www.agc.org • April 2014  

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MSA - The Safety Company
On the Inside
Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP)
Top News
Forty-five percent of highway contractors had motor vehicles crash into their construction work zones during the past year, according to the results of a new highway work zone study conducted by AGC of America. Association officials added that the study found work zone crashes are more likely to kill vehicle operators and passengers than construction workers. The full press release can be found here. To access the survey results, click here.
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking to partner with AGC chapters and member firms for a nationwide safety stand-down.  The agency recently announced a national safety stand-down June 2-6, 2014, to raise awareness among employers and workers about the hazards of falls, which account for the highest number of deaths in the construction industry. 

AGC encourages all members to participate in the safety stand-down. In addition, chapters may contact their local OSHA offices for information on how to partner with them and further reinforce the importance of fall prevention. The attached flyer can be used to promote the event. For your convenience, a Spanish version of the flyer is also available.

For further information, please contact Kevin Cannon, AGC's safety director.
Best Practices
By James Morgan
The Clement Companies

It happens all the time. A company advertises a job opening for a worker to load heavy boxes onto trucks. It would seem an easy position to fill when the applicant walks in looking like the Incredible Hulk. But what the company doesn’t know is that the individual has a history of back trouble resulting in a number of previous workers' compensation injuries. For an employer to see bad times coming is virtually impossible if no pre-employment medical testing is put into place by a doctor versed in occupational medicine, one who understands the job requirements and knows what it takes physically to do the job. 

A doctor trained in occupational medicine can also gather vital information that employers are not allowed to ask, including the use of medications that may impair coordination and affect judgment, particularly during working hours. Equally important is the doctor’s knowledge of the actual type of job the applicant will be working, so it pays to take the time to sit down and review the workplace conditions with your physician. All of these factors will minimize hiring an injury waiting to happen and improves the efficiency of the workforce.

Making certain you hire the right employees and putting the proper procedures into place are extremely important because failure to do so sends a silent message to other workers that the company doesn't care who they hire, even if it impairs job safety. And in the workplace, a silent message can sound like the space shuttle blasting off at Cape Kennedy.

Hiring a workers’ compensation injury is the first in a series of ugly and very expensive steps toward seeing your workers’ compensation costs skyrocket, with a great deal of collateral damage ensuing. Injuries cause your experience modification rating to balloon. The experience modification rating compares other businesses in your state workers’ compensation experience against industry standards for similar size and type operations. And many companies in the construction industry, particularly those who see the bidding of projects at the federal, state and municipal level, must maintain their experience modification below 1.00 to survive.

Still changing the safety culture of a company is no easy feat, especially within the construction industry. The most common construction site injuries suffered by workers, according to the Center for Disease Control include:
  1. Burns and scarring 
  2. Head injuries 
  3. Injuries to the spinal cord 
  4. Cuts and lacerations 
  5. Broken, fractured, or crushed bones 
  6. Limb or digit loss  
  7. Loss of hearing  
  8. Stress injuries 
  9. Heat stroke 
  10. Vision loss  
The challenge to control injuries on a jobsite is challenging but not impossible. And again, it all starts when you create a culture of zero tolerance for injuries. Your zero tolerance job starts from the moment the applicant walks through the door.

For the first time in two decades there are changes coming down the road like an out-of-control tractor trailer. Many business owners are going to find themselves straddling the white line when it hits. NCCI (the national rating bureau for workers' compensation) increased the "split point" calculation from $5,000 to $10,000 in 2013. In 2014 it increased to $13,500 and jumps to $15,000 by 2015. A workers’ compensation injury that is paid up to the "split point" is known as a "primary loss" and reflects the frequency of such claims. The amount of money  the insurance company pays after the "split point" is referred to as "excess loss" and reflects severity.

Ultimately, how the split point and the experience modification rating interact will be a more accurate picture of a company’s history.  This absolutely magnifies our previous discussion on why changing the safety culture (or thinking) of a company is paramount.

