Data Can’t Replace a Commitment to Safety

I recently read a paper titled “Predictive Analytics in Workplace Safety: Four ‘Safety Truths’ that Reduce Workplace Injuries”, published by Pittsburgh-based Predictive Solutions. The company offers a variety of safety solutions to help customers improve and sustain their safety program results. The article stated that predictive analytics help many organizations gain insight into their operations and use their resources in the most effective way. These models predict the likelihood, frequency and location of workplace injuries using the customers’ safety-observation data.

How can workplace injuries be predicted? Predictive analytics draws real-time conclusions about future risk using safety-observation data. For instance, the company’s “Red Flag” model identifies projects, sites or work groups that show characteristics at a higher risk of incidents.

In addition, Predictive Solutions offers consulting services that drive culture and process change within organizations to create sustainable workplace injury prevention programs. In my experience, a company’s culture is the most important aspect in reducing workplace injuries. Predicting occupational accidents, incidents and injuries is great as long as an employer is willing to change its company culture. One does not need a library of data to determine there is a problem in a company. On the other hand, experience tells me that extensive OSHA citations, high EMR (Experience Modification Rating), high workers’ compensation premiums and high employee-turnover rates are indicators of a company in need of a safety program. How the ownership, management, and workforce view safety is the real key to preventing workplace incidents and accidents. A mountain of data is useless without a commitment to make changes within a company.

For data to make a difference in an organization, a safety program must be in effect in the company. A safety program primarily requires a firm commitment from the owners and top management, as well as buy-in from all employees and all levels of management.

Secondly, a written HASP (Health and Safety Plan) that documents the firm’s commitment should be in place. For help in developing a health and safety plan, a company can hire a consultant or a safety professional; contact the OSHA area office; or visit OSHA’s website.

In addition, training must be included in the program. This training must follow all the pertinent OSHA standards. The most important standards for the roofing industry to follow are fall protection, scaffolding and powered industrial trucks.

Finally, it is important to provide feedback through job-site audits and inspections. These inspections can be performed in-house by managers, supervisors or a safety professional. Through inspections, the company can determine if its program is working.

Collecting data for the sake of collecting data is absolutely useless without a viable documented safety culture. Training and inspection programs must also be in place to address the data that has been collected.

Are Union Workers Safer?

A colleague recently shared an article with me about the differences in accident and incident re- porting in unionized roofing construction compared with non-union firms. The study, “Protecting Construction Worker Health and Safety in Ontario, Canada”, which was conducted by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), a non-profit research organization headquartered in Toronto, suggests unionized construction firms experience fewer serious and costly injuries than non-union firms. The IWH study states construction firms that employ union workers have fewer work injuries that require workers’ compensation payments for time away from work.

Although the IWH study was conducted in Canada, it has direct implications for the roofing industry in the U.S. According to Injury Facts, a publication of the Itasca, Ill.-based U.S. National Safety Council, 74,500 construction workers suffered “lost-time” injuries in 2014. Lost-time injuries are on-the-job injuries serious enough that they keep workers from doing their jobs and require costly workers’ compensation reimbursements.

The IWH study’s findings indicate unions, as well as unionized construction firms, may encourage occupational injury reporting and reduce risks through training, hazard identification and control.

To unionize or not to unionize? That is the question that has gone on since unions first began to organize. I myself am a union journeyman, but I see the positive and negative aspects to both sides. In the construction trades, unions are hiring halls for skilled workers. Workers will either shape up or wait to be called for work on a daily basis. These workers will be at one site for a while, get laid off, then simply move on to another site. Union tradesmen have no vested interest in a company, whereas company employees’ livelihoods depend on the company doing well.

Whether union or non-union, I believe the discrepancy lies in company culture. Employees of non-union roofing firms may not report minor injuries or work-related illnesses because they may be afraid of being fired or that reporting would have a negative impact on the company. In addition, the owner and management of a company may not be aware of the implications of not reporting—or underreporting. And there’s always the possibility that this male-dominated culture may frown on reporting as being weak.

