Work Safe Kentucky: The KEMI Safety Blog
The City of Ashland faces unique challenges when it comes to maintaining a safe workplace. As a governmental entity with around 300 employees, the City of Ashland is responsible for the safety of all city employees, as well as ensuring the overall safety of their citizens.
The City of Ashland is committed to keeping its employees safe on the job, so we spoke with Risk Manager Mike Adkins to hear how the city achieves their safety goals.
KEMI: What was your safety background before taking on the role of risk manager for the City of Ashland?
Mike: I joined the City of Ashland in late 2014, but I first entered the field of risk management in 1996 to develop and deliver fee based consulting and training engagement service for a commercial insurance agency. Most of these services centered on improving safety practices, reducing workers’ compensation costs and developing safety and employment practices programs. This is also when I completed most of my formal training and education in safety and achieved applicable industry designations.
A major portion of this time was as Director of Risk Management in charge of safety, loss control, workers’ compensation and employment practices risk where, I dealt with various entities ranging from manufacturers, distributors, and construction to public entities, retail, and healthcare. This also included consulting and training work with captive and risk pool insurance programs.
Prior to this I was in senior management positions in manufacturing, initially as a quality manager and later as a manufacturing and distribution operations manager. During this period I was also responsible for the safety of the plant’s employees and the work I did there really formed the foundation for everything I have done since in safety and loss control.
KEMI: What are your responsibilities as the city’s risk manager?
Mike: My responsibility is to manage and serve as subject matter expert for employee safety, medically restricted return to work, drug and alcohol testing and of course the property and casualty insurance program. This position is in the City’s Human Resources Department and covers approximately 300 employees, spanning 7 departments and 23 different divisions within those departments, including all public service and utility plant and field operations plus police and fire.
KEMI: From your perspective has safety always been a top priority for the City of Ashland?
Mike:Yes, from my perspective safety has always been a top priority, and it always will be. I believe it to be an expectation of the job not simply an add on or slogan. All groups are supportive of our safety efforts including department and division heads, the city manager, and elected officials. Everyone understands the adverse impact that comes from unsafe practices, both to our employees and the citizens we serve.
I think all of our employees understand that as a governmental entity we have a commitment to provide the best quality of the service we can to the community, and in doing that safety has to be a top priority.
KEMI: What aspects of the safety program do you feel have been most effective to making sure that the cities employees stay safe?
Mike: Consistently pre-planning training is an important aspect. This includes specialized training and broad-based training, not only for policies and compliance but also for targeted hazards. Communication is also a key component and I always stress a sense of urgency in hazard identification, reporting accidents or other incidents and completing investigations.
We also established a 24-hour injury hotline that is dedicated to City of Ashland employees, which is with a locally based medical center. It is staffed by registered nurses so unless it is a severe injury that requires a trip to the emergency room, employees may call this hotline and the nurse will give them basic advice and their available options for nearby quality treatment. This includes a summary report I received within a short time frame which helps me get the first report of injury in very quickly.
Additionally, our certified drug free workplace program has been crucial to our hiring process and ongoing monitoring. The Program is extremely valuable to our employee safety as well as the general safety of our city’s residents.
KEMI: What safety challenges do you feel you’ve had to overcome?
Mike: When I first joined the city, there had been a turnover of risk managers and a gap between managers. Initially, I had to gain the confidence of the employees and overcome a certain degree of hesitancy to get everyone on the same page on how we approached safety and in achieving a greater sense of urgency, which is critical to any safety initiative and in controlling costs.
Another area is in achieving the consistent use and application of personal protective equipment. Our current city manager has also championed this during the past year, which has helped drive consistency.
KEMI: What has been one of the greatest successes in safety that you have seen since joining City of Ashland?
Mike:We have achieved a greater sense of urgency in reporting and overcoming delays when addressing hazards that has been extremely important to let employees know the we consider this to be a priority. This has been done across all departments and has really instilled a sense of ownership. The time, commitment, and ownership that our supervisors exhibit has contributed directly to the improvements we’ve made in employee safety, and involvement. This is a driving force behind the improvements we have experienced in incurred cost and our experience mod. That strong sense of urgency to stay on top of things is critical to benefiting our employees and the City’s insurance costs.
KEMI: What are the most effective tools that you have when it comes to managing safety?
Mike: I really think it all starts with a consistent, but simple, approach. Our safety program has to be effective, it has to be informative, and I think it needs to be plainly spoken. Over the years I’ve learned that you need to try and eliminate the jargon and focus on making sure that everyone is on the same page. There also needs to be active listening. You have to listen to what is being asked or stated with sincere appreciation and respect for the experience and ideas of others.
KEMI: What KEMI services have you found to be most beneficial to you as the risk manager?
Mike: Everyone we work with at KEMI has been very responsive and professional, and the website platform is extremely helpful. I’m on the safety section or in the claims platform on a daily basis. One of the two key elements that have been most helpful for me is the assistance I get from your dedicated claims staff, and the commitment to respond to my inquiries, which I receive from the point person, Marisol Rose.
