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Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island (A)1
Cindy, the Assistant Vice President of Engineering/Administrative Services at Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island (BCBSRI), has seen all of the OSHA statistics:
In 2000, 1.8 million workers in the United States reported work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and back injuries. MSDs accounted for 34% of all lost workday injuries and illnesses (nearly 600,000 cases annually), and $1 of every $3 spent for workers' compensation was for MSD related injuries (nearly $20 billion annually).
Also the costs associated with injuries are significant (see Exhibit 1 for data from BCBSRI's workers' compensation insurance carrier for Carpal Tunnel injuries in particular). With the majority of the work force in administrative and customer service positions, ergonomic factors are an important concern.
While BCBSRI had a limited ergonomics program (easily managed by one person), in 1999 the company had 8 MSD workers compensation cases that resulted in 345 lost work days. Recognizing that their workplace had ergonomic issues, Cindy needed to formulate a plan to revamp their limited program and effect changes. Her biggest concerns were:
Direct Costs include wages, hospital bills, medication, physical therapy, medical supplies, etc.
Indirect Costs are estimated at two to four times direct costs and include lost productivity, wages for temporary workers, time to train temps, overtime, stress, etc.
BCBSRI was able to reduce MSD related Workers Compensation cases with lost workdays by implementing a New Ergonomic Program in March 2000 and increasing workstation evaluations. Exhibit 2 shows the number of evaluations and the impacts for 1999-2002.
An important initiative was the involvement of every department within BCBSRI. Partners in the ergonomics initiative included:
Exhibit 2 - MSD related case trends
Ergonomics is an important issue to business because the injuries are expensive and unnecessary. If you walk through any office, you will observe poor postures and badly configured workstations. In some cases, financial resources will be required to alter the situation and securing these will mean effectively communicating the risks of injuries to engage senior management. One of BCBSRI's initiatives is to present awareness seminars to management with Beacon Mutual serving as the principal presenter. Since Beacon Mutual is the workers' compensation carrier, their presentations can involve statistics, trends, and financial impacts associated with the injuries.
With financial resources, safety committee's can purchase better office furniture and equipment (headsets, ergonomic keyboards, etc.), but employees still need to use them and use them correctly. People are inherently biased when it comes to evaluating risks, and safety managers will need to train and communicate the risks if they are to alter employee behavior. While they are working with facilities and building services to arrange workstations, they also need to work with employees to encourage the proper behavior. Education initiatives include brown bag lunches, training brochures, and orientation materials.
The case is split into two parts (A) and (B) to facilitate brainstorming and discussion of ideas to influence management and employee behavior before detailing the initiatives under taken by Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island.
1This case is based on publicly available information from OSHA. This case was prepared as part of an Alliance between Georgetown University's Center for Business and Public Policy, OSHA, and Abbott. Participation in an Alliance does not constitute an endorsement of any specific party or any party's products or services. This case was prepared as the basis for class discussion in the "Business Value of Safety." The decision maker and her associated thoughts and actions are fictionalized. The product names and companies listed in this study were specific to this particular case, and do not constitute any endorsement by OSHA of their products and services.
2Data were provided to Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island in May 2000 by Beacon Mutual, their workers compensation carrier.