Work Safe Kentucky: The KEMI Safety Blog
One of the most common dilemmas companies face when dealing with employee safety is training. Time is valuable, and many companies struggle to find the time to assemble employees and decide what topics to present.
As a loss control consultant, some of the most frequently asked questions I receive relate to safety training. In order to protect our human and financial resources, we need to provide a certain amount of training to ensure that workplace hazards, safety guidelines and our overall safety vision is being communicated effectively.
And let’s not forget about satisfying our regulatory obligations. State and federal agencies such as OSHA and MSHA have training requirements that must be met in order to maintain compliance and avoid costly violations in the event of an inspection.
So how do we implement a practical training program that educates employees and maintains compliance without draining the bottom line?
Decide Which Topics to Cover
First, determine which safety topics to cover with employees throughout the year. Base these topics on the kind of work employees perform and the workplace hazards they face, such as working from heights, safe equipment operation, and avoiding exposure to hazardous materials. Emergency preparation measures such as CPR/first aid, fire extinguishers, and preparation drills should also be taken into consideration.
Another tool to help identify which safety topics to focus on is an injury data report from your loss runs (KEMI makes these available to our registered users on KEMI.com) or your organization’s OSHA 300 logs. These reports may provide a clearer picture of what areas need improvement and where training time can be most effectively spent.
An effective training program will consist of both the required compliance-based topics and the awareness level topics, which are not required by law but are no less important. Awareness level topics include items such as heat stress, tool safety, back safety, electrical awareness, and fall prevention, while compliance-based standards include hazard communication, bloodborne pathogens, personal protective equipment (PPE), and fall protection. Regulatory compliance standards vary based on the industry, and certain OSHA standards, such as Lock Out/Tag Out (LOTO) call for different levels of training dependent upon the responsibility of the employees involved. It is always a good idea to get the opinion of a safety professional, such as a loss control consultant or a member of OSHA’s education and training division, when determining regulatory training needs.
Determine the Training Frequency
Once the training need has been identified, the next objective is to determine when and how often to provide training. It is important to note that many of these topics can be covered in a short period of time with minimal preparation. Many companies are successful with short 10-15 minute meetings on a weekly or monthly basis accompanied by a monthly or quarterly training session to cover the more complex topics.
Companies that struggle to assemble all their employees in one location may elect to conduct the more complex training seminars one or two days a year, but the best practice is to continue providing frequent awareness messages through emails, newsletters, and safety flyers throughout the year. Regardless of the delivery method, frequent awareness messages foster a culture of safety by keeping the topic on the minds of employees.
Another important consideration when developing your training schedule should be how to handle educating new hires on your company’s safety expectations. Here at KEMI, safety training is a part of the initial orientation process whenever we hire new employees, and we have an annual review of our overall safety program while also providing regular safety reminders to employees on our internal website. One of the most common recommendations I have for companies is to develop a new hire checklist that documents specific items new employees should be trained on when they are hired.
Keep Track of Your Progress
Last but not least, it is crucially important to document all your organization’s safety training activities regardless of how complex or simple they may be. This documentation should include the topic, trainer, date, and signatures of those in attendance (click here to access our free safety training sign-in sheet). Good record keeping is not only beneficial in the event of an OSHA inspection, but it may also be shared with your insurance provider to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to keeping your employees safe.
KEMI is committed to promoting safer workplaces throughout Kentucky. We offer an extensive collection of free safety resources at www.worksafeky.com and we also provide free onsite training opportunities to our policyholder covering a wide range of topics. Assistance is also available through KYOSHA’s education and training division here.
If you have any safety questions or concerns, the KEMI Loss Education & Safety team is happy to help. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 859-425-7800.
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.
The following policyholders were selected after meeting a stringent set of criteria set forth by KEMI:
- Ale 8 One Bottling Company*
- Armag Corporation
- Big Rivers Electric Corporation
- Cardinal Industrial Insulation Company
- Chu Con Incorporated
- City of Madisonville
- Clas Coal Company*
- D-C Elevator Company
- Hebron Fire Protection District
- Hibbs Electromechanical
- Kentuckiana Comfort Center
- Kentucky Farm Bureau Mutual Ins. Co.
