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Fit to Work Policies

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W. B. Guimarin (WBG), a 112 year old commercial and light industrial Mechanical Contractor with both a construction business and an HVAC service department, has always had a very comprehensive safety program for our field operations and sheet metal shop. With excellent safety ratings, we have had success in the federal market, as well as the commercial marketplace.

Prior to 2013, the requirement for new field service and construction personnel was a simple drug and alcohol screening. During the four years prior to 2013, the company had 27 injuries with 523 days of work restrictions. While maintaining a good MOD rate and very good level of time without any lost time injuries, the ability to have productive work activities from service technicians and field construction personnel on work restrictions or light duty provided a serious challenge to the company. After reviewing the physical requirements for the various field positions in both the construction and HVAC service business, it was determined that a more strenuous pre-employment physical test protocol was needed.

In working with our occupational health and safety partners, we came up with a pre-employment physical testing regimen that would mirror those day-to-day activities of the field personnel. A more detailed job description was also developed, which included the physical requirements, along with the environmental aspects involved. The job description is as follows:

Physical Requirements and Work Environment

  1. Ability to work skillfully with both hands constantly; independently safely lift and carry objects weighing up to 25 pounds routinely, 50 pounds frequently, and 80 pounds occasionally; climb and maintain balance on ladders and scaffold; kneel, crouch, crawl, reach, push, pull, twist, finger, grasp, and feel on a constant and repetitive basis; stand, walk, talk, see (20/20 vision naturally or corrected), and hear within normal range; and perform repetitive motion activities.
  2. Ability to work in extreme environmental conditions including excessive heat and cold, noise, vibrations, dust, fumes, and oils.
  3. Ability to wear a portable respirator and adhere to all company safety requirements.
  4. Ability to physically negotiate the hazards of a new construction work site, (e.g. uneven surfaces, floor opening, heights, construction debris, and poor lighting) and adhere to all company safety requirements.
  5. Ability to work the schedule required by job demands and willingness to participate in a formal Career Path Program.

To ensure that new employees were capable of the physical requirements, a protocol was established by our healthcare partners, which required that the employee walk 100 yards with 25 pounds, 75 yards with 50 pounds, and 25 yards with 80 pounds. They were also required to lift 50 pounds over their head repeatedly to ensure they could remove a ladder from a service truck, and were then required to climb both an extension ladder and a step ladder multiple times with no physical discomfort. The drug and alcohol screen remained in place as a requirement, also. Since these policies and procedures were put in place, days of work restrictions have been reduced 64%, our total recordable incident rate was down 50%, and hours worked was up 42%. The DART rate was down 29%, and productivity and profitability have both been improved significantly.

In addition to the pre-employment physical described in this article, WBG has implemented several ongoing safety practices to ensure that health and safety are continually reinforced to all employees. All field company owned vehicles have GPS monitoring systems using the Network Fleet software program. A semiannual $4,000 bonus pool was set up, and all employees that have no notifications of over 77 miles per hour driving in those six months receive a share of the pool money.

Notifications of the cost of injuries are posted in all-office meeting room. This has brought a much better understanding to the field personnel about these costs. Included in this information was that strains, sprains, and tears account for 30% of all injuries. This was followed by recommendations on stretching and warming up prior to starting the work day.

A renewed emphasis on hydration was implemented recommending 8 ounces of water every hour during the summer. Bottled water is provided in the shop. Each field person was provided with a Mira Cool Occu-Nomix cooling towel, which helps reduce the causes of heat stress.

With the renewed emphasis on pre-employment physical qualifications and safety training and policies, personnel retention and morale have improved significantly. As all of the members of ACCA are for-profit companies, these changes have also had a positive impact on the company bottom line that has nothing to do with revenue or margins.

Chris Bigalke
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Management

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