged employees have on safety incidents. While these benefits are well documented, the steps necessary for actually engaging employees seem far less obvious. “Keep in mind that employee engagement must be earned, and that leadership is critical to engagement,” Altiere warns.
Pairing loss prevention resources with audit technology could be the key to creating engaged employees for your members and fostering sustainable safety cultures that deliver lasting improvement.
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Adverse safety events—some that lead to serious harm—occur every day, affecting people across entire health systems. The ability to collect and analyze this data is crucial for preventing future incidents and improving patient safety. Yet, according to a 2008 study, “only 13% [of U.S. hospitals] have broad staff involvement in reporting adverse events.”
With a full schedule of patients and life-or-death situations a part of daily life in hospitals, reporting efforts, not surprisingly, may end up taking a back seat. Sometimes, however, the issues that impact reporting run deeper. Hospital staff may fear repercussions from reporting safety events. In other instances, the reporting process may be so convoluted and time consuming that, despite good intentions, staff is discouraged from doing so. Or maybe, the biggest issue comes after reporting, with hospitals failing to share or apply healthcare analytics in a way that positively impacts the quality of care provided and makes staff feel a part of something bigger.
No matter the reason, any issue that negatively impacts patient safety event reporting has consequences for every person associated with a hospital or health system—especially the patients. In fact, the ECRI Institute listed “standardizing safety efforts across large health systems” as one of the top 10 patient safety concerns for 2019. Even events that seem minor have the potential to result in grave harm. The Joint Commission reported medication error and product and device events in the list of top 10 most frequently reported sentinel events in hospitals in 2018.
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Winter Storm Harper took its toll on large parts of the Midwest and Northeast, causing several deaths, hundreds of car accidents, and power outages that affected tens of thousands, according to the Weather Channel.
Extreme weather—from blizzards to hurricanes to wildfires—wreaks havoc on businesses in every region of the country, with damage having a lasting effect. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Security, 40% of small businesses do not reopen after a severe weather event. This is in part due to a failure to have an actionable plan in place. As we discussed in Step up your disaster preparedness, don’t wait for the news report, organizations can get tripped up when there’s confusion over who should act and what those actions should be during a weather crisis. Without clear plans, practice, and timely alerts, critical resources may fail to execute.
Origami’s cloud-based RMIS continues to make weather preparedness a priority. With our new proximity search feature, audit functionality, and flexible data integration, you’ll be able to quickly identify major weather risks and effectively communicate how key parties can take action.
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Creating a strong safety culture can be challenging for any organization. Recent regulatory changes are placing an organization’s safety culture under additional scrutiny. In the EHS Today article The Risks of Using Injury and Illness Reporting as Measurements of Success, Mark Kozeal discusses how an OSHA rule change penalizes those with cultures that discourage reporting.
“Under OSHA’s update to its 2016 rule on recording and reporting workplace injuries and illnesses, such programs would be in violation of the law,” Kozeal notes. “Whether this incentivized culture was purposeful or inadvertent doesn’t matter. What matters is that any practice that incentivizes employees for not reporting an injury or illness or denies employees incentives if they report an illness or injury, can now be cited by OSHA.” This means that a poor safety culture can now affect the bottom line.
First steps to avoiding the “culture penalty”
Now that there is the possibility of additional regulatory costs associated with failing to create a strong safety culture, the importance of near-miss reporting is multiplied. As we discussed in Using RMIS technology to improve incident and near miss reporting, two factors are essential to developing a healthy safety reporting culture:
There is no quick fix when it comes addressing the factors that inhibit reporting. However, taking a number of practical steps that include making it easier to submit reports (addressing practicality) and allowing for anonymous reporting (reducing fear) can be a foundation upon which to build an effective safety program. With more data to draw from, the ability of risk managers and safety professionals to identify, analyze, and take strategic action to reduce the likelihood of injury is vastly improved. Over time, this can contribute to a breakdown in perceptions of uselessness and acceptance of risk.