- Northern Kentucky Water District*
- S & S Tool and Machine Company
“KEMI is honored to present the 2016 Destiny Award to the management and employees of these organizations,” said Jon Stewart, President & CEO of KEMI. “Safer workplaces not only lead to lower workers’ compensation costs, but more importantly it means that employees are going home to their loved ones safely at the end of each shift.”Measures which have helped reduce workers’ compensation costs for this elite group of policyholders include the implementation of formal safety programs, the completion of on-site training and regular safety meetings, and an ongoing commitment to safety from all levels throughout their organizations.
As the leaves begin to change and the temperature starts to drop, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases in workplaces throughout Kentucky.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, charcoal, natural gas, wood, kerosene and propane. These fuels are often used in trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. Without proper ventilation for CO, inhaling the gas may lead to sickness or death.
Vehicle and maintenance garages are one of the more commonly-known examples where CO inhalation is a hazard. To avoid the risk of inhaling CO, take all necessary steps to avoid build-up of the gas. If possible, leave garage doors open to ventilate the area or utilize piping/hoses that will route the poisonous gases outside.
CO may build up in an enclosed space of any size provided there is a source for the gas. Eliminate the risk of inhalation by making all employees aware of appliances that may be giving off the dangerous gas. Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces should be checked by a qualified professional at least annually to ensure they not only operate correctly, but are also properly vented. Additionally, employees should never use outdoor equipment such as grills, camp stoves, generators, or gas-powered lawn equipment (such as blowers or power washers) indoors.
KEMI has developed a full resource discussing the hazards associated with carbon monoxide gas and the steps that employees can take to avoid exposure. Check it out here!
KEMI just posted ten new safety resources to the recently developed WorkSafeKY.com resource library. Check out the following handouts and checklists:
- Housekeeping Inspection Checklist
- Ladder Safety Checklist
- Nail Gun Safety
- Skid-Steer Loader Safety
- Tractor Safety
- 6 Tips for Refueling Tractors and Equipment (6 Consejos al repostar los tractores y la maquinaria)
- Extension Cord Safety (La seguridad con las extensiones eléctricas)
- Ladder Safety Checklist (Seguridad en el uso de la escalera)
- Powered Lawnmowers Checklist (Lista de verificación para cortacéspedes)
- Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls (Prevención de resbalones, tropiezos y caídas)
KEMI is dedicated to keeping workers safe on the job; we want to provide resources relevant to your organization! If you have an idea for a new resource, feel free to send us your suggestion.
The City of Covington faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to managing risk. In a municipality of close to 450 employees which includes seasonal labor, the City of Covington is responsible for the management and safety of the police, fire, and public works departments and non-union staff.
The City of Covington is deeply committed to keeping its employees safe on the job, so we spoke with Risk Manager Bob Stark to get his perspective on the city’s safety efforts.
KEMI: Tell us about your background before assuming responsibility for the city’s risk management program?
Bob: Before coming to the City of Covington, I was the environmental safety coordinator for Northern Kentucky Water District and safety chairperson for the Tennessee/Kentucky American Water Works Association (AWWA), a volunteer firefighter and EMT for 23 years and a hazardous materials technician for nine years.
Eight years ago I was hired by the City of Covington to manage the workers’ compensation claims, and in May 2015 I moved into the operations department while continuing my role as the city’s risk manager.
KEMI: As the risk manager for the City of Covington, what are your safety responsibilities?
Bob: My task is to oversee the safety programs and assist with improving our facilities infrastructure. This includes managing everything from fire alarms and sprinkler systems to helping coordinate the installation of new roofs and windows on older buildings.
