Focusing on Safety is Good for Business

By Craig Clark

Safety issues or incidences can be devastating to a company, and injuries can literally put you out of business. Workers’ Comp rates can increase your operating costs, and, if not addressed, can ruin your company. Knowing your Experience Modification Rate (EMR) — a number used by insurance companies to gauge both past cost of injuries and future chances of risk — is a must in today’s competitive business environment. Reducing your EMR can reduce your operating expense because insurance carriers use this rating to establish your Workers’ Comp rates. Get your EMR down below 1, and your insurance rates will be reduced.

It’s important to note that U.S. businesses that employ 11 or more workers who are not immediate family members are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act to comply with regulations that include having a written safety training program. Smaller businesses can provide oral safety training, but it’s better to have a written program.

The longer you can operate without any injuries, the greater your potential to lower your Workers’ Comp rates. So, an effective safety program that eliminates hazards and prevents injuries is the way to lower your EMR.

If you don’t know your EMR, ask your insurance carrier. If your rate is above 1, there are many resources to help you establish an effective safety program and increase safety awareness. PLANET has several such resources:

  1. How Do We Protect Our Ears? and How Do We Protect Our Bodies? are free, interactive programs produced with funding provided by the Susan Harwood Grant and designed for presentation by company supervisory personnel with safety experience, by safety personnel, or by professional trainers or educators who are knowledgeable about the landscape industry.
  2. Safety Program for Green Industry Companies CD (available free to PLANET members) includes a comprehensive company safety policy on topics such as motor vehicle safety, preventing back injuries, and return-to-work/modified-duty programs. It also has more than 50 ready-to-use forms, sample policies, payroll stuffers, and other safety ideas successfully used by others in the landscape industry.
  3. The STARS (Safety Training Achieves Remarkable Success) Safe Company Program is a free safety program to help green industry companies lower their total costs of risk by reducing hazards and injuries. With this program, PLANET aims to lessen the risks associated with the landscape industry and improve the industry’s standing with OSHA.
  4. 2012 Safety Benchmark Report is a detailed analysis of the safety practices of PLANET members and STARS members from 2009 through 2011. Results are presented in tables and graphs, designed to provide a comprehensive guide for analyzing profitability and also show areas that need improvement.

Don’t look at safety as an expense because operating a landscape company without a comprehensive safety program is far more costly.

“Safety is prevalent across the professional landscape industry,” said Arden Urbana, vice president of LS Training Systems. “It’s viewed as an essential part of any business to keep employees safe and to reduce company exposure. Much attention is placed on monthly or periodic safety talks. At the end of the day, however, it’s trained employees that make safety happen. Continuous, proper training is ultimately what teaches employees how to be safe in a landscape work environment. Consistent training results in better retention and intuitive safety aptitude. In short, safety happens in a well-trained workforce.”

Safety is every company’s responsibility, and focusing on safety is good business. Start promoting safety today and watch your company grow and prosper.

Craig Clark is chairman of PLANET’s Safety & Risk Management Committee.

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