Dr. Susan Heller
Corporate Medical Director
Southern California Edison
Turning Red Flags into Green
Energy utility program cuts injury rates to employees in the first year on the job.
When two of a large power company's most critical business units express concerns about a high incidence of injuries occurring during employees' first year on the job, it sets off risk management red flags.
For Dr. Susan Heller, the corporate medical director of Southern California Edison (SCE) in Rosemead, Calif., those red flags turned to green in the form of cost savings (as well as safer employees), as Heller put together an innovative and successful solution to reduce on-the-job injuries.
Heller began by meeting with business unit partners, and it was quickly decided that any solution would have to achieve several goals, including supporting safety on the job, reducing workers' compensation claims, reducing occupational injuries or illnesses that require medical treatment more than simple first aid which are recorded by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
Complicating matters was the fact that SCE was about to launch its biggest capital expenditure initiative in the company's 140-year history, involving replacement and/or upgrading of 50-year- old transmission lines and facilities, as well as the investment in new "green'' technology. The result was expanded growth for the company and the hiring of hundreds of new employees.
"In this environment, it was critical to ensure the hiring of healthy and productive workers in order to meet SCE's future needs," Heller said. Heller and the cross-functional team she led designed the injury-reduction program for new employees as a three-step process consisting of:
-- A post-offer medical history used to ensure a candidate's safe ability to participate in the job they were hired for, but that was not used in candidate selection. If a medical issue is identified, the candidate is asked to provide a medical authorization/release from his or her physician in order to continue with step two of the assessment.
-- A post-job offer physical examination used to ensure that the candidate is able to safely participate in job-specific testing. If a medical issue is identified, the candidate is asked to provide a medical authorization/release from his or her physician in order to continue with step three of the assessment.
-- Job-specific testing designed to establish the employee's capability to safely perform the essential job duties. Testing results are used to determine "capable" or "not capable." If a candidate is not capable of physically performing the essential job functions, he or she does not meet the requirements of the job, and the job offer can be withdrawn. The candidate can reapply again once they meet the capability job requirements.
At first, Heller thought post-employment testing could be done in-house. But after more research, SCE partnered with a vendor that could customize a program to meet the company's unique and specific needs.
September 15, 2011
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