When asked about the experience of serving on safety committees, participants often have mixed reactions. They either see the experience as rewarding and believe that they help shape the organization’s safety culture or they categorize the experience as “just another thing to do”.
Many organizations have cultivated productive safety committees that make strong contributions to the overall productivity of the operations they serve. Those committees are useful workplace safety resources that help drive the company’s safety culture. But this doesn’t happen naturally. Safety committees only succeed in organizations where safety is a company-wide priority. Those companies employ support practices that help their committees stay fresh and focused. Is your safety committee a contributing factor to the organization’s success, or do you need to revamp your safety committee? If you are in the latter situation, then consider these seven practices:
Progress Before Perfection. When initiating a safety committee, set both short and long-term goals, but avoid the temptation to aim too high initially. Goals must be reasonable and attainable. Think about what you hope to accomplish and how you are going to measure your results. Start by asking, “what can the committee do to advance the company’s safety agenda?” Consider process related objectives such as developing employee safety training programs and workplace hazard inspection procedures.
Viva Variety. Workplaces consist of employees with different roles in the company and varying backgrounds. Your safety committee should follow form and include a mix of your organization’s work force and management. Committees should include current or previous safety champions. Enthusiastic participation is the fuel that powers the safety committee.
Develop Curriculum. Provide committee members with materials to enhance their safety knowledge and provide members with training to make sure they can recognize workplace safety and health hazards, as well as, ways to avoid and prevent them. Your broker, insurance company, the National Safety Council and other safety organizations can offer extensive training in a variety of safety and risk control areas. It is strongly recommended that each safety committee member complete the OSHA 10-hour Training Program at the very least to address work related injury prevention.
Plan Ahead. Formalize meeting agendas in advance and distribute them so committee members can prepare. I recommend that the agenda include a time limit for the entire meeting, as well as, for each agenda item. Failing to get through the agenda is discouraging and can make the committee members feel like they a not making a contribution
Refresh The Team. It’s best when the committee is made up of volunteers rather than appointed or selected members. People that want to participate will invest the energy to make the safety committee effective. Allow for a rotation of the participants, by limiting service to a specific time period. The new participants will bring different perspectives that can serve to re-invigorate the committee.
Don’t Be Boring. This can be harder to achieve than you think. Serving on a safety committee should be a pleasant experience and not a chore. Making the meetings fun may be a stretch but consider opening meetings with a thought-provoking exercise and bring in occasional guest speakers. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute in each meeting.
Take A Look Outward. Try to connect with other industries or companies and see what they’re doing. People in industries different than yours may offer a perspective or practice you may never have considered. When participants see how other organizations and industries address and manage risk control and safety challenges it may give your committee new ideas on how to address your organization’s safety issues.
Safety committees either move forward or they stagnate. Applying these seven practices should propel your committee forward, keep it focused and make serving on the committee an experience that participants value. Your safety committee will ultimately help your organization operate safely and productively.
Andy Viglietti, Director of Risk Management, Dillon Risk Management
Safety really means safe behavior. In recent years a growing number of organizations have committed themselves to developing and supporting a corporate safety culture. But not every commitment endures. Economic challenges, compliance challenges and changes in case law makes maintaining a safety culture difficult. This leads to a critical question; how do we help safety cultures take hold?
Before we can answer that question, we need to understand just what is a safety culture? There is no shortage of definitions and characteristics associated with safety cultures. Rather than list the opinions of others, I’m going to share my own. Safety cultures are the shared beliefs and demonstrated practices of members of an organization that safety is part of every facet of the operation.
While it’s sometimes difficult to gauge safety the way you can benchmark productivity, you can still determine if your employees are engaged in a safety culture. There will be tangible and visible signs of your safety culture at work. The way your workforce approaches their responsibilities reveals how important safety is to your employees. After all, a workforce safety culture is the foundation for safety standards in your company. An organization with poor safety standards is an organization at risk. What is the risk of not having a safety culture or an undeveloped safety culture? To best answer that question, consider some of the benefits of a safety culture.
First, a safety culture reduces the number of injuries suffered by employees. Keeping employees safe is the highest priority for an organization, nothing is more important. It’s the only way to reduce workplace injury and illness costs, which impacts a company’s bottom line in both direct costs and indirect costs. After all, an accident that never occurs has no costs. This contributes to the company’s profitability and improves your organization’s ability to compete and thrive.
