By STEVE YAHN, who has written for and edited national publications for more than 30 years
For a rapidly growing company, Klamath Falls, Oregon-based JELD-WEN Inc. has a remarkably comprehensive and sophisticated workers' compensation and disability management program.
Starting in 1960 with a handful of employees the company has expanded globally to more than 350 locations with approximately 25,000 employees. The company is the world's largest manufacturer of doors and windows, but it has diversified into product distribution, real estate development, resorts and marketing.
To serve this expanding empire, Charlie Taylor, vice president of business resources, and his team have implemented a variety of ambitious and innovative workers' comp and disability management programs.
Safety has always been a core value of JELD-WEN since its inception. Over the years, the company achieved safety results that have been consistent with the top performers in the industry.
But the executive team felt that too many employees were being injured. So in late 2003, the board issued a directive to reduce workers' comp claims by 75 percent.
Root cause analysis revealed that policies and programs needed to be developed or strengthened to address three primary areas: hiring practices, employee orientation and accountability.
In a major initiative incorporating many practices, JELD-WEN made improved hiring practices a corporate standard to be followed at all locations. Interestingly, one of the requirements of the hiring program was testing for job-related math and reading skills. Also, the company implemented a mandatory integrity test. Areas examined include: substance abuse, theft, workers' comp fraud, dependability, violence and deception.
Of the approximately 8,000 integrity tests that JELD-WEN administers each year, 25 percent to 30 percent result in hiring cautions. The company declines to hire a vast majority of these applicants.
Mandatory reference checks are performed and multiple management interviews of candidates also help prevent hiring undesirable and potentially unsafe applicants. Work environment tours are given to all applicants before a conditional offer of employment, because the company feels strongly that it is important that the applicant understands the work environment and feels comfortable with the position that may be offered.
New hire orientation was expanded to better prepare new employees to be able to safely work in a manufacturing environment. Revised orientation improvements included emergency procedure training, job specific hazards, site specific hazards, affected per lock out/tag out training; manual material handling and ergonomics, pedestrian forklift safety, hazard communication program, and personal protective equipment.
Facility managers participate in quarterly training exercises. In turn, each manager is required to train and coach employees quarterly on various topics. Brochures and posters are also distributed to raise awareness on featured safety topics. In addition, policies concerning repeated injuries are consistently enforced. Employees and managers may be disciplined or terminated if injuries are considered excessive.
As another part of the safety initiative, executive management approved a new position of facility safety coordinator for manufacturing and property development locations. This position coordinates local safety activities and assures compliance with safety programs and reports to the general manager.
In yet another vanguard program, job safety analysis and ergonomic programs were put into place to help employees become more involved in defining safety. The ergonomics program requires evaluation of every position for ergonomic stressors and reduction of those that are hazardous to employees. Processes and equipment are designed to eliminate as many of these stressors as feasible, and where they can't be removed, the company has a job rotation program to help prevent repetitive motion injuries.
As a result of these and other initiatives, JELD-WEN has experienced a $31 million drop in estimated claims costs from Jan. 1, 2004, to Jan. 1, 2008.
(Check out the profiles of the other Teddy Award winners.)
November 1, 2008
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