Do you see your employees as problems? Or do you see them as opportunities?

We spoke with Mike Hart, Vice President of Risk Management at Verst Group Logistics, about what the answer to this question says about an employer.

Mike says shifting how you think about employees—whether they are problems or opportunities for change—can help your entire organization better manage risk and promote safety.

“If they haven’t already, in the future, managers will start to see employees not as problems to be dealt with, but rather solutions that need to be harnessed to perform the way that will be beneficial for the company,” explains Mike.

We also spoke to Mike about how the industry has evolved over recent decades, and top factors companies looking to promote healthier, safer, and happier workplaces should keep in mind today, and in the future. Here’s what we learned.

The Evolution of Safety

Our modern workers’ compensation system came out of the industrial revolution, though the idea of “workers’ insurance” actually dates back to 2050 BC.

In 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created. In the year prior, it is estimated that around 14,000 workers were killed on the job—a number that’s an estimate because no official records were kept at that time. (Employment has doubled since that time, and includes more than 130 million workers in the US. In 2009, 4,340 workers were killed on the job, a drastically reduced number.)

In the 1980s, companies were concerned mainly with compliance. Simply put, leaders were looking to meet initial OSHA regulations that they had never had to deal with before.

“In the 1990s, companies started to put more engineering controls and design into safety, along with a focus on compliance,” explains Mike.

In recent years, the focus has shifted from being mostly compliance-oriented to an outlook where the total cost of risks are taken into account.

In the 2000s, safety programs started to focus more on human performance and behavior based controls. It was during this decade where many organizations started to use peer-to-peer evaluations.

Safety Is Not the Absence of Accidents

For most organizations today, workers’ compensation is the largest insurance expense incurred. But an increasing number of companies know that culture and training are critical components to creating safer workplaces and to reduce costs associated with workplace injuries.

“Safety is not the absence of accidents,” says Mike. “Safety is the presence of defenses, or multiple layers,” he explains. “Both management and employees have to be skilled on the tasks and the tools to complete the tasks safely. Managers have to be present while the work is being done to ensure employees understand expectations.”

safety is not the absence of accidents

Managers also must learn to use open-ended questions to find out what an employee knows (or doesn’t know), and how they understand their tasks.

Looking to the Future

Technology is a critical component for companies looking to improve outcomes or to lower costs. Going forward, companies will increasingly turn to technology to efficiently manage and improve their workers’ compensation. Mike says he expects many more companies in the near future to also use technology to directly enhance their safety practices as well.

“Employees don’t remain with companies like they used to, so we must learn from the employees we have right now to prepare for our future employees,” adds Mike.

“For example, a manager asks an open-ended question and the employee brings up a problem with a tool, or equipment, or process. Management should investigate this issue to see if it’s feasible to find a solution to that problem, whether it be an engineering solution or behavioral solution. This will help the next group of employees,” adds Mike.

“Safety is a never-ending journey, not a program,” he says.

Spend Less Time on Compliance & More Time Supporting Your Culture

An unsafe work environment can be catastrophic—physically, financially, and emotionally for employees.

With iReportSource, you can use technology to:

  • Prevent accidents;
  • Make compliance easy;
  • Better understand and manage employee health and safety.

As the ONLY integrated digital workspace to manage worker’s compensation and safety, iReportSource is here to help you lower cost and improve outcomes.

Contact us today to learn more about smart workplace safety. 

About Mike Hart

Mike Hart is Vice President of Risk Management for Verst Group Logistics. With more than 25 years of experience, Mike has implemented a management-driven, safe operations process at three companies. In the process, he’s successfully reduced injuries and workers’ comp by more than 80 percent, over each 3+ year process. Mike has also led facility security, including facilities that house warehouse alcohol and spirits.