January 12, 2004
Campus team tackles UCSCs workers
By Jennifer McNulty
The campus team charged with tackling UCSCs workers compensation
crisis had a clear message for the audience of about 125 people who
turned out January 7 to hear their progress report: Prevention is the
UCSCs injury rate is 7.45 per 100 full-time employees,
compared with a low in the UC system of about 3.7 per 100 full-time
employees at UCSF.
Saddled with the highest injury rates in the UC system, the Santa Cruz
campus must reduce the number of employee injuries, and the best way
to bring the numbers down is to create a culture of prevention, said
Lisa Rose, director of materiel management and a member of the Executive
Budget Committee team assigned to workers compensation.
The presentation was the latest in a series of forums sponsored by
the Staff Advisory Board (SAB) to keep the campus informed of budget-related
activities on campus.
UCSCs injury rate is 7.45 per 100 full-time employees, compared
with a low in the UC system of about 3.7 per 100 full-time employees
In addition, UCSC has a high proportion of more serious indemnity
claims that involve the loss of more than three days of work and more
extended medical care than medical claims, in which employees
lose a maximum of three days of work and care is not expected to exceed
six months or $2,500.
The campuss long-term problem has reached new levels of urgency
since UCs Office of the President recently began returning excessive
costs to the campus, said Rose. For UCSC, that means the campus
is responsible for $1.2 million in additional costs for fiscal year
2004, a figure that is expected to increase to $1.5 million next year.
The budgetary impact is like burning money, said Rose.
Were hemorrhaging here.
On the human side, in addition to the pain and suffering of the injured,
the costs of UCSCs current high rate of on-the-job injuries include
increased demands placed on colleagues and a loss of efficiency equivalent
to 7,000 days a year. Thats like having a department of
25 people and just exterminating them for one year, said Rose.
From 1999 to 2003, the campus reported 1,369 injuries, with 30 percent
classified as repetitive motion injuries, and 29 percent classified
as physical movement injuries. Forty percent of UCSC injuries
were concentrated in nine job titles, with the heaviest concentrations
in the administrative assistant and senior custodian series, with 15
and 9 percent, respectively. Another 7 percent of all injuries were
suffered by student assistants, said Rose, noting that the team was
really surprised by that finding.
Experts say numerous factors contribute to the high frequency and high
cost of injuries, including a sense that injuries are seen as
inevitable, inconsistent training of employees, late reporting
of injuries, poor communication, and weaknesses in return to work
Some of those factors are at play at UCSC, said team member Saladin
Sale, the campus risk manager, who described the reluctance of some
employees with repetitive motion injuries to come forward. They choose
instead to kind of heroically keep chugging along as a small ache
becomes a major pain. But chronic injuries are much more difficult
to treat and resolve, he said, as he encouraged employees to report
all injuries to their supervisors promptly.
The good news, said Sale, is that a focus on injury prevention will
go a long way toward reversing the campuss alarming numbers. Prevention
is key because once were in the workers compensation
system, theres little we can do to control rising costs,
The team has identified a five-pronged strategy to address the crisis,
and participants have received strong support from top campus administrators
for their initiatives, said team member Buddy Morris, director of Environmental
Health & Safety at UCSC. The five focus areas are:
Injury prevention. Prevention has to be part of
what we do and how we work, said Morris. We all have to
accept responsibility for it. That includes taking personal responsibility
for enhancing individual wellness.
Transitional return to work. Improve collaboration among
the injured employee, supervisor, and doctor. Getting back to
work promotes healing, said Morris, adding that employees who
are off work for more than 12 weeks are substantially less likely to
return to work, and their lifetime earnings can be seriously affected.
Executive leadership. Safety needs to be incorporated
as a value, not just a priority, said Morris, who was thrilled
by the response of campus administrators to the teams work.
Accountability. In fiscal year 2004, UCSC began allocating
workers compensation costs back to individual campus departments.
Under that system, Rose recently learned that her unit had tallied up
$15,000 in injury-related costs. I sure wish Id done something
else with that money years ago so those injuries never wouldve
happened, she said. The team is also trying to identify additional
ways to make accountability everyones business, not just executives,
and is weighing a proposal to add a safety performance component
to annual employee performance appraisals. They would also like to provide
incentives that would reward employees for taking proactive injury-prevention
Claims management. Sometimes scapegoated as the root
cause of all the trouble, the claims management process nevertheless
has room for improvement, said Morris. For example, the first visit
to a doctor should be to an occupational health specialist (the team
is compiling a list of the best specialists in the area). But doctors,
supervisors, and employees all need to be educated about how the UCSC
workers compensation program operates because there are lots
of opportunities for balls to get dropped in the complex claims
process, said Morris.
As the workers compensation team continues its work, team member
Gesna Clarke, chief operations officer for Colleges and University Housing
Services, called on the campus community to integrate safety into their
daily work. She presented 10 steps the team has identified that employees
can take today to reduce injuries and enhance the workplace. Those tips
are available online.
Also on the workers compensation transformation team are Ryan
Andrews, manager of the fitness center; Barbara Perman, manager of training
and development in Staff Human Resources; and Jim Schoonover, environmental
health and safety adviser for the Division of Physicial and Biological
The next SAB-sponsored forum is tentatively scheduled for March 4
from 12:30 to 1:40 in Classroom Unit 2 to discuss information technology;
check online for details.
article: Changes will streamline purchasing on campus
article: Panel fields questions about efforts to streamline HR and payroll
article: Staff forum focuses on HR transformation project; second forum
to take place November 17
Forum on budget process November 5
article: Chancellor says budget planning will yield strategic cost cutting
show on October 21 transformation projects update to managers/supervisors
Campus "transformation" begins with info technology consolidation
Executive Budget Committee
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