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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.

Why employee engagement matters

The article Employee Engagement Improves Safety by Karyn Price, Coverys senior risk consultant, includes several sources to highlight the benefits of employee engagement. One of these sources is a Society of Human Resource Management study that determined that the average cost of a safety incident for a disengaged employee is more than six times that of an engaged employee. An EHS Today article adds more documentation:

“In studies conducted by Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers have 37 percent higher absenteeism, 49 percent more accidents and 60 percent more errors and defects. Organizations with low employee engagement scores experienced lower productivity, profitability, job growth and share price over time.”
Price offers an explanation of why engagement can be such a powerful strategy: Organizations pursuing engagement-focused efforts shift away from a message of "do as you are told to do” to one of “help us create a culture of safety excellence." The latter approach encourages personal commitment to go above and beyond the bare minimum.

What engagement looks like in improving safety culture

Price goes on to paint a clear picture of how engagement directly contributes to cultivating a safety culture:

"From a safety standpoint, an engaged employee is one who is fully absorbed by, and enthusiastic about, safety and so takes positive action to strengthen the organization’s safety process. This means an engaged employee uses a mechanical lift when needed even when it means taking the time to walk to another unit to retrieve it; takes the time to pull the bed away from the wall when providing patient care; or makes time to report a safety hazard or cleans up a spill on the floor, even if he did not cause the spill. Getting employees engaged in your safety process means getting them to believe, participate and willingly contribute to its success."
The extra steps that Price lays out are what can transform the training and assistance that loss prevention specialists provide into a sustained driver of loss control.

Key components to employee engagement

In What Great Managers do to Engage Employees, authors James Hartner and Amy Adkins note that fewer than 1 in 3 Americans are actually engaged in their jobs—a figure that has remained persistently stubborn since measurement started in 2000. Hatner and Adkins identify common activities among organizations with engaged employees. Communication is a central component.

"Gallup has found that consistent communication – whether it occurs in person, over the phone, or electronically – is connected to higher engagement," they note. Specifically, communication about employee performance goals is critical. The authors state, "Great managers don’t just tell employees what’s expected of them and leave it at that; instead, they frequently talk with employees about their responsibilities and progress." A similar dynamic holds for loss control efforts. Annual training alone may not be enough to improve the organization’s safety culture.

Use audits to engage and magnify the impact of training

Flexible yet easy-to-use audit technology, such as the functionality found in Origami Risk's software, allows your risk pool to offer auditing services for members in higher-risk areas like warehouses, workshops, garages, and law enforcement facilities. These loss prevention audits often bring the benefits of internal audits to organizations facing budget pressures and resource shortages. The article Remove the roadblocks and reap the benefits of internal audits highlights some of these benefits:

"Despite the challenges, there is much to gain from internal audits that are both well-planned and conducted on a regular basis. The benefits include the following:

  • Internal audits help to prevent accidents/errors by uncovering hazards/potential risks that might, otherwise, not be known (until it’s too late).
  • For supervisors and employees, internal audits promote accountability, improve awareness of defined procedures, and enforce safe workplace behavior.
  • Internal audits help to prepare all involved in the process for external audits that may carry penalties or fines.

Internal audits also arm an organization with data that reveals the strengths and weaknesses of a program. This information can be used to gain strategic insight into changes that are needed (eliminating much of the guesswork) and track improvements over time."

When your loss prevention training is combined with onsite audits, members get a much better sense of where they need to focus. These types of assessments can spark conversations about addressing root causes. Instead of relying on general goals such as "be safer," employees are given specific challenges to solve—ones that directly affect the health and well being of the people they work with. This specificity provides the communication element required to engage employees and provide real-world context to those who will define the safety culture.

The power of corrective actions

Origami Risk allows risk pools to assign and monitor progress on the corrective actions that stem from audits. In this way, the risk pool not only sparks the root-cause discussion, but can also facilitate transforming deficiencies into tangible changes. Unsafe storage of materials can lead to the reorganization of the shop workfloor. Employees found not wearing proper protective equipment can lead to new start-of-shift procedures. Using the portal functionality, member staff can track progress and document improvements.

Stretch goals: Analytics

Once auditing and corrective action monitoring are added to training services, risk pools are then in a position to offer answers to two pressing member questions:

  • How do our safety efforts compare to our peers?
  • Are we making progress with loss prevention?

Aggregating audit data allows risk pools to answer the first one. Comparing individual results with averages provides helpful context on each member’s relative status. Analyzing the claims data of those participating in auditing services and those not participating can provide additional feedback to program participants. It can also provide an incentive for additional members to sign up.

Conducting before/after analysis is one way to answer the second question. Establishing a baseline and then running basic trendlines on key metrics will show if members are making progress. These metrics can also be aggregated to allow members to compare their individual rates of progress with those of their peers.

Altiere suggests starting with these types of analysis:

  • Frequency rate analysis in relation to total claims reported for both lost-time and medical-only rates
  • Loss-leader analysis to show claims by type of injury, with both severity and frequency results
  • Department results by frequency and severity, as well as in the context of staff and other key indicators
  • Comparisons with your public entity industry peers

The value of this benchmarking data to your members is difficult to overstate. As Altiere puts it, "The most effective workers’ compensation data analytics tell a story of exactly where and why claims are occurring, and provide useful information and strategies to improve long-term performance, including a long-term loss control plan to reduce both the frequency and severity of your workers’ compensation losses."

Engaged employees are critical to effective loss control efforts, and the right audit technology can help your organization create engagement. Combining audit technology with training from loss prevention resources can provide a powerful benefit to risk pool members.

Contact us today to learn how Origami Risk can provide the tools necessary to make this a reality.