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Risk Awareness Program (RAP)

In 2006, the New Mexico Association of Counties (NMAC) Loss Prevention Department was asked to develop a program strategy to reduce member counties’ cost of risk and the frequency and severity of losses. Loss Prevention staff analyzed years of loss data, researched regulatory mandates, industry standards, and best practices. After careful review of this research, a number of loss trends emerged in virtually every county in New Mexico.

As a result of this analysis, NMAC developed a comprehensive Risk Awareness Program known as “RAP.”  RAP is a well structured 50-week training initiative designed to improve employee awareness of loss causation factors, and to reduce each county’s direct and indirect cost of risk. The program consists of fifty, 12-15 minute customized presentations.  Each week’s presentation is site-specific to every department and division in the organization, targeting identifiable loss trends and potentially catastrophic exposures.

NMAC piloted RAP in McKinley County, New Mexico, for one year. In the course of this project, employees provided meaningful feedback and offered numerous suggestions to improve the program. Virtually all suggestions and recommendations were incorporated into the present program.

Upon completion of the pilot project, many benefits of the program were evident.

The county met all reduction goals established at the beginning of the project.  The county realized a:

  • 33% reduction in workers’ compensation claims;
  • 40% reduction in multi-line claims; and
  • 14% reduction in automobile accidents.

RAP resulted in immediate corrective action of most hazards. Upon completion of each week’s presentation, employees were charged with returning to their work areas and resolving hazards. Hazards beyond the control of an employee were reported to the appropriate supervisor for corrective action.

The county saw improved communication between employees and management. Senior officials and employees felt that RAP provided an excellent mechanism to initiate and maintain communications. All affected parties believed RAP improved internal communications.

During the project, employees became much more aware of the loss potential of every activity. Employees received approximately 12.5 hours of risk control training during the course of the year.  NMAC received excellent feedback and was informed that the information provided was used both on and off the job.

RAP allowed for and encouraged extensive employee participation.  Employees were empowered to guide and direct the program, make immediate corrections to hazards, and make positive suggestions throughout the program.

RAP went a long way towards establishing a risk control culture. All levels of the organization felt very strongly that the county realized a “risk control culture.” Employees mentored one another and corrected one another when observing unsafe behavior. Risk control became an everyday discussion and topic among employees.

Program Implementation
The first step in program implementation is to determine the organization’s true cost of risk. How much are losses costing your organization? Look at the direct “insured” cost of risk, such as workers’ compensation claims, automobile claims, multi-line and general liability claims, and any other type of claim the organization may experience. Once the direct cost is identified, look deeper at the indirect cost of risk. These costs are generally $3-55 for every dollar paid in direct losses. Indirect costs are a consequence of:

  • Wages paid to affected staff for lost time
  • Wages paid to other staff during business interruption
  • Decreased output of affected workers
  • Overtime to replace injured workers
  • Managerial, supervisory, and clerical time devoted to losses
  • Human Resource and Purchasing Department’s time devoted to losses
  • Investigation time devoted to losses
  • Cost of hiring and training replacements
  • Tools, equipment, and material damage or replacement
  • Emergency equipment and supplies used in an emergency
  • Legal expenses
  • Miscellaneous (over 100 other items of indirect cost associated with loss)

The direct and indirect cost of risk and the impact of these losses will be communicated to the organization in Week Number One of the program.

Goal Setting
When putting a risk control program together, one must first think of the desired results or outcome of the program. Ask yourself: What do I want this program to accomplish? If it is simply to comply with legal requirements, you are wasting everyone’s time, including your own. But if your motivation is to reduce costs from accidents and losses, protect employees from workplace hazards, and to improve the organization’s performance, then you are on the right track.

The next step is to determine desired goal reductions. Decide if you want to reduce workers’ compensation claims, automobile claims, multi-line claims, law enforcement liability, etc. Once you have decided, then determine how much you want to reduce claims, e.g., 5%, 10%, or 20%? In the second week you will identify organizational goals, which will then be communicated to everyone in the organization. These goals will be periodically revisited throughout the program.