With our safety programs, the largest department to manage afrom a safety perspective is public works which includes six different work groups:
- Arborists – tree climbers who also deal with exposure to herbicides and pesticides, so we make sure that they’re properly protected and have the correct certifications;
- Beautification – this group removes graffiti, trims weeds, picks up litter (including things such as used syringes);
- Fleet – takes care of all of the vehicles and small equipment;
- Parks and Facilities – manage our parks, playgrounds and swimming pools (including handling chemicals to treat the water).
- Right-of-Way – are responsible for all the concrete and blacktop work;
- Solid Waste – which includes our transfer station
KEMI: As a municipality, the City of Covington is in a unique situation when it comes to building an effective safety program. What challenges have you faced and what were the outcomes?
Bob: When I handled the workers’ compensation claims for the city, we couldn’t get beyond 30 days without a lost-time injury. I spoke with our human resource director and proposed an incentive program. My plan was to set a goal of three consecutive months without any lost-time injuries, so when they reached this goal I rewarded the departments with some type of meaningful acknowledgment.
At one point, we reached 659 days without a lost-time injury in our Public Works Department, so we had a pig roast for them to celebrate. We also had a Kona Ice truck, and corn-hole games; it was a fun party! I let the employees know that we appreciate them working safely and the event was definitely a success. Our incentive programs have been very effective in getting employees motivated.
My biggest ongoing challenge is that there is turnover in many of the top positions in the city. Since I’ve been here, we’ve had five police chiefs, five fire chiefs, five or six EMS directors, three or four public works directors, and we’ve have had multiple mayors and city council members. By the time I have a good working relationship with a person, there is a change of personnel and I have to start building new relationships. And to me, upper management support is crucial. Having someone at the top supporting our safety initiatives is very important.
Another challenge is managing communication with numerous agencies such as unions, insurance companies, and state/local agencies. When an employee is injured, we work hard to ensure that all steps are in compliance with workers’ compensation statutes. Thankfully, everyone shares the same goal of getting the injured employee healthy and back to work.
KEMI: What would you say has been one of the greatest successes of the safety program in the City of Covington?
Bob: Within a few years after switching to KEMI, our experience modifier (commonly known as an e-mod) dropped from a 1.54 to 0.87. Our city was able to save significant revenue by reducing premium expenses, and we also received several dividend checks from KEMI as a result of our safety success.
What would you consider one of the most effective tools at managing safety with an organization of this size?
Bob: I use safety audits to take a complete look at the safety of our operations. I conduct one safety audit in the spring and then come back in the fall and evaluate each department to see if they’ve completed the safety recommendations. Our operations department is also responsible for making sure things are in safe working order and sets aside money for repairs without burdening each department and their respective budgets.
KEMI: What KEMI services have you found to be most beneficial in your role as a risk manager?
Bob: I have loved working with KEMI and believe we are a well-oiled machine working together. When a claim is reported, we all make sure to pay attention to the injured worker’s needs and ensure we are working well together.
Additionally, Eli Roberts from KEMI’s Loss Education and Safety team contributes to our monthly meetings. If we ever have a significant injury in the workplace, Eli and I go to the work site, study the environment, make recommendations, and then work with the person in charge to add safety measures aimed at reducing or eliminating the hazards. Eli has also helped teach safety classes (such as forklift safety training) and has been great to work alongside. These resources are all very valuable to us.
KEMI: What is on the horizon for the City of Covington when it comes to making safety a top priority?
Bob: There is a large fireworks display in northern Kentucky and Cincinnati on the Ohio River. There will be a lot of people behind the scenes planning the event ranging from emergency management to our police, fire and public works departments. We will have firefighters, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department and others with boats on the river, so there are several meetings necessary to orchestrate logistics and develop strategies to be both proactive with safety and, if necessary, react in case of an emergency. Our top priority is to make sure the event remains as safe as possible for everyone involved.
To learn more about the City of Covington, visit http://www.covingtonky.gov/. For free workplace safety resources from KEMI, visit www.worksafeky.com.