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Workers ID root causes of accidents
Instead of management telling UPS employees how to improve their health and safety, the company's 12,000 frontline employees, who sit on more than 3,000 "comprehensive health and safety process" committees, decide that for themselves.
"UPS drivers move about 16 million packages a day. It's a very physical job. There's no such thing as a virtual package," says Dan McMackin, spokesman for UPS. "Everything people order on the Internet has to be delivered by somebody and picked up and carried."
The employees are the ones who investigate accidents to find out the root causes behind what happened. For example, they discovered that most back injuries occurred later in the afternoon when drivers are fatigued and fail to follow the correct lifting procedures.
"Committee members focused their efforts on making drivers aware that safe work methods are crucial, especially as the day wears on," says McMackin.
Each driver who has had an injury, no matter how minor, is given a refresher in the techniques taught in the company's internally developed UPS Safe Work Methods training course.
Beginning in 2008, each committee was required to nominate one person as a wellness champion, who is given wellness materials from corporate headquarters. The wellness champion leads the group with current health topics and points employees in the right direction to access health care resources. "It's a huge investment in time and resources and funds; we have to pay these people an hourly rate while they are doing all this and not getting their productive work done. But it pays back tenfold because you've got healthier, happier people coming to work," says McMackin.
Re-injury rate cut to 6%
Each month, the committees focus on a different topic, such as stretching, heart health, or nutrition, says Mary Breen, RN, COHN-S, CCM, corporate occupational health manager of UPS.
Recently, the committees looked at their most frequent injuries, on and off the job. "In the workers' compensation arena, we've narrowed it down to knee, back, and shoulder injuries, and in the disability area, musculoskeletal injuries," says Breen. "So we knew a lot of our injury cost was due to those injuries, and also reinjuries, with the next one being more severe."
A 30-minute education program was developed by corporate occupational health, to teach injured employees how to do the proper job setup. The company's 22% re-injury rate was cut to 6% after only nine months.
The wellness champion is charged with investigating the root causes of injuries. "But we have reduced our injury frequency over 60% over the last five years, so they have a lot less to investigate," says Breen. "We have seen a 10% reduction in back, knee, and shoulder injuries for our full-time employees in 2008 compared to 2007 with this initiative. We are hoping to see a decrease in the increase of our health care costs."
Successes are shared
Last year, disease management coaches were added to reach out to workers to prevent and treat chronic conditions. "We started off with the four big ones: coronary artery disease, diabetes, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. People can go in themselves and get a nutrition coach," says Breen.
A quit-smoking program is free for the majority of employees. All employees can also access a companywide employee assistance program with six free therapy visits.
This year, health risk assessment data are being used to identify the number of employees with risk factors. "That is a brand new product this year. You can look at how many are at low, moderate, and high risk, and you can actually put a financial number to that," says Breen.
Successes are shared via the company's best practices health and safety department, which consists of about 60 occupational health nurses nationwide. "They can send in presentations that are put on our internal web site, such as the success they have seen with a stroke program, a walking program, or a blood pressure program," says Breen.