Liberty Mutual: A Safety Break-through Is Coming

The results of behavioral safety programs promise to demonstrate\r\nhow a company's safety program improves financial\r\nperformance, according to Karl Jacobson, senior vice president at\r\nLiberty Mutual.

The results of behavioral safety programs promise to demonstrate for the first time how a company''s safety program improves financial performance, according to Karl Jacobson, senior vice president at Liberty Mutual.

"We think this is going to be a major break-through for the safety profession," Jacobson said earlier this week in Baltimore at the Ninth Annual Risk Management Forum, a conference sponsored by Liberty Mutual, a Boston-based insurance company.

Entitled "The Value of Safety," Jacobson''s talk discussed some of the difficulties safety professionals have faced in selling safety and health programs to upper management.

"Unless you talk the language of the operators and treasury people," he said, "you''re probably not going to be heard."

For example, audits of safety programs generally correlate poorly with actual loss reduction -- the audits only show whether or not a program''s procedures are being followed.

A better approach, according to Jacobson, is a process that begins with a risk management assessment to uncover a few of the major causes of loss confronting a company. After this, he recommended installing a program that is focused on cutting these losses by establishing goals and monitoring progress toward these goals.

"I think one of the problems we''ve had in safety is we''ve tried to look at it as if it isn''t part of the business," said Jacobson. This older approach is giving way to a newer model more oriented to improving a company''s bottom line.

Traditional safety and health programs are changing into risk management programs, Jacobson noted. One example of this change is the integration of pre and post-loss management.

"In the old days, the safety guy used to say it''s the claims guy''s job to get somebody back to work," he said.

The remarkable performance results of behavioral safety programs constitute the most exciting recent development in this trend toward connecting safety to loss reduction, according to Jacobson.

Such programs work both by recognizing safe behaviors and confronting unsafe behaviors, but Jacobson added it is important to place more priority on positive reinforcement.

"What we''re seeing is that over time, as safe behaviors go up, lost work day rates go down," he said.

But Jacobson cautioned that behavioral safety might not be the place to begin. He said that in his experience, the companies that have had the most success with these programs are those that have had successful traditional safety programs and found they had reached a plateau in their performance.

by James Nash

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