| Fall 2006
Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Safety Program
By David Wylie
You know those magazines they keep at grocery store checkouts? The covers are full of headlines like, "Top 10 Ways to Get in Shape" and "Earn More Money in Five Easy Steps." There's a reason these magazines are so popular: They give busy readers helpful, and sometimes not so helpful, tips in an easy-to-read format.
With that in mind, here are ten tips to help busy employers like you improve your safety program, increase your productivity and control your claim costs.
- Focus on safety early. Safety training should be a key part of your new-employee orientation process. Do not let employees start work until they understand the hazards of the job and demonstrate that they can do each task safely. Safety training is also important for current employees who take on new tasks.
- Practice behavior-based safety. Behavior-based safety programs are all-inclusive. Everyone, from the president to front-line employees, works proactively to identify and eliminate hazards. Employees are accountable for not only their own safety, but also their co-workers' safety.
- Track your accident trends. You can use the loss run and claim detail tool to find out which job tasks and areas of your facility have experienced the highest number of accidents. If you are not registered to use Texas Mutual® online services, complete the free, online application.
- Account for language barriers. In 2005, Hispanics accounted for 40 percent—a 33 percent increase from 2004—of workplace fatalities in Texas, according to the Texas Department of Insurance Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. If you have employees who do not speak English, use more pictures and fewer words to get your message across. Teach your supervisors conversational Spanish, or ask bilingual employees to interpret safety messages. Make sure Spanish-speaking workers understand that it is OK to report unsafe conditions and ask supervisors to repeat instructions to their teams.
- Remember young workers. Every summer, millions of teenagers pound the pavement looking for work. If some of them land on your doorstep, remember that they are often inexperienced and scared to ask questions. One of the best things you can do to help them stay safe on the job is simply be approachable. Just like with Spanish-speaking workers, make sure teenagers believe that nobody will reprimand them for pointing out hazards or admitting they do not understand safety procedures.
- Fight substance abuse. Alcoholics and drug addicts don't always leave their problems at the door when they report to work. Employees who abuse substances may put themselves and their co-workers at risk of being involved in workplace accidents. You can clean up the problem by launching a "zero tolerance" substance abuse policy. Your policy may combine pre-employment drug testing with "for cause" and random testing for current employees. Consult an attorney before you launch a substance abuse policy to ensure you comply with all laws.
- Hire effectively. Good hiring practices can help you weed out the type of employees who abuse substances and ignore safety practices. Good hiring practices include thorough background and reference checks, post-offer physical exams and drug screening (see number six). Make sure your hiring process complies with the Texas Labor Code and Americans with Disabilities Act. The Texas Department of Public Safety offers criminal history checks at http://records.txdps.state.tx.us.
- Investigate accidents. Every gardener knows you have to pull weeds out by their roots. The same goes for workplace accidents. Your first priority when accidents happen is getting appropriate medical attention for the injured worker. Afterward, investigate the accident as soon as possible to uncover and correct the root causes. Treat near-misses, which are accidents that almost happened, the same way.
- Prepare for emergencies. Natural disasters are among the few hazards that employers in all industries face. Make sure your employees know exactly what to do during a fire, tornado or other emergency. If you have more than 10 employees, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires you to have written emergency preparedness procedures. To find out what information your procedures must include, click here.
- Use online safety tools. The online safety resource center has free tools you can use to improve your program. It includes a multimedia library of DVDs, videos, pamphlets and other training materials. The resources are free, and many are available in Spanish. If you are not registered to use Texas Mutual® online services, complete the free, online application.
When accidents happen
Any employer can use these tips to improve their safety program. Of course, injuries are bound to happen, even in the safest workplaces. When they do, you can help control their costs by carefully managing your claims.
Start by reporting injuries as soon as possible. The quickest way to report an injury is online. When Texas Mutual Insurance Company opens a claim, you can monitor benefit payments and the injured employees' work status by using the online loss run and claim detail tool. You can also help injured employees get back on the job by creating a return-to-work process that includes alternative productive work.
COMPNEWS - Fall 2006
Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Safety Program
Texas Mutual Expands Network Service Areas
New Interactive Tools Help Employers Improve Workplace Safety
New Program Recognizes Safe Workplaces
You Need to Know