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Top 5 Risk Management Tips from Your Peers

December 16, 2020 David Wylie

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When your organization chose the Fund, it joined a network of educational entities with a vested interest in helping each other manage risk. Our Excellence Award winners implemented solutions to challenges common among our members. We extracted five tips from their initiatives that can help you protect your resources, improve your productivity, and control your costs.

Tip 1. Make a case for risk management

If you want your risk management initiatives to succeed, you have to commit staff time and, in many cases, coveted budget dollars. That means leadership has to be on board. Help them connect the dots between your initiatives and the bottom line by explaining the direct and indirect costs of incidents.

Direct costs include benefits paid by your coverage provider. Remind your leadership team that although direct costs don’t immediately impact your budget, they can affect the amount you pay for coverage in the future.

Indirect costs are a different story. They include incident-related expenses paid by your organization, such as:

  • Unbudgeted repairs or replacements associated with damaged property and equipment
  • Lost productivity and the cost of hiring substitutes or temporary employees when staff misses time because of work-related injuries
  • Fines for noncompliance with the Texas Hazard Communication Act, the boiler safety law, and other regulations
  • Payments to cybercriminals posing as vendors

The American Society of Safety Engineers pegs the ratio of indirect costs to direct costs for workplace injuries at anywhere from 1:1 to 20:1. Indirect costs come out of the employer's budget.

Fund loss history reports offer a powerful tool for quantifying the value of risk management.  For example, you can leverage your organization’s reports to uncover the most common causes of workplace injuries and identify how much in benefits has been paid on each claim. Claims reports are updated daily so you can review and analyze current data.

Tip 2. Prepare supervisors to lead

Preventative maintenance programs, accident prevention plans, and other detailed procedures are critical to managing risk, but they cannot stand alone. Your organization needs someone to accept accountability for weaving risk management into the fabric of its culture. Simply put, you need front-line supervisors to lead by example.

Arlington ISD’s heat safety program relies on supervisors to check weather forecasts, train employees on safety procedures, monitor their crews for signs of heat illness, ensure everyone takes scheduled breaks, and respond to emergencies. When someone suffers a heat-related illness or near-miss, supervisors lead the investigation, identify corrective measures, and ensure they are implemented.

It is not uncommon for supervisors to be promoted into their roles because of their technical expertise. Don’t forget to help them build the soft skills they need, such as communicating, motivating, building trust, adapting to change, and delivering feedback.

Articles, books, workshops, and other training events can help supervisors build a foundation, but soft skills take root with practice. Give supervisors the opportunity to participate in scenarios that put their new skills to the test. For example, a scenario could feature a supervisor tasked with delivering feedback to an employee who consistently disregards safety procedures.

Tip 3. Engage your stakeholders

A person with traumatic wounds can lose enough blood in five minutes that they do not survive, according to the American College of Surgeons. The person standing next to them could be in the best position to keep them alive until emergency responders arrive. As part of its commitment to the well-being of its staff, students, and neighbors, Thrall ISD invested in Stop the Bleed training for all district employees.

The training empowers staff to deliver potentially life-saving assistance during an active shooter situation or other emergency. The local fire department and EMS contributed their expertise to the initiative. Students, parents, and community representatives also pitched in by assembling trauma kits purchased with generous donations from – you guessed it – the Thrall community.

What’s happening in Thrall represents the engine that powers strong risk management programs: engagement. Stakeholders should feel empowered to help plan, implement, and improve your initiatives. Here are a few suggestions for fostering engagement:

Facility security. Include a cross-section of school administrators, faculty, board members, and staff, as well as law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, and community leaders on your emergency operations plan development and review committee. You could also follow Kaufman ISD’s lead and assemble a student safety council.

Injury prevention. Form a safety committee that includes employee representatives. The committee can help inspect workplaces for hazards, investigate accidents, recommend corrective measures, and train employees on safety procedures.

Fleet management. Employees who drive as part of their jobs can help extend the life of your fleet by inspecting vehicles. Staff participation is also a core element of successful accident review committees. Members are resonsible for determinining whether drivers took every reasonable precaution to avoid the accident. Based on its findings, the committee recommends corrective action or penalties if appropriate.

Tip 4. Connect wellness and safety.

In most organizations, employee health benefits – and wellness by extension – are the domain of human resources experts. Meanwhile, responsibility for workplace safety might fall with risk management, the business manager, or supervisors in each department. If wellness and safety are similarly siloed in your organization, show your leadership team the connection between these two important initiatives:

Los Fresnos CISD has seen first-hand the relationship between employee wellness and safety. Health issues have historically kept some district bus drivers from passing their mandated physicals. So, the transportation department teamed up with Texas A&M Extension Service to help drivers lead healthier lifestyles. Now, drivers are passing their physicals and missing fewer workdays. The district has also seen a drop in on-the-job injuries and illnesses.

If you want to reap similar benefits, explore the Total Worker Health program. The program offers free information and resources to help you marry your workplace safety and employee wellness programs.

Tip 5. Don’t neglect emotional wellness

Burnout,  financial insecurity, and student inattentiveness are just a few factors weighing on administrators, teachers, and support staff. And then there is pandemic-related fear and anxiety. In a recent survey by Workplace Intelligence and Oracle, 70 percent of respondents cited 2020 as the most stressful year of their careers.

The fallout of poor emotional health can include increased absenteeism, subpar performance, employee turnover, and even an uptick in workplace accidents. When employees have other things on their minds, they might be less attentive to safety procedures. A member of the custodial team could suffer a chemical burn because she neglected to wear protective gloves when disinfecting a classroom. A distracted maintenance employee could fall from a ladder because he overlooked a damaged siderail.

When employees do get injured, they are susceptible to anxiety, depression, hostility, and other emotions that can compromise their ability to return to work. If you want to make emotional wellness part of your risk management program, get started with these tips and resources:

Get more information about Excellence Awards

The Fund's Excellence Awards program recognizes up to 10 members with a $1,000 honorarium toward their continued efforts. Initiatives are evaluated for effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and innovation. Learn more about the program and get an insider's look at winning entries.

Tagged: "best practices", "Excellence Awards"