Kickin’ towards safety

Green Bay pizza crust manufacturer makes strides to keep employees safe

Posted on Mar 10, 2016 :: Back Office Operations
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

With a name like Alive-N-Kickin, it’s perhaps no surprise the Green Bay company puts a lot of effort into making sure its manufacturing workforce is safe.

For Bill LaLuzerne, it’s all about thinking ahead and constantly looking for risks.

But with more than 375 employees, any effort to improve worker safety, prevent injuries and reduce worker compensation claims was going to take the efforts of more than one person. That’s when the pizza crust maker formed a partnership with Argent, its West Bend-based insurance carrier.

Since Argent began providing technical assistance five years ago, the company reduced its claims by half and cut on-the-job injuries by 53 percent. 

“The success we’ve had didn’t happen overnight,” says LaLuzerne, vice president of operations for Alive-N-Kickin. “We are very open with our employees and set goals about safety, and the employees know how important this is to the company.”

The effort was recognized earlier this year when Alive-N-Kickin was honored by Argent, a mono-line workers’ compensation division of West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., as the 2016 Client of the Year for advancing safety practices on the plant floor. The company also showed the largest improvement in risk management and claims management practices, measured by claims frequency and outcomes.

“The biggest success factor for Alive-N-Kickin is the management team they established,” says Joe Bansemer, a loss control consultant with West Bend Insurance/Argent. “They continually try to improve the way they do things and are always on the lookout for areas of improvement, which are factors all manufacturing businesses should do.”

Frequency of claims

Often, having a third party come into an organization to make suggestions on ways to improve safety can uncover issues that are overlooked internally. Many insurance providers offer ways to help businesses lower the number of claims. For example, Society Insurance offers its clients tools and tips to help start safety processes on the manufacturing floor.

“We and most insurance carriers offer risk-control services,” says Jim Putzer, workers compensation claims manager for Society Insurance. “The number one thing you can do to reduce frequency is to see what the environment is like that employees are working in and how open the company is to have someone from the outside coming in to make suggestions. It’s always good to have another set of eyes.”

Lowering claim costs

No plant is perfect, and there is always a chance that workers will get injured.

“When a worker is injured, a plan needs to be in place and the sooner that employee returns to work, the better it is for the actual employee and the employer,” says Thomas Schultz, manager of human resources consulting with Schenck SC. “Cost of claims tends to be higher when a person is not able to go back into a routine or a routine that they are familiar with.”

If a worker cannot go back to a regular job because of restrictions set by a doctor, there are alternate ways to bring that employee back in to a routine. When a worker is injured and the doctor determines he or she can go back with light duty, it is beneficial for the employer to find jobs for that employee to do.

“When a worker returns to work, the employer is paying them, which reduces that claim cost even if they are doing alternate or light-duty work,” Putzer says. “When a worker is off because of an injury, the claim cost is there but once they go back to work, then the company pays that employee.”

For Alive-N-Kickin, on-site support staff have played a major role in lowering costs for workers compensation claims.

The company has a physical therapist on-site two days a week for employees to visit. This therapist can address certain aches and pains and determine what the work environment is for that employee, and even correct it as a way to prevent the pain from reoccurring.

“If a person comes to the therapist for shoulder pain for example, the therapist will go assess the work environment and see if there is something that is aggravating the pain and make solutions to see if something within that environment can be changed,” says LaLuzerne.

But at the end of the day, it all comes down to that employee and sensitivity must always be in check when handling a situation where an employee is injured.

“On the employer side and on the insurance side, you must always focus on that person that has an injury,” Putzer says. “That’s the most important thing that is going on in their life, so if you can handle that effectively and determine a plan to lower costs and potential claims, the more effective the business will be
as a whole.”