Safety reward program results in 'huge ROI'

Worker's comp costs cut more than 90%

Digital cameras, blenders, food processors, waffle makers, espresso machines, jewelry, luggage, gas grills, fishing rods, and telescopes. These are some of the items that workers at Wika Instrument Corp., a Lawrenceville, GA-based manufacturer of pressure and temperature instrumentation, can receive for improving their own safety.

A Safety Recognition program gives employees points for improving safety goals and initiatives. These can be redeemed online for merchandise. As a result of the program, the company decreased its worker's compensation costs by more then 90%, from $1.35 per $100 in payroll in 2005 to 10 cents per $100 in 2007. "We also saw a marked increase in employees' adherence to safety guidelines," says Catherine Bochenek, the company's environmental, health, and safety manager.

The program was implemented by Michael C. Fina, a New York City-based provider of employee recognition solutions, and other safety initiatives. Employees can earn points each quarter in four ways:

  • if their department is in compliance;
  • if they are in compliance as an individual;
  • if they don't have a recordable injury, as recognized by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA);
  • by making a safety suggestion.

The largest number of points is earned by the whole department passing an audit, in order to encourage teamwork and camaraderie. "When a safety audit is performed in their area, employees cheer on their coworkers to answer safety-related questions," says Bochenek.

Audits are done every quarter with a checklist of about 80 items of OSHA requirements and company safety policies, either checked by observation or with questions that employees have to answer. "Supervisors audit work cells that do not belong to them," says Bochenek. "The auditor for a particular work cell changes every quarter, to have a fresh set of eyes auditing and to share best practices with other work cells."

At first, Bochenek says she was worried that the program might "drive injuries underground" because employees get an incentive for not having injured themselves. When the program first started, any first aid case resulted in an employee not receiving points. If workers failed to report minor injuries, this could result in infections developing in poorly cleaned wounds, or masking of training or procedural deficiencies. Shortly after the program started, it was made clear that only OSHA-recordable injuries would result in loss of points.

The program has dramatically improved department compliance. "Everyone looks out for everyone else," says Bochenek. "People make sure their coworkers are paying attention during training, because they know they are going to be questioned on it."

Bochenek says the company spent about $20,000 in the past year. "We only get charged when the employee purchases something, so we really haven't spent a whole lot of money," she says. Employee safety ideas, which are submitted in writing, have also resulted in savings.

Ask these questions during safety audits

Below are some sample questions asked of employees during safety audits at Wiki Instrument Corp.:

  • If there is a fire, what is your primary route of exit?
  • Do all employees know what a MSDS is and the information it provides?
  • Do all employees know where to find MSDSs?
  • Do all employees know what "lockout/tagout" is?
  • Do all employees know what to do if a lock or tag is on their machine?
  • Do all employees understand that injuries must be reported to their supervisor immediately?
  • Do all employees know and understand bloodborne pathogens?
  • Do all employees know their collection area for severe weather?

Employees are also asked specific questions based on training they received that quarter, such as:

  • Do all chemical containers used on your line need a label?
  • When cutting open a box, do you cut toward yourself or away from yourself?

One employee with an aching back asked for a cart that raises and lowers hydraulically so she would not have to bend over. "We implemented that to see how well it would work, and it was tremendous," says Bochenek. "We ended up buying about 20 of the carts, which cost $260, for every single work cell, and our back injuries went to zero. The company had a huge ROI." (For more information on the carts that were purchased, see resource box, below. Do you have an innovative idea for cutting workers' compensation costs? Contact Stacey Kusterbeck, Editor, Hospital Access Management, at (631) 425-9760 or StaceyKusterbeck@aol.com.)

SOURCE/RESOURCE

For more information on the safety recognition program, contact:

  • Catherine Bochenek, Environmental, Health, and Safety Manager, Wika Instrument Corp., Lawrenceville, GA. Phone: (770) 513-8200 E-mail: cbochenek@wika.com.
  • The Mobile Scissor Lift Table with 330-pound capacity purchased by Navistar is manufactured by Ontario, Canada-based Bishamon. To order, telephone (800) 358-8833 or (909) 390-0055. Web: www.bishamon.com.