Practical Prevention

Article 1: LPS Overview  | Article 2: Loss Investigations  | Article 3: Loss Prevention Observations

James D. Bennett, Ph.D., is an international loss prevention consultant for the petroleum, mining, manufacturing, and construction industries, as well as government organizations.
    He received a doctorate from The Pennsylvania State University where he was a faculty member in the Department of Mineral Engineering from 1974-1986, and Director of Earth and Mineral Sciences Continuing Education. Dr. Bennett was an executive with Exxon's El Cerrejon surface coal mine project in Colombia from 1986 - 1987.
    Since 1987 he has been in private practice as president of Loss Prevention Systems. Today, more than 60,000 employees and contractors use the Loss Prevention System in 65 countries located throughout North, South and Central America, Europe, Africa, and Asia Pacific. The system is also used in the Caribbean. Dr. Bennett is a U.S. Army veteran with service in Europe and Vietnam.

How LPOs Can Lower Workers' Comp Costs
The following is the third in a series of loss prevention articles that focus on practical and inexpensive means to lower workers' compensation costs. This article covers the major points that should be addressed to develop and use loss prevention observations (LPOs) as a tool to reduce these costs.

What is an LPO?
An LPO is a systematic method for (1) observing a work process and determining if the job or task is being performed according to standards (safety, quality, efficiency); and then (2) making recommendations to eliminate any discrepancies. The LPO evaluates both the activities performed by the employee and the workplace conditions in which he/she works.

LPO Objective
The overall objective of the LPO is to help maximize the efficiency (safety, quality, costs) of each occupation. This objective is reached by elimination of losses or the respective costs that are associated with such adverse events as personal injuries, equipment damage, and operational inefficiencies. For the purpose of this article, reductions in workers' compensation costs would improve occupational efficiencies.

LPO Principles
To eliminate practices and hazards leading to injuries, two fundamental LPO principles are followed. First, the LPO provides positive reinforcement for those work behaviors and practices that are correct or consistent with the company's safe work standards. Second, the LPO identifies and eliminates deviations from these safe work standards. Industrial research has proven that positive reinforcement for adherence to safe work practices and conditions, coupled with constructive criticism for deviations, is far more effective in changing behavior than either criticism or positive reinforcement alone.

Steps in the Development and Use of LPOs
For each of the following steps, the company must provide all involved persons with an opportunity for input regarding how the LPO might be used most effectively. For example, a cross section of employees from several levels of the organization should determine the occupational areas to be targeted, the most effective LPO form layout, the type of training needed for observers, and the appropriate LPO roles for observers, supervisors, and managers.
bulletStep 1 - Identification of target areas. First, the organization should select a few "target" work tasks that have the greatest potential for workers' compensation cost reduction. These targets should be based on a review of past injury cases, as well as consideration of the hazard levels that are associated with occupations or tasks.
bulletStep 2 - Development of LPO form. It is necessary to develop and use an LPO form for two reasons. First, the form is a must to record what is observed over the course of 20 to 30 minutes -- otherwise, the observer may forget the details. Second, information from the LPO form can be entered into a personal computer for analysis by such factors as department, supervisor, occupation, worker activity, work task, shift, time during shift, deviation from safe standards, root causes of deviation, etc. These analyses are important to track trends and tendencies over periods of time and across different work groups.
bulletStep 3 - Selection and training of observers. The success of the entire LPO process could depend on the selection of the observers. Hourly employees should conduct roughly 80% of the LPOs. The balance should be done by supervisors, managers, engineers and safety personnel. The chosen observers must have unquestioned credibility with both peers and management, in addition to a detailed knowledge of the occupation/tasks observed. LPO training of observers should include simulated LPOs using videos of actual work situations and on-the-job-training of LPOs in the workplace.
bulletStep 4 - Conducting the LPO. The following are general procedural guidelines for when and how to conduct the LPO:

    Time Frame - Over the period of a few months, the LPOs should be conducted at various times throughout the shift. The guideline is that LPOs should be representative of the targeted work tasks as typically performed over the course of time. Approximately, 20 to 30 minutes should be the length of time to observe the work tasks.

    Role of the Observer - LPO observers should compare worker activities and workplace conditions with company safety standards. Observers should note key behaviors that were positively demonstrated during the observation and also identify any deviations from standards.

    Role of the Supervisor - Supervisors should lead a discussion of the LPO with the observee and the observer. This discussion should include providing positive reinforcement for significantly important behaviors, as well as an identification of deviations from safety standards, the root causes of those discrepancies and recommendations to make improvements.

    Role of the Manager - Managers should review LPO results, ensuring that root causes have been identified and that reasonable recommendations have been made. Furthermore, managers must spot check recommendations in the field to ensure that improvements have been made.
bulletStep 5 - Discussion of Results. After the observation portion of the LPO is completed, the supervisor reviews the LPO results with the employee observed and the observer. This is the opportunity to provide positive feedback so that critical behaviors continue to be performed correctly. In addition, consensus is reached among these key personnel regarding root causes and recommendations to resolve discrepancies.
    Identifying Root Causes - To identify root causes of deviations from standards, this team of three should ask the same questions asked when attempting to identify the root cause of an injury. They will need to determine if the deviation from safe work standards happened as a result of any the following personal or job factors:

    Personal Factors

    -- Lack of knowledge or skill.

    -- Did not follow procedures or acceptable practices in
        the past and no incident occurred.

    -- Doing the job according to procedures or acceptable
        practices takes more time and/or requires more effort.

    -- Shortcutting procedures or acceptable practices is
        positively reinforced or tolerated.

    Job Factors

    -- Lack of or inadequate operational procedures or work standards.

    -- Inadequate communication of expectations regarding
        procedures or acceptable practices.

    -- Inadequate tools or equipment.

    Making Recommendations - Once root causes have been identified, the team should make recommendations for eliminating the deviations. As with personal injuries, recommendations should be practical, inexpensive, and reasonable to live with over the long term. In addition, recommendations should focus on factors over which the employee or supervisor has control.
bulletStep 6 - Implementation of recommendations. The approved recommendations must be implemented as agreed upon by the participating LPO members and as described on the LPO form.
bulletStep 7 - Verification and Validation. This follow-up validation and verification is completed by the supervisor with input from hourly employees. Verification means checking to be sure the team made the changes that were agreed upon and listed on the observation form. Validation assesses if the recommendations were effective.

Completion of the preceding LPO steps and adherence to the principles and guidelines mentioned should result in a major step forward toward injury reduction and the subsequent lowering of workers' compensation costs.

Copyright © 2002  Dr. James D. Bennett, Loss Prevention Systems    

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