According to OSHA, strong safety cultures have the single greatest impact on accident reduction of any process, and should be a top priority for all managers and supervisors. OSHA also contends that in a strong safety culture, everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis; employees go beyond "the call of duty" to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors, and intervene to correct them. For instance, in a strong safety culture any worker would feel comfortable walking up to the plant manager or CEO and reminding him or her to wear safety glasses. This type of behavior would not be viewed as forward or over-zealous but would be valued by the organization and rewarded. Likewise coworkers routinely look out for one another and point out unsafe behaviors to each other. A company with a strong safety culture typically experiences few at-risk behaviors, therefore they also experience low accident rates, low turnover, low absenteeism, and high productivity. They are usually companies who are extremely successful by excelling in all aspects of business and excellence.

It all sounds good on paper. But ultimately, in an industry where people daily interact with wet floors, sharp objects, falling debris and extremely heavy objects that need to be consistently moved from Point A to Point B, injuries can happen. But when this occurs procedures must be in place to get the injured worker back on the job as quickly as possible, not only for morale purpose, but because an injured worker impacts that all-important experience modification rating for three years.

If you return an injured worker back on the job in a timely manner, before the insurance company is required to pay them workers’ compensation or lost-time wages, that injury is reduced by as much as 70 percent in an employer’s experience modification calculation. This is why it is important that you have an effective return-to-work program in place that includes a relationship with an occupational medicine doctor who can properly evaluate the injury and make suggestions as to what type of transitional work the returning party may be able to do. You must keep the lines of communication open between the injured employee and the employer. There is nothing worse than the employee sitting home all day, wondering why his employer isn’t calling to see how he is doing. They need to get back on the job as soon as possible and once again be a productive asset in the workplace machinery.  Then everyone benefits. Return-to-work options can include:
  • Working shorter hours
  • Performing transitional work
  • Performing a different job temporarily
  • Working in a modified job
  • Creating a Return-to-Work Committee staffed by both employees and management.
To ensure an effective safety program you and your management team must commit to follow what you prescribe. You must also develop techniques to build employee engagement so they adopt your program. Efforts should be firmly in place to help prevent injuries before they occur. And that starts with implementing a zero injury culture, a "we care" attitude from management to make sure every employee returns home safely to his or her family at the end of the day. The phrase "accidents happen" should no longer be part of the workplace grammar.    

James Morgan began his career in the insurance business in 2006. He is a Certified WorkComp Advisor and Master WorkComp Advisor with The Clement Companies, a Towne Insurance Agency, located in Cary, NC. James’ extensive knowledge in workers’ compensation includes uncovering errors, recovering overcharges, analyzing and verifying experience mods, hiring practices, safety programs, compliance issues, and managing injuries. He can be reached at JMorgan@towneinsurance.com.
Member News
On March 12, 2014, the Alabama AGC Safety Committee presented Hargrove Engineers + Constructors with its Safety Excellence Award for 2013 and named Hargrove teammate Sonny Weeks the 2013 Safety Leader of the Year. 

The Alabama AGC presented the awards at its 12th Annual Mobile Section, AGC Safety Awards Program with 26 companies in attendance. Hargrove received the Safety Excellence Award for achieving 1.5 million work hours without a recordable or lost time incident during the 2013 work year. The Safety Leader of the Year Award recognizes those who have excelled in their safety performance in the Mobile Metro area throughout the previous year.

"At Hargrove, we put safety at the forefront of everything we do as a company and as individuals," said Dale Strickland, corporate safety leader. "This award demonstrates that our teammates do an exceptional job infusing safety into every job and task they complete both on and off the job."

Hargrove Engineers + Constructors has continued to distinguish themselves as a leader in safety standards through several safety awards and recognitions throughout the years. The company credits this to its safety culture and strict safety procedures on site and in the office, and to its daily safety education moments at the beginning of every meeting.

Hargrove Engineers + Constructors is a full-service engineering, procurement, and construction management firm with offices located across the eastern half of the United States. With more than 880 teammates, Hargrove’s success stems from its focus on building a team of the best engineers and construction professionals while maintaining long-term client relationships. For more information about Hargrove, please visit the company’s website at www.hargrove-epc.com.

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