Effective safety programs increase profitability by reducing employee injuries

By Keith Bullock, Safety Consultant, BWC Division of Safety and Hygiene, OSHA On-site Consultation Program

As a workplace safety professional, I see firsthand why establishing a safety program may seem daunting to many small businesses. These employers tell me that tight budgets and time constraints are just a few concerns they face.

However, there are effective, low cost and highly flexible options available. The core elements of such a program can be implemented at a basic level suitable for the smallest business, as well as at a more advanced, structured level that may be needed in a larger, more complex organization.

OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which recognizes small business employers that operate exemplary injury and illness prevention programs, demonstrates these programs can and do work for small businesses. For example, BWC analyzed the policies of 16 SHARP employers from 1999 to 2010. The study compared the employers’ experience prior to and after achieving entry into the SHARP program. The preliminary results of the study show:

  • the average number of claims for these companies decreased by 52%,
  • the average claim cost decreased by 80%
  • the average lost time per claim decreased by 87%
  • claims (per $1 million dollars of payroll) decreased by 88%

Beavercreek’s United Church Homes/Trinity Community was part of the study. The nursing home was the first SHARP health-care facility in Ohio. BWC safety and industrial hygiene consultants worked with Trinity’s management and staff for more than two years to implement changes in safety policies and programs, and help them reach their goal of becoming SHARP certified.

Changes included a “no-lift” policy to minimize manual resident lifting tasks. A safety team was also created to regularly review programs and policies, and update staff and residents on safety issues. Members of the Trinity safety team are pictured below.

       

Looking back from 2004 to 2017, Trinity Community continues to reduce its overall workers’ compensation claims (and therefore costs). See chart below.

It is important to note, SHARP participation does not mean a company’s safety program is perfect, savings will vary slightly year to year. But, OSHA On-Site Consultants are committed to assist you analyze, track and manage risk.

A separate internal OSHA study of nine SHARP firms, ranging in size from 15 – 160 employees, found that firms achieved the following because of their programs:

  • A reduction in the number of injuries and illnesses.
  • Improved compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Improved business and cost savings including improved productivity, reduced workers’ compensation premiums, reduced administrative and human resource burden associated with filing injury and illness reports, managing workers’ compensation cases and retraining new employees.
  • Improved workplace environment with greater collective responsibility for workplace health and safety.
  • Improved reputation and image in the community including relationships and cooperation between employers and OSHA, between employers and employees, and among employers in the business community.

SHARP Program participation starts with a free consultation service from consultants like myself. We explain to employers the potential hazards at their worksites, and how they can improve their occupational injury and illness prevention programs, and even qualify for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections. Most consultations take place on-site, though limited services away from the worksite are available.

Primarily targeted for smaller businesses, this program is separate from the OSHA inspection effort and no citations are issued or penalties proposed. It’s confidential, too. We don’t report your name, your firm’s name, or any information you provide about your workplace to the OSHA inspection staff. We also don’t report any unsafe or unhealthful working conditions we may uncover.

Your only obligation will be to correct serious job safety and health hazards. That’s a commitment that would benefit all Ohio employers by protecting their workers from injury and lowering their costs.

If have questions or would like to schedule a visit, please call me at 614-865-9750.

Do you want to know Ohio’s best kept workplace safety secret?

By Ranzy Brown, Safety and Health Consultant, OSHA On-Site Consultation Program

Last month, I had the pleasure of teaching a class called The Best Kept Secret in Ohio at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo.  My presentation let the audience in on this secret: BWC’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program. Most of the almost 60 people in the room had never heard of us or what we do.

I began the session with a brief history of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the consultation program, then explained who is eligible to receive our free and confidential services. Basically, all employers covered by OSHA regulations can request an On-Site consultation. The program gives priority to privately-owned smaller businesses, and those in high-hazard industries. Typically, a grant from OSHA funds 90 percent of the program while BWC covers the other 10 percent (this year it’s closer to an 86-14 split). This means there is never any charge to use our services.

Most of the questions focused on the relationship between consultation and enforcement. I believe most employers want to do the right thing and provide a safe workplace; sometimes they are simply unaware of hazards that exist in their businesses. Our consultants point out these hazards with the understanding that the employer will abate the serious ones.  Our services are confidential from OSHA, however, if an employer refuses to abate serious hazards, we can refer them for possible enforcement action. While an employer is actively working with OSHA On-Site Consultation, they have “visit in progress” status, which means OSHA cannot open a programmed enforcement inspection.

Additionally, businesses that have an exemplary safety and health program can qualify for the programmed inspection exemption for up to three years by becoming a SHARP employer. SHARP – Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program – companies have demonstrated excellence in all aspects of managing safety and health.

I ended the class by sharing information about how attendees can contact the OSHA On-Site Consultation program to ask questions or request a consultation. I also covered how recent OSHA standard revisions (e.g., walking and working surfaces or recordkeeping) could impact their workplaces. Developing a relationship with an On-Site consultant can make it easier to keep up with changes and make staying in compliance easier.

After the session, I had a good conversation with several people regarding work policies and practices that could be OSHA violations in their workplaces. My fellow consultants want to help your business too.

Check out the Division of Safety and Hygiene’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program

By Greg Collins, Industrial Safety Administrator, On-site Consultation

Working with the BWC’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program can provide many benefits to a small, high-hazard employers. Here are a few of the benefits available from working with us:

  • small employer - blog postGet cost-effective professional occupational safety and health consulting for your work site. Call 1-800-282-1425 and request a visit. The Program’s services are free to small, high-hazard employers. The majority of these services are paid for through a grant from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the rest by BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene.

high hazard employer - blog

  • Get free hazard detection services and advice on hazard corrections. Program consultants conduct surveys of your facility, and provide a report which lists the hazardous conditions discovered along with advice for correcting the hazards.
  • Get free industrial hygiene sampling of processes in your facility. Upon request, the program’s industrial hygienists will evaluate your operations, and then conduct the sampling necessary to determine what the levels of air contaminants or noise levels are in your facility. They will use this information to help put together advice for improving the conditions in your facility if necessary.
  • sharp logoImprove a safety and health management system so that it is an exemplary system. Using tools such as the program’s safety and health assessment worksheet, safety consultants will assist employers in evaluating their safety and health management systems, and provide advice for making improvements and charting progress. Successful participants may elect to participate in OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which is a program that recognizes companies with exemplary programs, and provides to them an exemption from general schedule OSHA inspections. SHARP is an OSHA program administered by BWC.
  • Receive conditional protection from general schedule OSHA inspections while working on improving your program. Participants in the consultation program receive what is referred to as “consultation in progress status.” This means that while an employer is working with the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program, OSHA will not conduct general scheduled inspections at your work site. OSHA will still respond to fatalities, complaints, recordkeeping self-reporting, and disasters at your work site during a consultation.

The OSHA On-Site Consultation Program conducts about 900 visits per year. Please consider joining these other employers who are benefiting from our services.

Click here to find out more about the Division of Safety and Hygiene.