Provider bats .1000 with safety initiative

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

APPLETON, Wis. – Members of ThedaCare at Home’s distribution team start each day with morning stretches, part of an initiative to reduce workplace injuries.

“It’s truly a quantum change in the culture of the organization to focus on safety,” said Randy Lutz, manager of HME operations and support services. “With our delivery service techs, the bio med team, the shipping and receiving employees, we saw three or four injuries a year. We put a stake in the ground."

The effort is paying off. ThedaCare recently celebrated 1,000 injury-free workdays.

Three or four injuries annually might not seem like a lot, but if you factor in days missed, related healthcare expenses and workers' compensation costs, each injury costs the provider upward of $50,000.

ThedaCare focuses on several key components to prevent workplace injuries. To help with loading and unloading heavy equipment, like oxygen concentrators, the provider installed tailgate lifts on its trucks and built a ground-level loading dock.

The other key component has to do with “knowing your surroundings,” said Lutz. While the provider can control what goes on in the warehouse, that’s not possible at patient homes.

“Often times when we drill down to our injuries, they occurred because they were carrying something heavy, didn‘t realize there was ice under snow, and slipped and fell,” he said. “It’s about taking advantage of near misses and turning those into long-term improvements.”

Typically, it takes about four years for a program like this to reap the benefits of having a safe work place in terms of workers' compensation, but it’s definitely worth it, said Bill McMahon, an account executive with Cailor Fleming Insurance.

“One of the most expensive costs of an HME provider is workers' comp,” he said. “Depending on the size of the company, it gets up to $15,000 to $25,000 a year in the premium range. Safety programs can, if not lower premiums, at least deter the premium from going up.”