2016 Teddy Award Winner

Bringing Focus to Broad Challenges

Target brings home a 2016 Teddy Award for serving as an advocate for its workers, pre- and post-injury, across each of its many operations.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 6 min read

Target’s roughly 341,000 employees perform a wide array of tasks. In its nearly 1,800 retail locations, they stock shelves, walk the aisles assisting customers and man the cash registers, sometimes staying on their feet for hours on end. In the company’s 38 distribution centers, they move large pallets and work side by side with heavy machinery.

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Target also operates in 49 of the 50 United States. As any national company can attest to, this presents regulatory complexity, as no two states are the same when it comes to safety regulation, health care resources and workers’ compensation law.

The safety and workers’ comp challenges, to say the least, are broad.

Then, the retail giant underwent a companywide reorganization in March 2015, which left the risk management department with fewer team members, and just as much work to accomplish. The team is responsible for safety, claims, finance and insurance across the corporation.

“We had an opportunity to help team members learn new skills and expand their knowledge base,” said Jodi Neuses, safety director, Target. “From the safety team’s perspective, we had to do some cross-training so that everyone had a well-rounded understanding of our risks on both the retail and the distribution side. We no longer had specialized experts in just one part of the business.”

The same was true on the workers’ comp side of the equation.

The Target Risk Management Team (L to R): First Row - Shannon Simonette, MaryJo Pollock, Dan Hawkins, Rachel Gillman, Debbie Marshall, Alicia Kronstedt; Second/Third Row - Carla LaVere, Megan Rooney, Melissa Cudzilo, Eric Oldroyd, Dean Sherman, Elaine Boevers, Gina LoPesio, Ben Holmes, Jodi Neuses, Amanda Lagatta; Not pictured: Diane Howden, Rob Wilkey and Debra Shoemaker.

The Target Risk Management Team (L to R):
First Row – Shannon Simonette, MaryJo Pollock, Dan Hawkins, Rachel Gillman, Debbie Marshall, Alicia Kronstedt; Second/Third Row – Carla LaVere, Megan Rooney, Melissa Cudzilo, Eric Oldroyd, Dean Sherman, Elaine Boevers, Gina LoPesio, Ben Holmes, Jodi Neuses, Amanda Lagatta; Not pictured: Diane Howden, Rob Wilkey and Debra Shoemaker.

“We were fortunate to have team members who were specialists in workers’ comp claims and have previously been adjusters,” said Amanda Lagatta, Target’s director of insurance and claims. “We had people with similar skill-sets work together to apply those skills in new ways.”

The team also began re-evaluating whether it was utilizing its third-party vendors in the most efficient way.

“We made several changes with our claims vendors and managed-care vendors, so that we were fully leveraging all the services they provide,” Lagatta said.

Neuses and her team turned to professional associations like the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Minnesota Safety Council to stay updated on the latest guidelines and training. Vendors and professional groups have become a regular source of expert advice for the safety team.

Rebuilding the expertise of the safety and workers’ comp team offered an opportunity to view the company’s challenges with a fresh perspective. It opened their eyes to new ways to improve their programs.

The workers’ comp claims team, for example, made greater use of predictive analytics to streamline and expedite its processes.

“This is a service that we think is unique to us, and has really evolved to become a central part of our advocacy program.” — Amanda Lagatta, director of insurance and claims, Target

Originally, the analytical tool was used to determine at the outset the level of adjuster that should be assigned to a case. It was meant to direct the right level of expertise to a claim. The problem with that model, however, is that it touches a claim only once and does not account for how the claimant’s experience changes over time.

“We subsequently updated the model so that it looks at a claim at different points throughout its lifecycle, not just at the start,” Lagatta said. “As things change, we’ll evaluate the use of a return-to-work coordinator, and when we should call a roundtable to discuss a claim’s progress to develop a new strategy or get different people involved.”

Diving deeper into claims data also helps the safety team pinpoint where injuries are happening, so they can focus prevention efforts where they’re needed most.