Unfortunately, there are roofers who believe they cannot compete if they follow OSHA and other governmental standards. More often, some roofers hire day-laborers and give them no training and no workers’ compensation benefits. I have heard stories of some of these workers being injured and dumped out of the back of a pickup truck at a local emergency room like garbage.

On the other hand, I have worked with non-union firms that place a high value on safety. The owners of these companies demand even the smallest incidents be reported. Perhaps this is so they can track trends in the workplace: If there are many employees being injured in the same way, the company can take steps to fix the issue.

Also, minor injuries, if not treated immediately, can become major hospitalizations. Imagine a worker steps on a nail, then keeps working. The wound becomes infected and septicemia develops. The worker ends up in the hospital. In keeping with the new OSHA reporting standard, OSHA must be called within 24 hours of the injury. This may spark an OSHA inspection of the company’s site.

Another example: An employee twists his lower back on the job, then proceeds to “work through it.” He goes to bed that night and in the morning the pain is so severe he can’t get out of bed. Now we’re dealing with a lost-time incident that must be documented on the 300 Log. Beyond that, how does the employer know it truly happened on the job and not outside?

Union roofing firms tend to be larger in scope. They tend to do mostly higher-dollar-value jobs. For this reason, union roofing firms tend to keep better records, which is important in the case of OSHA inspections or legal disputes over a workplace injury. Documentation—or lack thereof—will show whether an employee took all reasonable precautions to carry out his or her work safely, as well as prove whether all safe operating procedures were followed. Importantly, documentation can lower the liability that arises for failure to take reasonable care on the job site.

Documentation is also required in several OSHA standards. Under the OSHA Recordkeeping regulation (29 CFR 1904), covered employees are required to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses, using the OSHA 300 Log. This information is important for employers; insurance providers; workers; and OSHA in evaluating the safety of a workplace, understanding industry hazards, and implementing worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards.

Employers who cannot or will not see the value of providing a safe and healthful workplace and who believe they should not have to follow governmental regulations end up being a burden on society—because when their workers get killed or seriously injured, it is a burden on everyone. Unions can’t completely stop these problems, but they can help to alleviate them through member training.

The Aftermath of Construction Accidents

According to a 2014 Washington, D.C.-based Bureau of Labor Statistics press release, the construction industry has the highest fatality rate of any industry in the U.S. In 2013, the construction industry saw a total of 796 fatal injuries with more than 100 more deaths than the next highest industry fatality rate in transportation and warehousing. Within the construction industry, general construction laborers are the most at risk for injury or death on the job.

These statistics are frightening, and the reality is that most construction accidents could have been prevented. Washington-based OSHA standards are in place to prevent most construction workplace accidents. Many of the primary causes of injury, including the fatal four—falls, struck by an object, electrocution, and caught-in/between—can be prevented if proper care is taken and OSHA standards are followed.

DEALING WITH A CONSTRUCTION-SITE INJURY

When someone is injured or killed at a construction site, the ramifications can extend to family members and last a lifetime. Work-related injuries can cause loss of income, chronic pain, extensive medical expenses, a decrease in quality of life and psychological suffering. Legal advice and workers’ compensation insurance can remedy the loss of income and medical expenses, but a worker can never get back his health and/or quality of life after a serious job-site injury.

Liability becomes an important legal issue after a construction-site injury and is generally determined by the following factors:

  • The responsibility of the general contractor to provide a safe work environment.
  • The responsibility of other subcontractors to act in a responsible and safe manner.
  • The responsibility of the worker to act in a responsible and safe manner.

Other parties that may be held liable in workplace injury claims include the employer, architects, engineers and equipment manufacturers. In some cases, fault lies with more than one party and navigating a construction injury claim without the aid of a knowledgeable attorney is nearly impossible.

A personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney working on a construction case generally does the majority of casework before a case is ever presented in court. The attorney must carefully investigate every detail of the accident independent of the insurance investigation and the injured worker’s employer investigation. The evidence presented in construction-accident cases often determines a worker’s or worker’s family’s ability to be made whole for medical expenses, lost income, legal fees and more.

Pages: 1 2

Contractual Risk Shifting, Workers’ Compensation and You

During the process of negotiating construction contracts, contractors often use certain clauses to shift the risk of loss onto subcontractors who may have less bargaining power. How do they do this? Most commonly through the use of indemnity and waiver of subrogation clauses. While these clauses apply in a variety of situations, they are particularly concerning with regard to workers’ compensation insurance.

All states have mandatory workers’ compensation statutes. These statutes make employers strictly liable for employee injuries on the job. Strict liability means liability without fault. Therefore, an injured employee of a subcontractor can recover damages from the subcontractor’s workers’ compensation carrier even if a third party is 100 percent at fault for the injury.

What Is Subrogation?

Subrogation arises when an innocent party incurs damages attributable to the fault of another. This most commonly applies when an insurance carrier pays an insured loss and subrogates to the rights—or “stands in the shoes”—of the injured party in recovering against the responsible party. This doctrine is based on equitable principles, primarily to prevent the at-fault party from escaping liability. Makes sense, right? Then how does a subcontractor waive subrogation?

Here’s a sample waiver of subrogation provision:
Subcontractor hereby waives all right of recovery against the Contractor, the Owner and their respective officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives with respect to claims covered by insurance obtained pursuant to insurance requirements under this Subcontract. The Subcontractor agrees to cause its Workers’ Compensation, General Liability and Automobile Insurance carrier to waive their rights of subrogation against the Contractor, Owner and their respective officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives.

Here’s an example:
A subcontractor’s employee is injured by the sole negligence of the contractor. The subcontractor’s workers’ compensation carrier pays out statutory damages to the injured employee. Pursuant to the waiver of subrogation clause, the subcontractor and its carrier have no right to recover the losses from the contractor.

What is the practical effect? The subcontractor suffers the consequences of the contractor’s sole negligence. How? The subcontractor’s experience modification rate (EMR) goes up. What else goes up with the EMR? Premiums!

What Is Indemnification?

Indemnification requires one party to pay damages to another, sometimes without regard to who was actually at fault. These types of clauses often include language requiring the subcontractor to “defend and hold harmless” the contractor, which puts the additional burden on the subcontractor of incurring fees and expenses for the contractor’s legal defense. There are generally three types of indemnity clauses: broad, intermediate and limited.

A broad indemnity clause requires the subcontractor to pay loss or damage regardless of who is at fault, even if the damage is caused by the sole negligence of the contractor. This is the most onerous type of indemnity clause because it shifts the entire risk to the subcontractor.

Here’s a sample broad indemnity provision:
Subcontractor shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless the Contractor, Architect and Owner against all liability claims, judgment or demands for damages and expenses, including, but not limited to, reasonable attorneys’ fees, arising from accidents to persons or property arising out of or resulting from the performance of the work.

An intermediate indemnity clause requires the subcontractor to pay loss or damage for its own sole or partial negligence. Some intermediate indemnity provisions require the subcontractor to pay the entire loss or damage while others only require the subcontractor to pay its pro rata share of the loss or damage.

Finally, a limited indemnity clause only requires the subcontractor to pay loss or damage that is the sole responsibility of the subcontractor.

How do indemnity and subrogation interplay? When the subcontract has abroad indemnity clause and a waiver of subrogation clause.

Pages: 1 2

The Hidden Costs of Workplace Accidents

Asking an employee why he or she wants to be safe is like asking them why they work. Overwhelmingly, every roofer I ask this question to tells me he or she wants to go home at the end of the day. He doesn’t want to lose any time because losing time is losing money. And, believe it or not, money can buy happiness. A New York City carpenter once told me he fell 35 feet and broke multiple bones. He was out of work for two years, during which he collected $57,000 from workers’ compensation insurance. If he worked, he would have made more than $100,000 per year. In his words, “I almost lost my big house on Long Island and my high-maintenance wife.”

