Safety Leader

Reducing the Risk: In all ways, safety experts confirm safety risk management yields big dividends

GETTY IMAGES/ DRYSIAK

One of the major goals of risk management is to help keep employees safe. Whether from ladder falls, auto accidents, arc flash or other hazards, prioritizing safety risk management can truly bring a business to the next level,” said Nate Oland, senior national account executive at Owatonna, Minn.- based property and casualty insurance provider Federated Mutual Insurance Co.

SAFETY LEADER

Karen Czor, director of risk management at EnTrans International, an Athens, Tenn.-based manufacturer of energy and transportation equipment, agreed and added that failure to focus on safety in the workplace can be costly.

Along with the medical and additional labor costs typically associated with an injury/accident, “a firm’s ability to bid on work is affected by the success of its safety risk management activities, as its EMR [experience modification rate] is used as prequalification criteria,” Czor said. An EMR of 1.2, for example, would increase a company’s insurance premium to a level 20% higher than the industry average and can affect that company’s premiums for up to three years.

Keith Wheeler, president and chief human resources officer for HR Resources of the Carolinas in Fort Mill, S.C., said that prudent safety risk management can also affect a company’s bottom line from a human resources perspective.

“Providing employees with a safe work environment can increase employee engagement by making employees feel valued, which in turn has a positive impact on employee productivity, motivation and profitability,” he said. “In addition, having a strong reputation as a safe company—one that makes its employees’ safety a priority—makes it easier to attract and retain top-quality job candidates.” [Editor’s note: Keith Wheeler is the brother of NECA's director of safety, the association that publishes this magazine.

However, managing safety risk in today's electrical contracting industry is by no means easy.

CHALLENGING TIMES

Auto liability is the leading source of claims, Oland said.

“Industries with auto exposures, such as the electrical contracting field, need to be careful to ensure that their policies are strong and that their employees adhere to them,” he said. “Distracted driving caused by the lure of mobile devices, the radio, rude drivers, food, etc., is a significant cause of auto crashes, so it’s important for businesses to encourage their drivers to concentrate on one thing: the road. With contractors, we also emphasize the importance of safe practices on the job site, with ladder safety being a top priority.”

Czor believes the juxtaposition of two [until recently] concurrent trends—the nation’s economic growth combined with demographic shifts occurring in the workforce—will increasingly prove challenging.

Specifically, “the electrical trade is expected to grow by 10% between 2018 and 2028 at the same time that a large number of Baby Boomers are set to retire, which leads to a loss of knowledge combined with an inexperienced workforce who may make errors when performing difficult or complex tasks,” she said.

“In the trades, the apprentice process has always been the way to train inexperienced team members, but the dwindling population of experienced personnel may be stretched thin and mentoring a large number of new employees, which can lead to new employees doing more work on their own, making errors, and sustaining injury,” Czor said. “I think that one of the challenging areas in the next decade will be to develop a training system that can be effective for workers when they don’t have an experienced mentor close by.”

In another modern challenge to safety risk management, Wheeler highlighted a growing need for companies to focus holistically on employee wellness.

“This involves not just physical or activity-based employee wellness initiatives, such as weight loss or walking programs, but also those addressing employee stress and how it can impact employee safety,” Wheeler said. “Employee stress can be driven by social, financial and workplace conditions and can have an impact on an employee’s emotional or mental well-being, potentially increasing accidents and fatalities on the job.”

PURSUING BEST PRACTICES

Following, our experts share some best practices and trends in several areas requiring safety risk management:

Managing fleets/using company vehicles

“Fleet management is one of the areas where liability keeps increasing year over year, so the effective use of electronic/ GPS tools to access and track drivers’ on-road behavior is becoming a tool that insurers are requesting small fleets to include as part of a fleet-management program (as large fleets have been using the tool for several years),” Czor said. “However, if coaching on unacceptable performance isn’t maintained, these tools have increased liability for the employer in an accident. The bottom line is that if you’re using on-road behavior tracking, a formal program must be written for how the data is collected, reviewed and applied to drivers."

Czor reiterated that a two-tiered approach of thorough recordkeeping and coaching on poor driving behavior is critical to reducing employee injury, property damage and liability.

In addition, Wheeler recommends companies provide employees with defensive driving classes, as these can help employees from becoming complacent about their driving habits.

According to Oland, “successful businesses have a written fleet-management program that covers driver hiring and vehicle maintenance, and a fleet manager should perform preventive vehicle maintenance even if it’s not required by laws or regulations governing some commercial motor vehicles.”

Oland also recommended that firms create their own safety campaigns, adding that, “it doesn’t need to be a big show, but regular brief safety messages can effectively demonstrate your commitment to the safety of both the company as well its employees, their families and others who share the road.”

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.