Training Frequency
Organizations must consider the frequency of training. The intent of RAP is to provide brief weekly trainings to all employees. This frequency enhances employee awareness and demonstrates that safety and risk control are a serious concern to the organization.  Some organizations have tried to consolidate 3-4 presentations into one session and thus train once a month. This may appear beneficial from a time management standpoint, but the key to program success is the consistent frequent exposure to practical training. An organization will experience greater results if the message is short and conveyed often, such as weekly.

Identifying Trainers
Who will provide the training? In small organizations one person might be responsible for training everyone; however, in medium and large organizations the training responsibilities should be divided into smaller groups such as by department or section. A common model used by counties in New Mexico is to have the safety committee representative from each department provide the training to their respective employees.  These employees are familiar with the work, risk exposures, and the staff. Another model used is to have each supervisor provide the training to their employees.  Regardless of your selection, the trainer should have credibility and good communication skills.

A good trainer:

  • Is friendly and non-threatening.
  • Encourages discussion and questions, but keeps participants on track.
  • Asks questions to make sure that participants are learning the information as they go.
  • Refuses to act like an expert. If a trainer doesn’t know the answer to a question, tell participants that you don’t know but that you will get an answer for them.
  • Uses real-life work situations whenever possible.
  • Gets participants to teach each other through demonstrations and question-and-answer sessions.

Training Methods
Most people agree that the worst approach a trainer can take is to read straight from a book. Nothing will turn off an audience quicker than someone droning away like this.  Ultimately it is up to the presenter to grab the audience’s attention and to emphasize the important points. Try as much as possible to deliver the presentation in your own words, with the printed copy as a guide to keep you on point and on time.

Get employees involved. To generate employee participation ask participants three questions at the start of each presentation:

1)    Can you describe a situation (related to week’s topic) at home or at work where you or a coworker were or could have been seriously injured or could have experienced a loss?
2)    How could you have prevented the injury or loss from happening?
3)    What did you learn from the experience, e.g., what did you change?

This exercise achieves four key things early in the training session:

  • It gives participants an opportunity to talk about something personal (everyone has a story).
  • It makes participants feel recognized, important, relaxed, and thus willing to contribute and participate in a learning experience.
  • It gives participants an opportunity to teach each other based on their own experiences.  No one knows everything about a particular topic; the group will educate one another, including the trainer.
  • It gives trainers the chance to make points from the employees’ stories, as well as to accumulate great stories for future sessions.

In every case, successful training depends on the mix of material, the trainer, and the participants.  This program provides the material.  By reviewing this information and following the step-by-step weekly lesson plans, all you need are participants to hold a successful and productive training session.

Be flexible.  If you are not getting the reaction and participation from the group that you want, change your approach on the spot. You may need to change your approach each week, as lesson plans and employee interest vary by topic.

Use props in your presentations; show and tell is an excellent way to communicate a message. Also, most people will remember what they see more vividly than what they only hear. If you are talking about fire extinguishers, show them a fire extinguisher. If you are talking about proper lifting, demonstrate the proper technique or have a participant demonstrate as you verbally cover the proper technique.

The Test
Once the topic is presented, employees will now take the test. The test is not a written examination to determine comprehension levels. Rather, it is a commitment challenge.  Ask employees two questions before concluding: 

  • How are you going to use the information from this presentation to work safely?
  • What are you going to do to improve risk control in the organization?  Not what someone else is going to do, but what you are going to do?

Training is not only about what goes on during the training session. Training is about what happens in the days, months, and years after the session ends. Sometime after the training session, ask yourself what has changed? If you are able to answer that question in the affirmative, then your training has been successful. More than likely you achieved an exciting and difficult goal: you have developed a risk control culture.

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