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For risk and safety professionals, the new calendar year brings with it a renewed focus on improving their organization’s culture of safety. Whether looking to put a new safety program in place, make wholesale changes to an existing program, or build upon previous successes, many organizations face the challenge of ensuring that their employees are fully participating in safety efforts.
A recent EHS Today article takes a look at a potential solution for involving people across an organization in this process: safety assessments.
How safety assessments differ from safety audits
To Build Safety Culture, You Must Get People Talking provides an overview of a 2018 Safety Leadership Conference session — “Distracted Drivers R US — Assessment RX for Success” — led by Walter Fluharty, vice president of EHS and organizational development at Ohio-based Simon Roofing.
Where static surveys may be seen as yet another safety-related requirement, focus group-based assessments followed by the completion of self-assessments are more likely to drive engagement and add value.
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Regardless of industry, the numbers make clear why a focus on fleet safety is necessary.
- According to the National Safety Council, medically consulted injuries in motor vehicle incidents totaled 4.6 million in 2016.
- Total motor vehicle injury costs—including wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, motor-vehicle property damage, and employer costs—for the year were estimated at $416.2 billion.
- NCCI data shows that, by cause of injury, motor vehicle crashes resulted in the costliest lost-time workers’ compensation claims, averaging $73,559 per claim in 2015 and 2016.
For public entities, when it comes to managing the risks associated with fleets, these numbers are especially concerning. “Fleets are a serious and growing risk management challenge for public entities,” writes Susan Kostro in the Risk Management magazine article Managing Public Sector Auto Risks. “The public sector collectively has the largest vehicle fleet in the United States. With 1.3 million cars and trucks, that sector is even larger than the commercial fleet segment, according to Government Fleet magazine, so the challenges of commercial auto insurance have been particularly hard on public entities.”
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As discussed in previous posts, the manufacturing skills gap is a critical risk that demands effective risk management strategies. The real world impacts that can be felt from this risk include:
- Increased wage costs
- Production inefficiencies
- Increased workers’ compensation expenses
- Inability to meet customer demand and potential loss of market share
- Inability to expand
- Decreased R&D effectiveness
In addition to the skills gap, manufacturers face numerous other risks arising from factors that include new regulations, geopolitical shifts, supply chain vulnerabilities, and environmental impacts. Added on top of that are the traditional risks that face all industries such as market risk, disruptive competitors, technology obsolescence, and health/safety risks. Collectively, manufacturers must address a larger number of risks, that change more frequently, and are more interconnected than most industries.
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The importance of establishing a near miss culture is clear. The OSHA and National Safety Council Alliance, a cooperative program, puts it this way: “History has shown repeatedly that most loss producing events (incidents), both serious and catastrophic, were preceded by warnings or near miss incidents. Recognizing and reporting near miss incidents can significantly improve worker safety and enhance an organization’s safety culture.” Effective near miss programs can prevent more serious incidents from occurring.
A previous post highlights some of the challenges surrounding this issue. Fear of reprisal or embarrassment, difficulty in the reporting process, and a sense of futility if reports don’t result in tangible changes. Each challenge presents obstacles when trying to establish a near miss culture.
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Every seven seconds, a worker is injured on the job, totaling 4,500,000 injuries per year. Astounding statistics. The worst part? Many of these injuries are preventable.
Loss reduction efforts and improvements in safe workplace behavior require the cooperation of everyone in an organization. When incidents and near misses aren’t reported, injuries occur that might have been prevented—at a significant cost to injured employees, their families and communities, and their employers. An effective approach to incident management encourages an expansion in the reporting of incidents and near misses by both workers and their supervisors.
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As covered in more detail in a recent post, executives surveyed as part of a 2015 skills gap report published by Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Manufacturing Institute indicated that “maintaining or increasing production levels (in line with customer demand)” was at the top of their list of concerns related to the labor and skills gap in manufacturing.
Given studies showing that younger, less experienced workers are more likely to experience higher rates of injury than their longer-tenured counterparts, as well as those indicating that extended working hours and overtime schedules are often accompanied by a rise in injury hazard rates, manufacturers should also be aware of the potential impact the labor and skills gap can have on workplace safety.
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