In addition to how accidents impact workers’ finances, they can seriously affect a company’s bottom line. A good Health and Safety Program can save a company money by cutting workers’ compensation insurance premiums; heading off needless, expensive and embarrassing OSHA citations; avoiding expensive and embarrassing lawsuits; increasing the efficiency of the workforce; and boosting workers’ morale, which consequently will improve their productivity. A good Health and Safety Program also will give a business owner peace of mind by knowing all his or her employees are working safely.

In my experience, project managers, job-site superintendents and crew foremen are the people who are reluctant to want job-site safety. They believe following safety standards slows the job down. Management is responsible for making money in a business that regularly grapples with close bids, tight schedules and limited job budgets. However, these factors do not take into account the “hidden” costs of workplace accidents. Oftentimes, accidents are more expensive than people realize because of these hidden costs.

Examples of Hidden Costs

Some costs created by accidents are obvious; for example, workers’ compensation claims cover medical costs and indemnity payments for an injured or ill worker. What people often don’t think about are the hidden costs, like the costs to train and compensate a replacement worker, repair damaged property, investigate the accident and implement corrective action, as well as maintain insurance coverage. Even less apparent are the costs related to schedule delays, added administrative time, lower morale, increased absenteeism and poorer customer relations.

Washington, D.C.-based OSHA’s Safety Pays Program states the lower the direct costs of an accident, the higher the ratio of indirect to direct costs. The more accidents that occur in a workplace, the higher the costs in increased insurance premiums and greater indirect costs. According to the Boca Raton, Fla.-based National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc., these include the following kinds of indirect costs:

  • Any wages paid to injured workers for absences not covered by workers’ compensation.
  • The wage costs related to time lost through work stoppage associated with the worker injury.
  • The overtime costs necessitated by the injury.
  • Administrative time spent by supervisors, safety personnel and clerical workers after an injury.
  • Training costs for a replacement worker.
  • Lost productivity related to work rescheduling, new employee learning curves and accommodation of injured employees.
  • Clean-up, repair, and replacement costs of damaged material, machinery and property.

Some of the possible indirect costs not included in these estimates are:

  • The costs of OSHA fines and any associated legal action.
  • Third-party liability and legal costs.
  • Worker pain and suffering.
  • Loss of good will from bad publicity.

The Human Factor

Direct and indirect costs certainly are motivation for preventing workplace accidents. In fact, when I ask roofing company owners why they want their employees to work safely, many automatically default to the money answer. However, in most cases, business owners are generous, caring members of their communities. I once sat across the desk of an owner of a large construction company after his team experienced a fatality. He asked me, “How do I look at myself in the mirror every morning, knowing one on MY guys didn’t go home today?” Even though he did not know this employee personally, he considered this worker one of his guys. Ultimately, it’s the human factor that is the most important reason to ensure safe working conditions on job sites.

My favorite phrase is “To protect my employer, I protect his employees.” I think they’re words to live by.

AccuTrac Helps Ohio Roofing Contracting Firm Achieve Safety Innovation Award

OMG Roofing Products has announced Advanced Industrial Roofing of Massillon, Ohio, has won the Judge’s Choice OSC Safety Innovation Award from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation by demonstrating the benefits of using the AccuTrac System versus the traditional roofing fastener application method.

AccuTrac from OMG Roofing Products is an ergonomically correct stand-up tool that aligns and installs the insulation fastener in one motion. The system eliminates the need for continuous bending, twisting or kneeling often required in mechanically fastening roof insulation. AccuTrac also keeps workers safer by keeping their hands and face further away from the installation point.

“We have used the AccuTrac System for three years and it has enabled us to increase productivity by 52 percent while keeping our employees safer while they work,” says Fred Horner, president and CEO of Advanced Industrial Roofing. “AccuTrac has given our workers the ability to perform their duties more effectively and enables them to work later in life.”

