Operations

How To Manage Risk, Control Costs, And Promote Safety

Anne Daniells
Posted on July 22, 2016

Don't slip up when it comes to safety.
Don't slip up when it comes to safety.
Too often, operators put controls in place only after experiencing an avoidable loss. The loss may have been due to an accident, or a fine based on a missed industry requirement. The consequences of waiting include increased injury rates, lawsuits, citations, and costs, while struggling with reduced productivity. It’s better to be ready when the inevitable happens.

Operators should develop a consistent approach to safety to reduce hazards before a critical event or loss occurs. By planning ahead, operators benefit from increased awareness, fewer accident rates, increased efficiency and morale, and lower loss-related expenses.

“There is no silver bullet to prevent all losses,” says Paul Stock, director of risk management at National Interstate Insurance Company. Along with Alex Gesicki, a risk management associate colleague, Stock led attendees at the 2016 International LCT Show through ways to improve operational safety. They emphasized “safety as an asset” that must be treated with respect to build a solid record and save money.

You Get What You Put Up With

While myriad accidents can happen, critical events can nearly always be blamed on unsafe acts and/or conditions. Companies simply get what they are willing to put up with, Gesicki said. A vigilant approach begins with upper management buying into safety and wanting to create a culture of safety for the company. If all levels will not tolerate unsafe conditions, then things will inevitably improve.

Basics of a Safety Culture include three key elements: 1) All employees believe they have a right to a safe and healthy workplace; 2) Each person accepts responsibility for ensuring personal safety and health; and 3) Everyone believes they have a duty to protect the health and safety of others.

At all levels, the business must be involved and dedicated to a safety culture, and companies must design internal processes to reinforce safety through meaningful measurements and accountability. Getting there takes time and dedication, and the core value and beliefs of any group will emerge as the culture grows. A well-defined safety culture, however, tells each employee the company values safety.

Establishing A Safety Culture

Knowing where you stand is the first step. To start, use the questions listed with this article to evaluate your situation. If the answer is “no” to any of these, you have work to do. Waiting will only make it worse.

A safety culture results from positive workplace attitudes toward safety — from the president to the newest hire. It creates involvement of all employees, and it fosters responsibility and accountability at all levels. Meaningful and measurable safety and health goals also belong to a strong work culture, as well as employee training at all levels. All should be based on policies and procedures that reinforce the company’s commitment.

Technology is a major part of any operator’s ability to measure standards. For this industry, automated recorders, adaptive cruise control, and vehicle features such as lane departure warning systems help promote safety. Invest in them for better safety, tout them within the organization, and don’t be stingy. Even several hundred dollars more in safety features per vehicle will likely pay for itself with fewer accidents.

With technology in place, the company should focus on its employees. First, look for major issues. Track near misses (which will indicate the next accident), identify weaknesses, listen to coworkers, and ask yourself what keeps you up at night. Then get humble and work on controlling processes.

Stock and Gesicki are available via email at Paul.Stock@natl.com and Alex.Gesicki@sclsonline.com. For further reading, try Pre-Accident Investigation: An Introduction to Organizational Safety by Todd Conklin. It is available in paperback on Amazon and Google Books.
Stock and Gesicki are available via email at [email protected] and [email protected] For further reading, try Pre-Accident Investigation: An Introduction to Organizational Safety by Todd Conklin. It is available in paperback on Amazon and Google Books.

Spot Weaknesses & Control Them

Some things will be obvious, but every employee sees the organization from a different perspective. So identify and evaluate hazards in each of your processes:

  1. Complete a safety analysis for every job that presents a hazard
  2. Assess facility hazards inside and out, and
  3. Complete a review of operational processes for risks and exposures.

Job safety by position will vary considerably, but analyzing it is fundamental to understanding needed improvements. To help the process, Stock suggests a form like OSHA’s for job safety reviews available on the LCT website. Individual job assessment is an important beginning that involves all employees. It also demonstrates the company’s commitment to all employees — and the changes needed are probably simple and inexpensive to make.

Include the office areas, the maintenance shop, the parking lot, and every piece of equipment as well with input from a variety of employees who have specific job knowledge. It may be as simple as improving lighting in certain area.

Then, review safety in all procedures. From hiring qualifications and training to dispatch and fleet management, every process should be assessed for safety weaknesses.

Lastly, don’t forget to evaluate internal processes of the operation, such as daily activities that influence operations, scheduling of employees, and dispatch procedures. Fatigue and rushing among drop-offs and pick-ups sounds obvious, of course, so look deeper. For example, new hotels and pick up locations should be evaluated for safety and have operating information readily available to avoid accidents. Maybe a larger vehicle cannot safely maneuver in the front venue, so an alternative should be chosen. If one person knows the safest way to operate at that hotel or venue, then everyone should know it in an efficient safety culture. “Operational processes pose a number of risks for a company,” Stock warned. “So manage outcomes before they manage you,” and risks will be reduced.

Assessment is the easier part, but being thorough takes practice. The most important but difficult step is to put safety procedures and processes in action each day. When you discover a necessary improvement, the policies and procedures must show it. Every department may need to rewrite instructions, retrain employees, clarify safety roles, and make safety a visible goal to every other employee. Great ideas mean little without meaningful action, and putting appropriate safeguards in place is central to creating a pervasive safety culture.

Continuous Improvement After An Accident

How you respond to an event matters, Gesicki said. “Immediate response should be about the present situation and determining if everyone is safe and assets secure.” But then you must review the factors that led to the dangerous event. What worked well in the safety culture and what did not? He adds, “Ask ‘Where else could this happen so we can avoid it in the future?’”

One of the most important processes is this review. To make it helpful for all, it should include all levels of employees on a safety committee. Stock suggests choosing representatives from fleet/mechanic, facilities, chauffeur training, dispatch, and from among chauffeurs. This way, everyone is included and accountable. If only management reviews accidents and determines the mistakes, the safety culture will be compromised. Every employee has a responsibility to work safely. This has a double benefit: It improves company culture and morale.

With aggressive efforts, a commitment to constantly evaluate and improve safety will save money as well. Operators stay on offense by eliminating complacency that could lead to accidents and higher costs.

Self-Assessment Of Saftey
  • Is upper management committed to safety? Are the company’s safety goals defined? Are they a part of your mission statement?
  • Are managers and supervisors involved in safety, and are they responsible to observe, monitor, and track safety performance?
  • Does the company have safety roles and responsibilities defined for each employee?
  • Do operations promote safety and engage employees often?
  • Are employees required to report unsafe acts and hazardous conditions, and is the information tracked?
  • Are safety incentives provided to all employees?
  • For employees who violate safety policies, is there defined discipline?
  • Does your company use a formal safety committee to review all unsafe events?
  • Are all employees trained recurrently in safe work practices?
  • Do employees report near misses, and is the information tracked?
  • Does your company invest in the tools, training personnel, etc. you need to create and maintain a strong safety culture?
  • Is your safety committee or department empowered to make necessary safety decisions?

Related Topics: accident reduction, company culture, driver safety, How To, ILCT, Las Vegas, Safety, safety education

Anne Daniells contributing writer
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