The famed winery puts a cork in safety risks, encouraging employees to imbibe in a culture of health maintenance.
Reducing a company's rising workers' compensation costs isn't as simple as popping in a safety video and pressing play. For employers to truly benefit from their safety initiatives, they must use a proactive, hands-on approach.
Dennis Downing, president of Future Industrial Technologies in Santa Barbara, Calif., said traditional safety training methods--videos, lectures and slide presentations--just don't cut it in today's workplace. Employers must create a safety culture by empowering employees with the tools they need to maintain their own health.
Downing worked with Scott Stoner, facilities and risk management director at Kendall Jackson wineries in Santa Rosa, Calif., to incorporate safety into every aspect of the company's operations. The strategy paid off, helping the winemaker to reduce strain injuries by more than 40 percent.
Downing said it is important for employers to create a practical training protocol that teaches people how to prevent physical stress and relieve accumulated stress, which they can immediately apply during daily activities.
"Everyone you hire is predisposed to an injury," he said, "because we are not taught in life the right way to lift, sit or perform other activities."
Downing said employers can train workers by showing them videos or giving lectures, but they likely will see little benefit from those methods. "How can you learn any physical activity without performing it?" he said. "The value of any training is only as good as it can be applied."
Stoner began looking for ways to reduce Kendall Jackson's workers' compensation costs when he joined the company in 1998, after spending several years working in the wine industry. The company developed a multifaceted approach to deal with the issue, with a special emphasis on providing the proper safety training for employees.
The company worked with Downing to implement a "train-the-trainer" program, where an employee would become a safety expert and then go on to help his colleagues and create new trainers. "Train-the-trainer is very important," Stoner said. "This got employees involved at the plant floor level."
Stoner said the program took off, but then the company started realizing a new problem--turnover. "We had some of our trainers leaving the company and we were left with holes," he said. "To solve this, we implemented a program with the company's HR department to communicate with staff about who were the safety leaders on the floor. This helped us develop contingency plans when one trainer left."
Stoner said another key to the program's success has been the daily and regular emphasis on safety from supervisors and management. "When you give the supervisors three times a day to talk about safety with their employees, it really starts getting people aware of all the elements," he said.
In addition to comprehensive safety training and stretching exercises, other elements of the company's safety and workers' comp initiative include the following:
-Allocation of workers' comp losses. Kendall Jackson identifies the workers' comp losses as they affect each department. When each department is reviewed, they must explain what they didn't do to reduce losses.
-Management responsibility. The company also builds in responsibility for health and safety into the annual reviews of management. Stoner said 10 percent of a manager's salary increase is based on risk management. "Making it part of an annual review gets buy-in and compliance, because they know that at some point, someone would be talking to them about safety," he said.
-Strong return-to-work program. "We make sure that the doctors understand that we want injured employees back on the job as soon as possible," Stoner said. "Our HR staff does a wonderful job in making sure employees know about the program."
The company's program has been such a success that it reached a milestone last year. Two of Kendall Jackson's wineries recorded no injuries, despite being the two most productive at the company.
January 1, 2005
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