Why focus on workplace injuries? Because they happen frequently and in the aggregate are very costly. According to OSHA, a proven safety culture can reduce injury and illness costs by 20% to 40%. Additionally, employers now pay almost $1 billion a week for direct workers’ compensation costs alone and lost productivity from injuries and illness cost companies roughly $63 billion each year.
If you’re like many trucking companies, you probably have high workers’ compensation and liability premium costs. This creates a considerable squeeze on a trucking company’s profitability. Analyzing the impact of your workforce safety culture and then making improvements is key to controlling these costs.
Most organizations measure the impact of their safety culture by the reduction in the frequency and severity of loss, but there are other evidences as well. Consider the following questions as you examine your safety culture:
- Working Knowledge of Safety – Do your employees show a sound working knowledge of both safety and health issues, especially as they apply to your operation? Look for evidence of safety knowledge as employees conduct their duties. Consider their safety minded approach when training new employees in your organization.
- Safety Culture Outcomes Are Well Defined – Do you have safety related operational objectives and goals? Goals drive action and provide a benchmark for evaluating the effectiveness of your safety practices.
- Safety Is A Key Priority – Where is safety as an organizational priority? Several operational issues can compete with safety objectives. When there is competition for resources, safety must be a priority in every instance. Failing to do so creates a toxic work environment.
- Issue Resolution – Does your company look for problems or let problems find you? Safety Cultures should support being proactive. Their mission is to identify issues before they become expensive problems. These organizations are constantly on the lookout for risk factors and when they are identified, the company addresses the issue by putting a well-considered control in place.
- Investing in Safety and Health – Are safety and health areas where your organization invests time and resources? Companies with advanced safety cultures don’t rely on slogans. Instead they solve problems and make improvements. Organizations with effective safety cultures make visible and significant investments in safety and health.
- Everyone Gets Involved – Is safety part of everyone’s job? Everyone can and should play a meaningful role in the safety process from the bottom to the top. If the owners, the safety manager, the supervisors and the employees do not treat safety as part of their job, the organization will suffer.
- Safety Managers Visibly Lead – How visible is the organization’s safety manager? All too often safety managers spend their time pouring over data and compliance material. But, in effective safety cultures, safety managers and operational managers are in the work areas talking with employees about safety issues and visually confirming the workforce’s commitment to working safely.
- Everyone Is Comfortable Reporting Safety Issues – Are your employees hesitant to report safety issues? In a mature safety culture, employees are comfortable reporting any safety issues and accident near misses. They are confident they won’t be punished for coming forward and sharing their safety concerns. This is a key indicator of the strength of your safety culture.
- Look for Support Beyond Your Organization – Do you ask for help or opinions from resources outside of your company when a safety or risk control issue arises? Organizations with forward thinking safety cultures build a network of resources they can call upon to help shape their safety practices, share best practices with and identify how they can improve their safety results.
- Safety and Prospective Employees – Is safety part of your recruiting process? Do you try to identify “risky” behavior in candidates? Remember, you hire your next claim, be it a work-related injury or a truck accident where you are found negligent and liable for property damage and bodily injury. A prospective employee who treats safety lightly, may be a very expensive hire. Ask candidates about the safety practices they use when approaching their day’s work responsibilities.
- Rewards and Recognition – Do you reward and recognize employees for demonstrating desired safety behaviors? Companies with evolved safety cultures do just that. My favorite is the “Caught Being Safe” reward where supervisors reward employees on the spot with something like a Starbucks or Subway card when they see an employee clearly conducting their duties with safety as a priority.
With so many good reasons to foster a safety, what is the biggest impediment to developing a safety culture? Usually, it’s management. Safety cultures are driven from the top and If management is not “all in” for safety, why would you expect anyone else in the organization to be committed to safety. Management needs to examine their demonstrated practices and commitments. Ask yourselves:
- Do we walk the talk? Let’s face it, to be successful businesses need to be profitable. Does the need to be productive outweigh the organizations commitment to safety. Do you actively support safety even when the organizations profitability declines? Think about it, this just might be the time when you need a safety culture the most.
- Does the organization send mixed messages? Safety may be a priority when other business priorities are being met. But, when the organization needs to cut expenses, is your investment in safety one of the first areas addressed?
- Does the organization get “too busy” for safety? Hopefully not. Because when work activity increases, and safety is deemphasized, losses will increase.
