WorkSafe Champion: One Business at a Time
In June, the WorkSafe Champion program graduated its’ first WorkSafe Champion business, the Missoula Developmental Service Corporation. MDSC champions the needs of adults with severe intellectual disabilities who often do not know how to communicate their wishes. Today MDSC cares for over 75 adults living in 12 homes and manages two day activity centers. Karen Harrison is MDSC’s Human Resources Director; she explains how the WorkSafe Champion program has and will continue to change the culture of safety at MDSC.
Perspectives: What motivated you to get your business involved in the WorkSafe Champion program?
KH: We’re always interested in bettering the safety for our clients and staff, alike. I participated in one of your earlier WorkSafe Champion Programs and found the program to be informative, energizing and extremely useful.
Perspectives How many of your employees took part in the WorkSafe Champion program?
KH: We have a fairly large management team, so not all of them participated, but 16 of them did.
The MDSC WorkSafe Champion Crew
Perspectives: How has this course changed the way your organization looks at safety issues?
KH: Since this course was just focused on our particular company, it really opened up some honest discussions about barriers we have had that need to be broken down to continue to improve safety awareness. When a group of managers can discuss their particular issues (especially in our unique environment), it takes the WorkSafe Champion Program to a whole new level. I absolutely recommend that this program take off in this direction with other companies.
Perspectives: Was there a particular part of the training you liked best?
KH: The best part of this program is the last class. Participants are expected to have a presentation on safety. They have proven to be creative and fun items that allow a lot of follow-up discussion on ways to improve safety, how to present these ideas to others in a fun way, and truly make a point while having fun.
Perspectives: What are some innovative programs you came up with to keep your employees safe?
KH: I really have to credit Dani Solonar, our Director of Services, who came up with the Mobility Champions Program. She developed a binder with pictures and descriptions of every single severely developmentally disabled adult that we serve within our 12 group homes. This information allowed each manager to specifically train their staff. The results have been staggering. We have almost eliminated back and shoulder injuries, and our experience modification rate went down 11 points in one year! Dani presented this program to the others when she and I attended our first WorkSafe Champion Program outside of our company and it was a big hit. We’d like to share this program with other similar industries within Montana through Montana State Fund
Perspectives: What advice would you give other businesses who are struggling to get a safety program put together?
KH: It’s true that safety starts at the top, but like Wayne Dillavou, Montana State Fund’s Safety Services Leader has said, “It also starts at the bottom”. It takes everyone to participate in a program like this and have faith that it works. Also, all employees need to be held accountable to a work-safe attitude. If they can’t abide by a safety culture, they shouldn’t be working at your company. It also takes time, effort and commitment to develop a program that can also be clearly communicated to everyone. And, another thing that I have learned is at MDSC, we need to communicate who is on our Health and Safety Committee through our website and make sure it is a transparent committee that posts its minutes for staff to see, offers an open avenue for staff to make suggestions or raise concerns, and allow them to be part of the solution. This piece is a goal of ours over the next few months.
Perspectives Anything else you would like to add?
KH: We have been so pleased with the personal assistance we receive from the staff at Montana State Fund. Team 6 is an excellent partner when handling our claims, Wendy Forgey, our Safety Consultant is the best. She is practically an employee at MDSC. We invite her to our health and safety meetings, she presents to our staff about various aspects of safety, and she participates in solving safety problems. Wayne Dillavou’s presentation skills are outstanding in the WorkSafe Champion Program and my staff and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him. It’s the people working at Montana State Fund that keeps us as a long-term customer!