Kirby Pines Sets New Safety Standard—and Wins Big

A couple of years ago, Kirby Pines, a life-care retirement community in Memphis, Tennessee, called Summit for help with getting safety programs back on track. Their Summit loss control rep John Todd jumped in and worked with the company to achieve results that have been long-reaching and successful.

According to John, the Kirby Pines loss history had no glaring danger points in 2009, “They’re an amazing senior care facility—totally impressive in every way. Their employees, though, were experiencing minor injuries that were stacking up to raise the company’s comp costs. Just ordinary slips, falls, sprains and back injuries can add up to a lot of claims dollars and a high loss ratio.” He saw the pattern and rolled up his sleeves. “Repetitive injuries are something that Summit can help address.”

Getting started

John ran the numbers and found that these minor injuries were costing Kirby Pines money in terms of lost time, premium dollars and employee productivity. He and insurance agent Dale Menard (Menard, Gates & Mathis) charted a course of action with Charles Trammell, CEO of Retirement Communities of America, the management company for Kirby Pines.
Then John identified the company’s three critical issues:

  1. Slips, trips and falls
  2. Improper lifting techniques
  3. Distracted driving

He ran reports to illustrate the potential savings a targeted safety program could create, and Sharon Richmond, the company’s risk manager and HR manager, was brought in to implement action plans. CEO Charles Trammel is known by Kirby Pines residents and staff to be “hands on” in the operation of the community. He carefully reviewed the plans that John and Sharon developed. Because he is so close to the daily activities and operations, he could see the potential results and had confidence that the plan would work. Check out the results.

From a 98% loss ratio in 2009, Kirby Pines has used safety programs, employee training and incentives to reach a 20% loss ratio this year! In addition, the company has achieved some other exciting results—

11% fewer incidents
49% fewer disability days
35% decrease in injury severity rates

Charles states, “Sharon and John clearly increased safety at Kirby Pines, but they also increased teamwork; our folks have embraced health and safety in new ways, and that’s exciting.” He adds, “It’s a big deal for us as a business, but the most important fact is that we know we’re keeping our people safer than we did in the past.”

Safety begins with employees

John explains, “Sharon reignited the Kirby Pines safety process, starting from before the time an injury occurs, right through to an early and safe return to work. Summit provided on-site training and other materials for the company to provide its own in-house classes. The company’s insurance agent, Dale, and his team were always available for support and input. The magic, though, was employee buy-in. Sharon opened the door to employee understanding of why safety really matters to them.”

Sharon’s secret, she says, was to keep it simple, “I explained how employee safety helps keep us profitable, which translates to job security. We spend money to keep everyone healthy, plus it takes every one of us working to keep this place at its best. We work together more than 2,000 hours each per year. And we’re proud to be a top facility. We’re family.”

She continues, “It follows that what we really want is zero accidents. It won’t happen overnight, but our goal every day is zero, and that is a vision worth having.” She adds, “If you walk through your site, you’ll find someone doing something that could result in an injury. We ask our managers and supervisors to help employees with safe workplace issues. We set high standards for safety, and it’s everyone’s job to be safe.”

Setting the ground rules

Sharon set clear guidelines and made it easy for employees to understand and comply.

  1. Mandatory no-slip shoes
    The reports that John presented left no doubt that nonslip shoes are necessary. Sharon explains, “Slips and falls were responsible for about 35 percent of our injuries each month.” Instead of simply setting the policy, Sharon asked John to come visit the company to train on the topic and to help illustrate the need for nonslip shoes; then she found vendors willing to offer discounts to the employees at Kirby Pines. On top of that, Sharon negotiated with her company to provide a $5 payroll deduction to help employees purchase the shoes. “Our folks need these shoes at the best price. We found that for them.”
  2. Training
    Monthly training programs target the highest risk areas, and Summit works with Sharon to either produce the program or find subject-matter experts. A few of this year’s classes included anti-slip, trip and fall training; distracted driver safety training via simulator; plus, new-hire orientation and patient lifting skills for nursing staff. In addition, John hosted a quarterly review of all injuries with the staff to discuss ways to prevent future accidents. “Because of the decrease in injuries at Kirby Pines, we now meet semiannually,” John reports. “And I’m always available if they need me.”
  3. Return to work
    Sharon explains the return-to-work policy in terms of dollars and teamwork. “We need every person on the job and working in order to keep our residents safe and happy—and wanting to stay with us. If you do get hurt, Kirby Pines will be there for you—but by law, staying home pays you less than your regular pay. Coming back means that we’ll find you a job that you can do safely. You keep your salary and you help keep your department running smoothly. It’s a team effort, and it works. This year we’ve only had two lost-time injuries.”

Pulling it all together

Once the program was in place, Sharon looked for a way to make safety an everyday part of the Kirby Pines culture. “We decided to expect and value safe behavior, so we celebrate success by recognizing and rewarding it,” she says.

Positive reinforcement makes a difference

“We post our safety statistics every month by the time clock. They’re also on the information board and at our mandatory employee safety meetings. I want our people in the know and talking about safety. They have to see the value personally.

“We recognize departments, and I survey our staff to discover what our folks want because no reward fits everyone the same. We might provide gas cards for one department and a pizza party for another. Public recognition is important, too, so I announce the department with the longest no-accident record at every employee meeting. It’s a big deal, and the employees here love the recognition.”

Communication is key

John is enthusiastic, “Several smart business components came together to create a working and successful safety program that controls hazards and changed this company’s culture. Kirby Pines made safety a real value for their organization, not simply a priority. Priorities change, values don’t. They’re in this for the long run.”

Charles Trammel is impressed, “I’ve seen the numbers improve dramatically.”