In addition, the assistance I have received from your Loss Education and Safety group, specifically our representative, Zach Boggs, who has been very active in all of our training efforts has been a great resource for information on a regular basis. Our employees like working with him and we all really appreciate his expertise. He has been a huge asset to improving safety across the board.
KEMI: What is coming next for the City of Ashland and your safety efforts?
Mike: We recognize that there is much room for improvement. There has to be. At the start of this calendar year we initiated a plan to address selected areas that I considered to have room for improvement. We started working on these things with a long-term plan of action.
We want to continue to enhance employee awareness, training, monitoring, and improve communication to increase the visibility of safety. We also want to encourage more involved participation and communication at all levels.
I also want to utilize more of KEMI’s online tools, and work toward a greater use of leading indicators. While you have to walk before you can run, I feel like we are off to a great start.
To learn more about the City of Ashland, visit http://www.ashlandky.gov. For free workplace safety resources from KEMI, visit www.worksafeky.com.
Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance (KEMI) is honoring fourteen Kentucky organizations as KEMI Destiny Award winners for their commitment and success in maintaining a safe workplace.
The Destiny Awards are presented annually by KEMI to policyholders that best exemplify KEMI’s motto, “Control your own destiny.” The awards symbolize what can be accomplished when organizations work together to improve workplace safety. Policyholders who earn the KEMI Destiny Award effectively demonstrate to KEMI their ability to manage a formal safety program, provide on-site training and regular safety meetings for employees, and display an ongoing commitment to safety from all levels throughout their organizations.
The following policyholders were selected after meeting a stringent set of criteria set forth by KEMI:
- Ale 8 One Bottling Company
- Big Rivers Electric Corporation
- Brandenburg Telephone Company
- Brighton Center
- Campbellsville University
- City of Madisonville
- Edmonson County Board of Education
- Executive Transportation
- Frankfort Plant Board
- Glenwood Electric
- Hibbs Electromechanical
- Kentucky Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company
- Northern Kentucky Water District
- Utility Management Group
“The 2017 Destiny Award winners embrace a commitment to safety that demonstrates how much they care for the health and well-being of their employees,” said Jon Stewart, President & CEO of KEMI. “Safe workplaces don’t happen by accident. The organizations who earned this honor understand the value of investing in safety and partnering with KEMI to control their workers’ compensation costs, but at the end of the day what matters most is sending each employee home safely to their loved ones.”
A key component of workplace safety comes from employees being able to watch out for one another. However, working alone presents a fundamental challenge to watchfulness. How can someone watch a colleague’s back if that colleague is out of sight?
Working alone can increase the likelihood of some workplace hazards or risks and, when incidents do occur, the consequences can be more severe. Here are some quick tips to help make sure that you stay safe while working alone.
Stop and consider the work involved
Start by identifying all potential risks on the job site. Think through the entire situation, and identify what possible hazards are present, or can arise, for each step of the task. Be sure you consider the location, nature of the work, what forms of emergency communication are available, and length of time you will be working alone. Also, it is extremely important to be aware of all possible high risk activities, such as working from heights, with electricity, or hazardous equipment/materials, as these present a greater risk to a lone worker.
Analyze and manage the situation
After identifying all potential hazards, it is best to assess the situation. Determine whether you are fully equipped with the knowledge, training, and tools to safely complete the task. If you are fully equipped to handle the situation, then you may safely remove the hazards and use the proper tools to complete the task. However, if you find that you are underprepared for dealing with the hazards, immediately contact a supervisor or safety specialist to report what you have found. Most importantly, be cautious. If something does not feel safe, then do not proceed.
Communication is key when working alone. Whether by radio or phone, it is always a good idea to check to make sure that someone knows where you are. Be sure to report any potential hazards to a supervisor or safety specialist as you encounter them. This will help ensure that at least one other worker knows that you were at a potential risk, and he or she can then communicate the potential hazard to any other worker who may be impacted. It is best to stay aware of what others on the job site are doing, and by regularly checking in, you are helping to promote a safe work environment for all. Remember that everyone’s job begins with making sure safety comes first.
KEMI is encouraging employers to participate in the OSHA National Safety Stand-Down, a voluntary event where employers will talk directly to employees about safety. Managers are encouraged to plan a stand-down that works best for their workplace anytime during May 8-12, 2017.
How does it work?
This year, the focus of the Stand-Down is on “Fall Hazards” and reinforcing the importance of “Fall Prevention.” Your organization may participate simply by taking a break to have a toolbox talk or another safety activity such as conducting safety equipment inspections, developing rescue plans, or discussing job specific hazards.
Register today and receive a link to KEMI’s Stand-Down for Safety page which contains helpful resources you can share! Additionally, employers will be able to provide feedback to OSHA about their Stand-Down and download a Certificate of Participation signed by Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez following the Stand-Down.
Organizations are also encouraged to highlight their participation by sharing photos with KEMI via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on social media (tag @KEMIworkerscomp and use the hashtag #standdown4safety).