Award Winning Program

Achievement Marches Forward

Two-time Teddy Award winner Red River Army Depot drives year-over-year results, serving as a model for other installations throughout the Army.
By: | November 2, 2015 • 4 min read

The guiding philosophy of the Red River Army Depot team is that soldiers’ lives depend on the quality of their work, and workers’ lives depend on how safely they achieve that quality.

Red River Army Depot, recipient of the Teddy Award in 2007 and again in 2012 in the federal category, continues its outstanding efforts in minimizing workplace injuries and emphasizing safety – both on and off the job.

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Red River, which employs more than 5,400 workers, including more than 2,500 civilians, is a military installation in Texarkana, Texas that repairs and rebuilds tactical combat vehicles and equipment. Due to the success of its workers’ compensation and safety programs, the depot since 2007 has consecutively achieved the lowest lost-time rate within the Army’s major industrial installations.

In 2007, the depot established “Role Model” standard operating procedures that streamline the entire workers’ compensation process, resulting in a significantly faster return to work. To date, RRAD continues to achieve decreases in costs and lost-time days, as well as number of claims filed.

Since the implementation of the procedures in 2007, the depot has returned 68 injured employees to work, with a cost avoidance of more than $55 million, decreased lost-time cases by 68 percent, decreased lost-time case rate by 47 percent, decreased the number of lost-time days by 90 percent, decreased the number of claims filed by 55 percent and decreased claims costs by $1 million.

A Model for Others

Moreover, Red River is recognized throughout the Army for having established the “prototype” processes and procedures that have facilitated the success of its return-to-work program. The depot has shared best practices throughout the Army, and continues to mentor several other installations including Anniston Army Depot; Pine Bluff Arsenal; McAlester Army Depot, Memphis, Ft. Polk, Ft. Hood and others.

“The key to success is great communication. We care about the workforce and are diligent in those activities — not only when an employee gets hurt, but we’re also trying to prevent accidents in the first place.” — Brent Jones, safety officer, Red River Army Depot

Ann Harmon, injury compensation program administrator, said she particularly loves the fact that the depot has implemented an accident review board, in which injured workers and their supervisors can communicate their opinions on how the team can better the process.

“To me, it really gets the buy-in of employees and makes them feel like they are an integral part of the depot,” Harmon said. “Our number one priority is making each one of our injured workers feel special, getting them recovered and back to employment.”

The accident review board, chaired by the depot’s commander, reviews accidents to learn what employees think needs to be done to prevent such accidents from occurring in the future, and enhances management’s ability to make sure corrective actions have taken place or are in the process of taking place, said Brent Jones, safety officer.

In the discussions, employees, management and union representatives are all “sitting across the table, eye to eye, no one looking down their nose at anyone else,” Jones said. “It’s truly an open forum for sharing information.”

“The key to success is great communication,” he said. “We care about the workforce and are diligent in those activities — not only when an employee gets hurt, but we’re also trying to prevent accidents in the first place.”

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Red River has also received numerous awards from the Army, including an “all GREEN” audit rating in 2012 by an Army Materiel Command (AMC) inspectors’ general team, and recognition for having the best workers’ comp program within the AMC, based on program effectiveness, proactive case management, and creation of new and improved processes using the principles of Lean Six Sigma. In March, Red River invited OSHA to audit its safety program, which resulted in OSHA recommending the installation for the agency’s Voluntary Protection Program Star status, recognizing the depot for maintaining injury and illness rates below the national average for similar installations.

A great deal of the success of Red River’s workers’ comp and safety programs can be attributed to Harmon, said chief of staff Theresa Weaver. Harmon works “so diligently” to coordinate with the depot’s safety officer, director of emergency services, the hygiene offices and legal offices, to quickly identify and resolve any workers’ comp claim disputes.

The team also keeps communication with the local medical community “fresh,” by making sure that new physicians and staff who come to the area know of the depot’s workers’ comp and safety programs, and that the team is willing to accommodate any type of injury and work situation, Weaver said.

“Lastly, we care about our employees’ safety after they leave work,” she said. “One of our employees recently had a terrible car accident, and we just want our employees to take safety very seriously, so they don’t have to pay the ultimate price.”

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

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