What does it mean to innovate?

SafetyInnovationsWebHeaderBy Bernie Silkowski, Director of Technical Services and Support, Division of Safety & Hygiene

What does it mean to innovate?  Is it to come up with a new idea or invent a new product or service?  Does modifying an existing process or applying it in a different way qualify as being innovative?

Actually, innovate means to go beyond conceiving or building the idea, invention, or modification by turning it into something that is useful, meaningful, and adds value.  In the case of safety and health, innovation means turning it into something that reduces either the likelihood of employees being injured, the severity of any potential injuries, or both.  That alone is reason to innovate.  The bonus is that safety innovations almost always have other benefits such as improvements in productivity, employee morale, and the bottom line.

BWC is looking for such workplace innovations that have made it safer for Ohio employees to work and earn a living.  The application period for BWC’s 2017 Safety Innovation Awards is now open.  As I said when writing about the 2016 awards, we don’t consider whether the innovation is high-tech, low-tech, or no-tech.  What matters are risk reduction, cost savings, and potential application to other workplaces, industries, or operations.

Just as success breeds success, innovation breeds innovation.  By sharing and recognizing safety innovations we inspire others to create and share their own.  With that in mind, check out the past winners to see if any inspire you or help you to realize you have an innovation worthy of submitting.

In the five years we’ve been making these awards, this is what we’ve learned about the typical characteristics of an award-winning safety innovation:

1. The problem often is identified by the employees.  Management listens.

2. Management taps the creativity of employees and involves them in developing and implementing a customized solution.

3. Management consults with a safety, ergonomics, or industrial hygiene professional to better understand the issue and ensure the innovation meets safety standards without creating new hazards.

4. The solution eliminates the hazard or reduces exposure to the hazard while making the overall work process more efficient.

5. A process is in place to ensure proper use and maintenance of the innovation, such as training and an inspection procedure.

6. The concept or technology is transferrable to other situations.

7. Everyone in the organization is proud of their innovation.

If you are an Ohio employer—or know one– that has taken an innovative step to reduce risk of injury or illness, check out the award criteria and application.

Applications will be accepted until September 30, 2016.  Five finalists will receive cash awards and state-wide recognition at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo in Columbus March 8 to 10, 2017.

Innovation is one way Ohio continues to drive its injury rate down: fewer employees get injured, productivity increases, and workers’ compensation costs decrease.   It’s a win for employees.  It’s a win for employers.  It’s a win for Ohio!

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