Sims Crane Earns Insurance-premium Reduction

Because of its superior on-the-job safety score, Sims Crane & Equipment Co. has again earned a significant reduction in its insurance premium. The firm’s Experience Modification Rate (EMR) is 0.68, meaning its insurance premiums will be 68 percent of the premiums required from less safe companies.

“The EMR is a rigorous standard set by insurance companies and the state, so having those outside third parties attest to our superior workplace safety practices and our culture of safety at Sims is a credit to everyone who works here,” declared Dean Sims II, vice president of Marketing at Sims Crane & Equipment.

The EMR is a gauge of past cost of injuries and future probability of injuries. An EMR of 1.0 is considered industry average. The lower the EMR, the lower the firm’s worker compensation insurance premiums will be. The EMR is designed to measure whether a company’s workers’ compensation losses are better or worse than expected. If the experience is worse than expected, a company is punished with a high EMR greater than 1.0. If the experience is better than expected, a company is rewarded with a low EMR below 1.0, paying less for workers compensation premium than a company with a high EMR.

“In Florida, Workers Compensation rates are ultimately determined by the Florida State Department of Insurance. The only real mechanism to apply either good or bad loss experience to the premium calculation is through the experience modifier,” adds Randy Proos, with USI Insurance Services in Coral Gables.

The EMR is calculated by a rating bureau, the National Council on Compensation Insurance, using three years of past loss history, excluding the immediate past year. The 2014 EMR is calculated using the 2012, 2011, 2010 loss experience.

With 325 employees and 381 cranes, lifting devices and associated support equipment operating out of 11 regional offices in Florida, Tampa-based Sims Crane & Equipment Co. is ranked No. 1 in Florida and No. 14 in the nation by American Crane and Transport magazine. Since its founding in Tampa 54 years ago, Sims has been known for its safe, cost-effective, creative and on-time customer service, offering the latest in 3-D lift planning, total transport capabilities, a fully trained service department, and a team of onsite consultants and application specialists.

South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Laws Have Changed to Benefit the Injured and their Employers

Ensuring compliance with workers’ compensation laws is consistently a concern among many states because of the impact noncompliance can have on injured employees and employers who follow the law. Noncompliance with workers’ compensation laws negatively affects those injured on the job, as well as law-abiding employers. Fortunately, the workers’ compensation laws of South Carolina are implemented relatively efficiently and result in more resolved cases for injured workers than many other states. Some recent changes in the state’s laws are designed to make the process more efficient.

Workers’ compensation insurance provides medical benefits and wage reimbursement for employees who become injured while on the job. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act provides that injured employees are entitled to recover necessary medical treatment, loss of wages during a period of disability, and compensation for permanent disability or disfigurement. There are three types of work-related injuries that can qualify for workers’ compensation payments: physical injuries, mental injuries accompanied by physical injuries and mental injuries with no physical injuries.

In South Carolina, employees may collect workers’ compensation for all wages and benefits, including those from other employers. This gives South Carolina employees an advantage over neighboring North Carolina employees who may only collect workers’ compensation for wages earned from the specific job on which the injury occurred.

Who Is An Employee?

The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act defines “employee” as “every person engaged in an employment under any appointment, contract of hire or apprenticeship, express or implied, oral or written … but excludes a person whose employment is both casual and not in the course of the trade, business, profession, or occupation of his employer … .”

Every South Carolina employer and employee is presumed to be covered by the act. Employers covered by the act are required to maintain insurance to cover compensation or provide the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission with proof they have the ability to pay the compensation for an injured employee.

There are a few exceptions to the workers’ compensation laws, including businesses employing fewer than four employees or having a total annual payroll of less than three thousand dollars in the previous calendar year, regardless of the number of employees. Employers who qualify for exemption may elect to come under the act and may subsequently withdraw with written notice to the Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Pages: 1 2 3