- Does the organization believe buying insurance is a risk control practice? Again, hopefully not. Insurance is never a substitute for safety. But reducing insurance premiums should be a motivation to invest in safety.
The Bottom Line
Developing a safety culture is a challenge and it doesn’t happen overnight. It may require a company to change their business plan and how they value their employees. It must be driven from top management and be evidenced by every employee’s approach to their job. But, consider the rewards of a healthy and productive workplace:
- Fewer accidents
- Lower loss costs
- Reduced insurance premiums
Safety, is clearly an investment with many returns.
Andy Viglietti, Director of Risk Management, Dillon Risk Management
Enterprise Risk Management, as defined by RIMS (The Risk Management Society), is a strategic business discipline that supports the achievement of an organization’s objectives by addressing the full spectrum of its risk and managing the combined impact of those risks as an interrelated risk portfolio. At Dillon Risk Management we incorporate many of these same practices into our routine approach for new and existing customers.
Traditionally, insurance agencies shop rates, match existing coverages and limits and pray they offer the cheapest “deal”. Dillon Risk Management incorporates insurance market cycles, our extensive data analysis, the company’s growth trajectory and most importantly the organization’s “Risk Tolerance”, into our model, when crafting a tailor made solution for their risk management portfolio. Through this process, we’ve developed a strategy which incorporates our customer’s loss patterns, the ups and down of the insurance market cycles and variations in our client’s balance sheet, reducing the risk of a financial shock resulting from the above mentioned causes.
While these strategies may not eliminate all the enterprise risk a given customer may face, we certainly are going leaps and bounds beyond what the traditional insurance agents or broker is capable of for our customers.
Most trucking companies share the same risk management strategy, they buy insurance. These are typically guaranteed cost policies that provide peace of mind because the buyer knows that the most it can cost to manage losses is the policy premium. At the end of the policy period that same buyer often has two frustrating realizations. First, the company paid a lot more for insurance than they experienced in losses and second, their premium for the coming year is going up despite all of that unused premium from this past year. Oh, but that premium was used; it became the underwriting profit for their insurance company.
If all we did at Dillon Risk Management was sell insurance, then our solution to every problem facing our clients would be for them to buy more insurance. As buyers often learn, the truth is insurance is not always the solution and can be part of the problem. The proper application of insurance is to protect your assets against an unexpected or catastrophic loss while retaining the smaller expected or predictable losses yourself.
Buying insurance is not a risk management strategy; it is a risk financing alternative. It is passive and becomes active only after a loss occurs; it is not a risk control measure engaged to prevent losses. Insurance may not even have the effect of reducing losses, it may just pay them. By contrast, a risk management strategy involves both developing a strong commitment to implement effective risk control practices to prevent losses and taking responsibility for funding expected losses.
There are products which allow small to medium trucking companies the same benefits afforded larger companies by assuming a tolerable amount of risk with the top end security of complete protection in the event of a severe loss. Dillon Risk Management facilitates participation in captive programs for small and medium sized fleets that have historically not been able to participate in these risk funding programs. Now they can benefit from the same alternatives available to the “big guys”. We help our clients to focus on identifying their risk appetite by examining the relationship of loss exposures to loss tolerance. From there we can develop responsible methods for managing risk that can benefit our clients financially.
We’ve partnered with an underwriting organization that has developed three captive options for trucking firms as small as 15 units. This risk management product delivers all the benefits of risk retention programs with less volatility. The captives are characterized by efficient claims management, effective loss control and a variety of tax advantages. These captives offer long-term pricing predictability and stability.
Our responsibilities are clear; we help our clients manage their exposures to loss. Agents who only sell insurance have a clouded focus. They may have obligations to both the insurance company and their clients and must serve the interest of both. We have no stock analysts, venture capitalists, shareholders or underwriters we answer to. We have industry professionals that intensively evaluate your fit with available risk financing and risk control alternatives to bring our clients the best solution for their risk management challenges. Dillon Risk Management is equipped to handle the needs of any transportation company throughout the nation.
Insurance companies are in business to make a profit. This is both understandable and expected. But, our clients can also reap the benefits of the investment income and underwriting profit that insurance companies writing guaranteed cost insurance enjoy. The alternatives we offer allow our clients to achieve these returns and to rework their cost structure to be more competitive in their given market sector. Trucking companies are no longer limited to an insurance expense, but instead have a risk management incentive.