Stronger Safety Culture

A culture of safety devoted to keeping team members and guests safe is a critical goal for Target. Efforts are focused on creating a top-down culture of safety throughout the company, including leading off meetings at distribution centers with safety messages, and leveraging an ergonomic specialist to consult on workstation design and merchandise presentation to minimize injury risk. The team also engages the “assets protection” leader at every retail location to take on the role of “safety captain” to reinforce a culture of safety in their stores.

Amanda Lagatta, director of insurance and claims, Target

Amanda Lagatta, director of insurance and claims, Target

Huddles — how the Target store teams refer to their twice-daily gatherings — and Start Up Messages, in which managers communicate the company’s safety message before the day begins and lead their teams in stretching and other warm-up exercises, are another key feature of the safety program.

Signage in stores and distribution centers remind employees of hazards and safety practices they should follow to mitigate them. Training programs for powered equipment were simplified and adjusted to allow trainers and supervisors to control when an employee is ready to be certified and move on to independent work.

“Safety is mission-critical,” Neuses said. “We try to be proactive and continually reinforce that message.”

Advocacy-Based Model

Unfortunately, even the most thorough safety program can’t prevent all accidents. When an injury does occur, Lagatta and her team ensure that the worker is treated with respect and care — and treated quickly.

When a team member is injured on the job, they often don’t know how to navigate the workers’ comp system or how exactly the claims process works. Confusion and frustration can add to the employee’s stress and lead them to delay seeking care.

As part of an initiative to build a more formal, advocacy-based claims model, Target instituted a Workers’ Comp Assistance Center with the help of its TPA, Sedgwick Claims Management Services.

“This is a service that we think is unique to us, and has really evolved to become a central part of our advocacy program,” Lagatta said. “Someone from the assistance center — not the claims adjuster — will reach out to the team member and make the first contact with them. Their job is to reassure the team member that we care and we’re there for them, to familiarize them with the workers’ comp process and answer any questions.”

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Those initial calls are also an opportunity to collect additional information about the claimant and the injury. That data is entered into the predictive modeling system and used to direct the right resources to the case.

Return-to-work coordinators are another critical component of the advocacy approach, and the retailer’s return-to-work program is a differentiator in the industry.

The risk management team has identified suitable light-duty positions for injured workers, and provides 12 weeks of modified duty payroll to support the stores using this program. But sometimes follow-up surgeries are necessary, and recovery can be a difficult road. Post-surgery, injured employees may receive another 12 weeks to accommodate the additional treatment.

Third-party service providers again play an important role in this process. Nurse case managers liaise with physicians and human resource departments to gather the information they need, and keep all parties on the same page. For example, they can analyze an injured team member’s abilities and investigate worksites to determine what is safe and suitable.

“We really rely on our vendors to help navigate that process and make informed decisions,” Lagatta said. “We’re fortunate to have partners we can trust, so we can maximize the impact of our department.”

Since implementing these changes in safety, claims management and return-to-work, Target has seen reductions in claim frequency, length and cost, and has improved the experience for its injured workers. &

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Read more about the 2016 Teddy Award winners:

target-150x150Bringing Focus to Broad Challenges: Target brings home a 2016 Teddy Award for serving as an advocate for its workers, pre- and post-injury, across each of its many operations.

 

hrt-150x150The Road to Success: Accountability and collaboration turned Hampton Roads Transit’s legacy workers’ compensation program into a triumph.

 

excela-150x150Improve the Well-Being of Every Life: Excela Health changed the way it treated injuries and took a proactive approach to safety, drastically reducing workers’ comp claims and costs.

 

harder-150x150The Family That’s Safe Together: An unwavering commitment to zero lost time is just one way that Harder Mechanical Contractors protects the lives and livelihoods of its workers.

 

More coverage of the 2016 Teddy Awards:

Recognizing Excellence: The judges of the 2016 Teddy Awards reflect on what they learned, and on the value of awards programs in the workers’ comp space.

