June 7, 2004
Campus makes gains in cutting workers' compensation
But there's no 'silver bullet' for safety,
warns Physical Plant's Ilse Kolbus
By Louise Donahue
With responsibility for employees handling everything from a power plant
to PowerPoint, Ilse Kolbus has employee safety constantly on her mind.
Kolbus said there is often a tendency to think the problem
of workers compensation can best be handled by sending all
employees to safety trainingonce. But its an
ongoing effort and discussion."
We have a diverse workforce with many high-risk occupations,
said the director of UCSCs Physical Plant. Physical Plant accounts
for about 17 percent of the claims for workers compensation on
Kolbus said she puts a high priority on worker safety, and there are
safety committees and frequent safety training sessions.
While Kolbus is pleased at the latest statistics on UCSC workers
compensation, she hopes the campus will not let its guard down because
of the better numbers. Preliminary figures highlighted at a June 2 Staff
Advisory Board-sponsored forum showed that paid disability days dropped
from a monthly average of 613 in 2003 to 412 in 2004. (See
Kolbus said there is often a tendency to think the problem of workers
compensation can best be handled by sending all employees to safety
trainingonce. But its an ongoing effort and discussion.
I dont think theres a silver bullet. There is a partnership
between the employer and the employee," she said.
In this partnership everyone, from the executive leadership to
managers, to supervisors to the the employee, has responsibility and
accountability for workplace safety.
Kolbus said she and other Physical Plant managers and supervisors analyze
each injury report to see what might be done differently in the future.
A look at custodians back injuries, for instance, is prompting
the installation this summer of gliders on residence hall
furniture to make moving it safer.
Physical Plant has tried several approaches to stem worker injuries,
Bringing in a dermatologist to talk to employees who work outside
about skin cancer and providing sun hats and information on other outdoor
hazards, such as ticks.
Beginning the workday with stretching exercises for some employees
who do heavy physical work.
Encouraging a 15-minute stretch break for administrative
staff, in which employees run through desk exercises suggested by Environmental
Health and Safety.
Utilizing the transitional return to work program,
in which an employee who has been injured is given alternative work
assignments as part of a gradual transition to returning to the original
March 22 Currents story.
Kolbus also plans to add a suggestion box to encourage workers who
prefer to offer safety ideas anonymously.
Other options are under consideration, but managers must be aware of
unintended consequences, said Kolbus. Any incentive program, for instance,
must be structured carefully. You dont want people hiding
their injuries. With incentive programs, you run the risk of driving
the injury underground, she explained. Were really
pushing people not to wait until its so severe that they have
a long-term injury, she said, adding, I'm always looking
for ways to promote and reward safe behaviors because that's what keeps
people from getting hurt. It's about caring about the workers, not the
workers' compensation numbers."
phase of Service Center consolidation expected by fall
preview of online payroll system
Transformation team offers update for staff
takes new approach to preventing injuries, easing employees' return
Human Resources expands 'transition services' to assist budget-related
Newsletter provides information
on IT transformation project
candidly discussed at Chancellor's Staff Forum
way to consolidate information technology on campus
team tackles UCSCs workers comp crisis
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
Campus 'transformation' begins with info technology consolidation
Executive Budget Committee
UCSC Budget Update
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