Workers Compensation

Zero Injuries: Possible or Impossible?

8/15/2019 | Ray Gage

Motivational speakers stress the importance of goal setting and that you should never set a goal that isn’t attainableHowever, risk management concepts suggest that you should have a goal of zero workplace injuries.  Somehow you can’t seem to justify those two things in your mind, so you set a goal to reduce workplace injuries by X% this year, X% next year and adjust it via trial and errorIf this goal setting strategy feels like you’re throwing a dart at the board, you wouldn’t be alone in that thought process, but how do we combat that to set realistic goals?   

Let’s start by determining what is a realistic expectation?  A large construction company’s safety manager once shared with me that he tells all employees that ‘unless they are sitting on their couch minding their own business and a meteorite crashes through the roof and hits them on the head, don’t tell him it was an accident’.  Accidents have traceable, contributing actions that lead to injury or damage and workplace injuries are no exception to that.   By reducing those negative actions, we can reduce those accidents. And that safety manager’s theory is absolutely the correct attitude to have and one that should frame every decision made in your efforts to get to zero injuries. 

How can you set a goal of no workplace injuries and expect to get there if you don’t know where to start?  Great question!  Here are some ideas:  

  • Place an emphasis on hiring the right employees.  By ‘right employees’, I mean make sure you verify the people you hire are capable of performing the essential job functions. 
  • Know how to spot a fraudulent claim and take steps towards preventing that practice. 
  • Change the way you present, implement and reward safety. 
  • Track everything!  Data is king, but you can’t utilize it if you don’t have it at your fingertips.  
  • Invest in the health and well-being of your employees.  Companies have maintenance programs for critical components, processes and fleet management.  How are you investing in your most important asset? 

Last week’s topic was ‘Zero Hiring Mistakes’.  I introduced the importance of hiring the right employees, both from a fraud and job fitness perspective.  This week is focused on investing in the health and well-being of your employees.  I am going to refer to this as ‘wellness’ but it really involves a lot more than the traditional definition. 

Employees with fewer risk factors not only experience better outcomes if they are injured, they are less likely to be injured in the first place.  By risk factors, I mean things like tobacco use, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity, to name a few.  Mental risk factors also come into play.  We are by no means encouraging discrimination in the workplace, rather recommending the importance of being aware of the physical condition and well-being of your employees. 

Let’s talk about a scenario.  Think about how it could play out in your place of business… 

You have a key employee who operates a machine that is critical to the daily workflow in your company.  They visit their doctor for a routine physical.  They receive a call from their doctor the next day stating they found something abnormal and need to run additional tests.  A few days after that they must return to the doctor where they receive a cancer diagnosis.  That entire process took two to three weeks and a treatment plan hasn’t yet been established.   

What do you expect?  Do you have the attitude that everyone should check their personal problems at the door the moment they arrive at work?  Does your employee feel safe relaying their personal situation to you?  Did you even have an opportunity to assist with their mental well-being as they continue to operate a potentially dangerous piece of machinery or equipment while they are internally trying to process the medical information?  Or were they too scared to say something because they saw how another employee was treated under similar circumstances? 

When you think wellness, think differently.  Sometimes it is necessary to remove yourself from the management mindset and immerse yourself in the perspective of your employees.  In doing so, ask yourself if you would feel safe confiding in yourself or the others on your team.  Be honest even if it hurts a little.  Think about investing more in your most important asset, your people. 

Check back next week for the second part in this series on the quest to get to zero injuries.   

About the Author:

Ray Gage, Director of WalkerHughes Allen County Office, is a Master Work Comp Advisor who's passion and life's work is to help sophisticated, process-oriented businesses create safe, healthy, productive workplaces, and as a result, more profitable firms.  Feel free to contact Ray at r.gage@walkerhughes.com or by phone at 260-627-3641 with any questions or inquiries.