Fit for Duty: 2013 Teddy Winner Miami-Dade County Public Schools is managing comorbid risk factors by getting employees excited about healthy living.

Saving Time and Money: Applying Lean Six Sigma to its workers’ comp processes earned Atlantic Health a Teddy Award Honorable Mention.

Caring for the Caregivers: Adventist Health Central Valley Network is achieving stellar results by targeting its toughest challenges.

Advocating for Injured Workers: By helping employees navigate through the workers’ comp system, Cottage Health decreased lost work days by 80 percent.

A Matter of Trust: St. Luke’s workers’ comp program is built upon relationships and a commitment to care for those who care for patients.

Keeping the Results Flowing: R&I recognizes the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for a commonsense approach that’s netting continuous improvement.

Katie Siegel is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Workers' Comp

Keeping Workers on Their Feet

Slip and fall prevention programs must interweave all of the factors contributing to the risk.
By: | July 6, 2017 • 11 min read

If you peruse the last decade’s worth of literature from the CDC, NIOSH, or numerous other agencies or organizations, you’re bound to come across the “good news” that slips, trips and falls are largely preventable.

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So it’s frustrating, then, that slip, trip and fall injuries consistently account for more than a quarter of all nonfatal occupational injuries, and at least 65 percent of those injuries happen on same-level walking surfaces. And those figures just don’t budge all that much from year to year.

According to the “2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index,” falls on same level currently rank as the second highest cause of disabling injuries in the U.S., with direct costs of $10.17 billion, accounting for 16.4 percent of the total national injury burden.

“Not only are they still happening often, but they tend to be very significant injuries,” said Mike Lampl, director of research at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

“We’ve seen these trends grow over the years,” said Wayne Maynard, product director, risk control, with Liberty Mutual. “Bottom line is, it’s a real, real big problem.”

So why are preventable falls so hard to prevent? This stubborn status quo, say experts, is that the causes of slips and trips are typically far more complex than they seem. There are nearly always multiple factors in play, from footwear and flooring and the interplay of both, to cleaning procedures, lighting, housekeeping, weather, and workers’ mental or physical conditions as well as overall awareness.

And all of these factors are being exacerbated by the fact that incidents often go unreported.

“Slips, falls — people get up, move on, they don’t report it,” said Maynard.

“When somebody’s injured and files a claim — in the workers’ arena, how many are behind the scenes that may have happened that are not reportable? …. The unreported number is considerable in my opinion.”

The key to making any headway in reducing slips and falls on the same surface, say experts, is to have a comprehensive fall prevention plan that addresses all possible factors. No small task.

Engineering Solutions

Flooring conditions are often the most obvious starting point. Ideally, said Maynard, all the right choices are made at the planning and design stage. But sometimes mistakes are made, and in other cases, a business may be inheriting an older space with floor chosen for a different purpose.

Patricia Showerman, senior loss control consultant, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

So even flooring in good condition may be the wrong type of material and may not have the necessary coefficient of friction (slip resistance) needed for the work being done.

If companies want to drill down into all the details of the surfaces in their facilities, a friction coefficient study is always an option, said Patricia Showerman, senior loss control consultant at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

But if a company doesn’t want to take that step, she said, it may be a simpler matter of saying, “Let’s look at what you’ve got. Let’s look at your floor surfaces and how you’re maintaining them.”

A lot of people want that “shiny grocery store glam look,” she said. “And if you can do it properly, and maintain it properly and keep that coefficient of friction and have the shiny look, that’s great. That’s what everybody wants but how do they get there?”

Certain surfaces may start out with an adequate coefficient of friction when they’re clean and dry. But add even an invisible layer of dust or debris, “and it’s like microscopic little BBs that you slide across,” said Showerman. “So if you have dust on your floor, you are dramatically reducing your slip coefficient.”

