Perspectives

A Positive Safety Rapport At Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility

In his 20 years in the corrections field, Jeff Holland has seen a lot. And what he sees today at Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility in Miles City, Montana is the safest environment the facility has ever experienced. But that major feat didn’t just happen.

In 2012, Holland, the quality assurance manager at Pine Hills, and his fellow employees, took action by getting involved in Montana State Fund’s WorkSafe Champions program. WorkSafe Champions is a 12 month intensive safety education program offered to our policyholders at no charge.

“In order to be a WorkSafe Champion you need to be fearless, nothing can be off the table. This program required us to take a look at how we operated and the services we offered the residents,” said Holland.

What Pine Hills found was that too many of the staff were being injured as the result of physical intervention to resolve aggressive and violent resident behavior. At that point, the facility took a step back and changed their focus on how to recognize escalating situations and how to talk effectively with others and develop a rapport with the young residents instead of physical contact.

With tools obtained through WorkSafe Champions and Performance Based Standards (PbS), a nationally-recognized improvement program dedicated exclusively to improving the conditions, services and overall operations of juvenile facilities and programs, Pine Hills was able to make this safety culture switch.

“Our involvement with Work Safe Champions and PbS worked synergistically to facilitate and guide our process of change and make the facility safer for staff and more effective with youth. Data gathered with PbS and knowledge, materials gained through Work Safe Champions helped us target, measure and address issues,” said Holland.

Jeff Holland chats with some of the Pine Hills residents.

But this cultural change did not come without some apprehension. Many employees thought this new way of thinking would give staff a lack of control and they would be less safe. However, today, there has been an attitude shift. Staff believe the residents are better behaved and they are safer.

In fact, prior to the cultural switch, the facility had an annual average of 73 injury claims a year, but in 2016, Pine Hills submitted only eight injury claims, with four of those being zero dollar claims.  Additionally, prior to these changes, their financial liability averaged over $250,000 a  year to under $4,000 in 2016.

Given this success, Pine Hills is one of three finalists for the national Barbra Allen Hagen (BAH) award. This award is given annually to a correction, detention/assessment and community program who best exemplify PbS’ commitment to develop and implement strategic plans to change practices that result in positive outcomes for youths, staff and families.

Although the award recipient will not be announced until October, Holland already considers Pine Hills a winner.

“Getting involved in WorkSafe Champions has really been a win win for Pine Hills. Not only have we had the benefit of keeping our staff safe, but we have done a better job in preparing our residents to get back into society.”

To add to their accolades, MSF has featured Pine Hills’ innovative safety program in our WorkSafe Champion video series. To view the video, and learn more about MSF’s Worksafe Champions program, click here.

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