By Michael Lorms
As risk managers, you have a working command of business, human resource management, marketing, subcontractors, snow & ice science, and snow & ice operations and techniques. Put these tactics to collaborative practice by working with facilities managers to identify their needs while better protecting your risk.
Incidents have likely occurred at the facilities that you service; that may even be the reason that you have an account. As a result, these incidents impact a company’s bottom line by costing thousands due to worker injuries, lost wages, lost productivity, etc. This may not be the main concern of a facilities manager, so you may have to work with the facilities manager and the safety/loss control division to identify areas where an incident or near miss occurred. If an incident investigation was conducted, it may be a great resource to identify the conditions that were present and were the contributing factors to or direct causes of the incident. This, too, may benefit your organization by controlling and reducing your risk exposure.
Cost of a slip and fall
The cost of a slip and fall can have direct and indirect costs directly associated to the claims. Estimates of direct costs range from $1,000 for a medical-only claim to $20,000+ for a lost-time claim. Indirect costs, while typically gathered as an estimate, may rise as high if not higher than the claim itself. Some factors considered indirect costs include an inability to continue the job, having to change jobs or tasks, requiring additional equipment and resources, changes in quality, decrease in production and inability to be an effective manager and leader, etc.
The reason that you are working for this client is likely because they are concerned with an incident, potentially a slip and fall. You have the potential to work with the facilities manager on locations of concern, materials used, methods implored, certain constraints and engaging with them in the off-season. At this point you have the potential to offer a solution that results in peace of mind.
A client-supporting tool
Developing a worksheet to help you and the client determine trouble spots is essential to being proactive in an effort to alleviate potential risk. Once you or an account manager and the facilities manager create the worksheet, it is necessary to take that map/worksheet to whoever on your staff has that route. The crew chief or plow truck drivers are going to have the best input into your plan for managing the snow and ice at that facility.
Once you have your worksheet created, you can switch gears from what you are doing to eliminate the risk on the client side and protect your own risk. Before speaking with your driver or crew chief, take time to do claims analysis on your end. Take a look at the claims that occurred within your organization to start to build a risk profile of your company. A good place to start is to take a look at your OSHA 300 log. I would suggest looking back five to 10 years to see if you can pick up on some trends such as:
Weather patterns: Did all incidents occur in snow, sleet, ice, rain, etc.? Did the incident occur when clearing for the first time, after initial cleanup?
Experience and time on the job: How experienced was the person who damaged equipment or property or got hurt? Was it their first season? Did they just receive a promotion? Were they a seasoned veteran who may be complacent? Did they just get assigned to a new property or route?
Timing of the incident: Do the majority of incidents fall within the same time frame after the initial snow fall/storm? For instance after X hours or X days we see that we have one major incident and two minor incidents.
Equipment: Is the incident directly related to the equipment you are using? Do the employees understand how the equipment works and the best way to utilize it for the job?
Job or task: Not every employee is capable of every task given to them. As a result, some employees need to be limited to what they are able to do as well as the equipment that they are allowed to operate.
Property: Does one particular property always cause incidents? Does a property have too much exposure for us to continue working with them? Are there outside influences like potential crime or violence issues that present a specific hazard?
Now that you have a profile of the facility from your perspective, the perspective of the client with expectations, and a risk prospective you can begin the process of reducing risk utilizing the hierarchy of control. OSHA defines the hierarchy of control as: elimination, substitution, engineering, administrative controls and personal protective equipment. The list shows the following in the preferred order of risk reduction. Think through each of the aspects that were identified and see if you can devise solutions that apply the hierarchy of control to your risk.
Location: Determine the location of the incident. Is there anything unique to this location?
Condition: What was the condition at the time of the incident? Why was the condition that way? Could clearing frequency improve the condition? Could a material be used to improve this condition? Could a process be used to improve this condition? Could a device or coating be utilized to improve this condition? Could drainage be improved to change this condition? Could the traffic be rerouted to avoid this issue?
Managing your own risk
Now that you have discussed how this impacts your clients it is time to look at your company and operations to analyze how an injury would impact you during the plow season.
Policies: Do you have policies and procedures for the way you expect your employees to operate? Is this just for show? Do you operate within the parameters of your policies or do you break the rules as well? Are there escalating disciplinary actions for behavior that goes against policy?
SOPs: Have you drafted standard operating procedures for the jobs and tasks? Do you check on employees to make sure that they are following what you have outlined in your SOPs? If you found an employee going against your defined SOP, how would you discipline this individual? What actions/steps would be necessary to ensure that the employee knows the correct behavior for the task and has been sufficiently retrained to ensure that the incident does not occur again?
Retraining when a deficiency is identified: What are you doing to ensure that the same behavior that led to or caused the incident is not being repeated? Have you tracked this and do you see how the potential for this may be accounting for the majority of incidents? We like to explore the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle to see if in fact 20% of your workforce is accounting for 80% of your losses. Again it may not be the worker but the outside forces impacting the worker and creating the 80/20 effect.
Observation: This is key in gaining perspective into what the behavior in the field looks like. You may recognize new techniques that your employees have adapted and perfected that can be integrated into your SOPs and rolled out to your other crews.
Getting back into the field: In addition to observation, getting back into the field regularly is essential to ensuring that you have a full picture of the constraints that your employees face.
The audit, exercises, procedures, training and mitigation discussed all require time and money. Devoting resources to this during the off-season could pay dividends during the plow season. Increased focus on safety has also shown to increase morale and productivity as fear regarding the worker’s safety is reduced and all the worker has to focus on is the task at hand.
By working with your client you can gain perspective into their concerns while putting them at ease. By having a worksheet you have compiled, if an issue arises you can then document the aspect on the worksheet so that you have a record and reference. Utilizing the data that you have collected will allow you to be more effective, create a contact with your client, protect your client’s workforce and recognize the hazards that impact your employees.
Michael Lorms is a senior account manager for RiskControl360°. RiskControl360° provides occupational safety and health consulting services to help employers prevent workplace injuries, remain compliant with OSHA regulations and reduce workers’ compensation expenses. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.