For companies that do have flooring surfaces in need of improvement, ripping up the floor and replacing it isn’t typically a feasible option. Fortunately there are more budget-friendly ways to get the maximum slip resistance from existing flooring, such as coatings and etchings.

A coating adds a microscopic layer on top of the flooring that creates a grip surface while maintaining the shine. Showerman likened the effect to the way that Velcro fasteners work.

“You want that hook effect … sharp points are going to microscopically stick into the soles of your shoes, rather than rolling off the top.”

Etching can work in a similar way, chemically altering the existing surface to make it imperceptibly gritty. Etching can also be used to create pores in an existing surface, which is useful for areas such as machine shops, she said.

Be Smart With Surfactants

While keeping floor surfaces clean is one of the best ways to remove slip and fall hazards, cleaning them the wrong way can actually do more harm than good.

Failure to follow appropriate cleaning procedures can severely diminish a surface’s coefficient of friction.

Experts suggest that companies engage with their chemical suppliers, and discuss their flooring as well as the types of dirt or grease removal and disinfectant needs. Detergents – which can contain different types of surfactants — aren’t a one size fits all solution.

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Sometimes purchasers might be inclined to try to cover all their bases by buying the strongest product on the market, but that might mean adding unnecessary surfactants that make surfaces less slip resistant.

“Clearly identify the types of surfaces you’re using it for, the type of oil or dirt or debris you have, and whether or not you need a sanitizing step,” said Showerman.

“You’ve got to find the right balance.”

But that’s only half the battle. A significant problem experts see time and time again is that companies don’t understand how their flooring is being maintained on a day-to-day basis by front-line employees. Failure to follow appropriate cleaning procedures can severely diminish a surface’s coefficient of friction.

“This is where you’re seeing someone with a mop and bucket and they are just re-smearing that grease from one place to another. They put the dirty mop in the dirty bucket, the mop gets full of that emulsified grease and you’re smearing it across the room. In high grease areas, you have to replace with clean water consistently.”

In other cases, a worker without the proper training may grab the first detergent he finds, even if it’s meant for the equipment rather than the floor. Or perhaps he mixes equal parts detergent and water when he was supposed to only use 8 oz. of detergent for every five gallons of water.
Sometimes people will even over-concentrate the detergent on purpose, she added.

Peter Koch, safety management specialist, The MEMIC Group

“I see that in the food industry frequently,” said Showerman. “They find that the more detergent they leave on the floor, the easier it is to clean up next time … but then everyone’s slipping and falling like in a cartoon.”

A company could invest a significant amount in flooring improvements, only to have the benefits undone by improper detergent use or failure to follow recommended rinsing procedures.

It’s incumbent upon safety managers to reinforce that maintaining floor surfaces isn’t just a matter of housekeeping, but a key part of the company’s workplace safety program.

The Human Factor

When you’ve done everything possible to address hazards in the physical work environment, workers themselves remain the wildcard. Most employers routinely include slip and fall hazards in their safety awareness training or toolbox talk programs. But that training should go well beyond a general “watch where you walk” message, say experts.

“One of the most overlooked parts for employee safety is actually employee training,” said Peter Koch, safety management specialist at  The MEMIC Group.

“How do you train an employee to not slip and fall? I think many times that is wrapped in a “you have to be more careful” message, which is valid but nebulous and not very helpful — it means something different to everyone based on your risk tolerance as an individual.”

Koch’s employee training regimen revolves around four elements: surfaces, awareness, footwear and environment (SAFE).

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The first goal of the surface portion is just to get employees to start thinking about the different types of surfaces they walk on and how it can change throughout the work day. Koch said he likes to ask: “How many different types of surfaces did you have to walk on the get to this training room?”

The footwear piece of it is the most straightforward. Are your shoes designed for the work that you’re doing and the surfaces you’re walking on? Are they in good condition? Are the soles worn out?

There is no ASTM standard for measuring the performance of slip-resistant footwear, added Gallagher’s Showerman. So workers should be reminded that wearing the right shoe isn’t a guarantee — it’s just one piece of the solution.

Awareness, said Koch, may be the most challenging piece of the puzzle — helping people to think about their gait, what they’re carrying, what they’re doing, and simply where their heads are at any given moment.

“If you’re thinking about 15 things you have to get done by the end of the day, or you have a particularly challenging employee interaction coming up that day, or you had a fight with your girlfriend last night— or whatever it is — you’re not focused. Then you take that step through the icy patch, and now it relies completely on your athletic ability and luck to stay upright.”

Workers may not necessarily make the connection between personal factors and fall risk. Someone who has an ear infection or is taking certain medications, for example, may not even be aware that their balance might be compromised, putting them at higher risk for a fall.

Employees also should be reminded of how even normal daily stressors can contribute to risk. Everyone is under pressure to deliver more in less time. Everyone is rushing, everyone is stretched to their limits. Add the ever-present cellphone beeping and buzzing and demanding our attention and perhaps it’s a wonder slips and falls don’t happen even more often than they already do.

We’re so conditioned to react when the vibration goes off or the tone chimes in our pockets that we just grab it without thinking, Koch said.

“If you knowingly put yourself at risk by knowingly going quickly through an area with slip and fall exposures, it’s just Russian roulette – at some point you’re going to get broken.” — Peter Koch, safety management specialist, The MEMIC Group.

“Even that, in certain conditions, is going to be enough to put you on the ground.”

Awareness of environmental factors should also be part of the training, Koch said, especially in terms of what workers can’t control, like inclement weather.  He said the main thing he tries to impress upon people is to slow down in a high-risk environment.

“If you knowingly put yourself at risk by knowingly going quickly through an area with slip and fall exposures, it’s just Russian roulette – at some point you’re going to get broken.”

Koch says that getting people to put all of these facets of awareness together is where the training can really click.

The goal is that when they approach an area with a higher-risk surface, employees are thinking “for those few seconds or minutes that I’m going to be walking through it, I need to have a greater sense of awareness, I need to put away the mental [distractions] and focus on what I’m doing – don’t answer your phone, don’t answer your texts.”

Some employers are looking to address the human piece of the slip and fall puzzle by using training that goes far beyond hazard awareness. Active slip-prevention training focuses on body mechanics and teaches workers how to respond when they feel themselves begin to slip.

One such program revolves around the Slip Simulator, technology born of a research partnership between Virginia Tech researchers and UPS. The simulator that creates slippery and hazardous conditions in a controlled environment while participants walk in a harness so they can slip safely. An instructor offers real-time guidance on how to alter their movements to avoid falling.

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After mastering the initial technique, trainees face additional challenges related to their specific work environments, such as walking up ramps or turning wheels. A New Mexico security team practiced drawing firearms while standing on the simulator, which led to a change in how they wear their weapons. Workers at an Ohio refinery practiced stepping over pipes and turning large valves.

Clients of the program are reporting 60 to 80 percent reductions in accident rates.

The Road Ahead

A comprehensive slip and fall prevention plan is a must for employers, experts agreed, with clear, consistent procedures that empower employees to be a part of the solution.

“Employees play a very critical role,” said Liberty Mutual’s Maynard. “If they see a slip risk or a slipperiness issue, they need to be able to report it and they need to be able to get that corrected immediately. They have an important role in maintaining a safe facility and reducing risk themselves — be proactive, don’t walk by, clean it up.

“Any time you can involve the employee in solutions …. the likelihood of success of that intervention is higher.”

Maynard added that the best prevention plans will also be forward-looking.

“Understand where current safety performance is. Then make a roadmap to get better,” he said. “Emphasize where you’re doing well,” then identify opportunities to effect improvement, now and over the next three, four or five years.

“Prevention is too often reactive,” Maynard said. “We’ve got an issue and now what do we do? The goal is for companies to be proactive.” &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]