Distributors Challenged to Reduce Lost Time Injury Rate

It’s good for your bottom line.

As a GAWDA distributor member, you are undoubtedly aware of the benefit included as part of your GAWDA membership that provides your organization with free access to CGA safety publications. This is a huge savings if you need access to safety information. However, if you are like the majority of GAWDA distributor members, you are not part of this program. If you are not participating in this program you should be asking yourself these questions: Do I need access to safety information? Why is CGA promoting this program? What is in it for me? How is my lost time injury data anyone’s business?

Sign up for the Safety Awards Program and CGA publication access today. It’s easy.

The Registration Form tells us who your company is, who will submit the OSHA data, and whom you want to have access to CGA publications.

The Awards Form describes the awards program. There is nothing you need to complete.

The New Company Safety Awards Reporting Form is a spreadsheet to enter the same data that you already have on your OSHA 300 forms if you have ten or more employees.

Do I Need Access to Safety Information?

If you think this through, you already know that working with compressed gases can be hazardous. Most of these materials are under dangerously high pressure or under dangerously low temperature, some are flammable, some toxic, most – if released in a confined space or inhaled directly – would not support life, and most that do support life could create an extremely dangerous situation within that same confined space or if released near something as simple as a greasy rag, clothing or asphalt. People you care about, employees, sometimes family members or yourself transfer these hazardous materials from one container to another, then move these heavy containers around, load them onto a moving vehicle, drive them around town, unload them at a customer location, then come back tomorrow and do it again. Day after day, all year round. What could possibly go wrong?

Fortunately, the CGA spends tens of millions of dollars every year to create the safety publications to minimize the likelihood of incidents. Companies focused on safety constantly use that information to create and update their policies, procedures, compliance oversight and employee training. Those with a heavy focus on safety find that it works very well. Would you say you have a heavy focus on safety? Before you answer, the question is not whether you care if your employees are safe, of course that is true. The question is, do you or does someone in your organization read CGA safety publications and make sure that your policies, procedures and training are consistent with those publications. Do you make sure that your employees are adhering to those procedures all day every day? Do you measure and track your lost time injury and road accident data? Are you satisfied with the numbers? If the number is not zero, don’t be satisfied.

Even if you do stay current utilizing CGA publications, you might intend to have a safe facility until someone makes a mistake, takes a shortcut, or just gets tired or complacent. That mistake doesn’t have to be from an employee; the mistake could be a problem with your training, with your supervision, or with your process and procedures. And mistakes in our industry can be life ending.

Ok, now let’s ask that question again: “Do I need access to safety information?”

Why Is CGA Promoting this Program?

CGA and GAWDA began this program to enhance the safety component of GAWDA’s mission, a mission we both share. My historical theory was, if GAWDA distributor members do not have easy access to safety publications and they are not talking about safety at their meetings to the same degree that CGA members who fill and distribute gases do, then the rate of accidents at GAWDA members might be higher. However, in the past, there was no quantifiable aggregate measurement from GAWDA member companies to determine if this was true. An aggregate safety performance number exists for CGA members who have been participating in CGA’s awards program for decades measuring the lost time injury rates per exposure hour as required by OSHA. CGA members have been very focused on reducing this number. Via an expanded safety focus, the rate has reduced substantially, and CGA and its members continue to focus on it with a goal of zero, each year every year for all members. Under the philosophy that all incidents are avoidable, and although difficult, this needs to be the industry focus to continue the positive trend.

Since the inception of the CGA/GAWDA program, there are now three years’ worth of decent data. The data submitted by the GAWDA member companies who participate in the program compared to the CGA award data for CGA member companies who primarily fill and distribute packaged gases show that, in the aggregate, a GAWDA member employee is significantly more likely to have a “recordable case.” The actual difference was much higher than I expected and higher than anyone would be comfortable saying it didn’t need significant improvement.

In addition, the combined data across all GAWDA participating companies show no measurable decrease in the rate over those three years. So strangely enough, sending in your OSHA incident data is not enough to make you safer. It takes the right information, leadership and commitment. GAWDA provides the information for you already. You just have to ask for it. Between the GAWDA Consultants, safety announcements and access to CGA publications, you already have access to a lot of information. However, it will also take leadership and commitment from each GAWDA member company to actively participate and develop a stronger focus on safety to start reducing these rates. Since the inception of the CGA program, CGA member company rates have dropped by almost 60 percent. Based on GAWDA’s safety mission and your leadership, I strongly believe GAWDA members can achieve the same positive results. Hence, this article, a phone call campaign promoting participation in the program, and hopefully a discussion on how we as an industry can work toward a stronger focus on safety and safe operations.

Another reason CGA and GAWDA want to promote the program is to preserve another essential and common purpose of the two associations: to promote effective and appropriate regulations to government agencies…what some people call “self-regulation.” Neither CGA nor GAWDA can achieve this essential goal if the rate of incidents or the magnitude of a single incident cast a light on our industry that we are not effective at being safe for ourselves, our customers and the public. This negative light can be cast on the entire industry by one employee at one company making one mistake or taking a shortcut or not being properly trained or supervised; by one person driving when he is tired or on a cell phone while he is supposed to be driving; by one salesperson or customer service agent allowing a customer to put a cylinder in a car truck. Eliminating incidents is the only way to ensure we never lose our credibility to regulators and the potential to truly be a self-regulating industry.

What Is In It For Me?

If the safety of your employees/customers and the ability to minimize unnecessary and wasteful government intervention in your business isn’t enough, evaluate the cost impact lost time injuries have on your business. Think about the lost productivity, cost of downtime and the lack of ability to fulfill your customer needs. Think about the potential liability if someone gets seriously hurt. Do you think there is no cost to you if something serious happens because you have insurance for that? Just ask someone who renews such coverage for years after a serious claim. Also think about your Workers Compensation insurance rates. According to Tony Hopkins, shareholder & vice president/risk advisory solutions of The Horton Group, “The best way to lower workers compensation premiums is by lowering your incidence rates, more specifically your DART rate (or lost time claims).”

The bottom line is safety saves money. It is not only the right thing to do but it is good business. OSHA has an interesting estimator on their website that calculates the approximate cost of various injuries. Although I don’t quite buy how they estimate cost based on the type of injury without weighing the severity and time away from work, the point is that it costs you way more than the direct cost for the injury as combining the indirect costs makes the cost of any lost time injury substantial.

How Is My Lost Time Injury Data anyone’s Business?

CGA never shares your data unless you specifically state that you want to share it. Only a few CGA staff members have access to that data, and we do not share it with our members, not even with our Board of Directors, not even if they insisted. That is an absolute promise to you. We do not share your data with GAWDA members or their Board of Directors. We will report on and share the industry data in the aggregate to determine if we, as an industry, are getting safer. As an industry, we need to measure our successes and failures if we are to learn from them and improve. As in any business, we need measurements to see which tactics are working and which are not. In exchange, you get free access to hundreds of safety documents that if implemented in your organization would save you money and maybe someone’s life. Your employees need your safety guidance and leadership. They count on you to keep them safe while they handle your hazardous materials every day.

One Last Question

Do you have the business sense, the leadership and the commitment to improve your operations and safety programs, your training and your oversight to reduce the likelihood of incidents and reduce the chances your employees, your customers or the public get hurt from what is a preventable incident? I think you do. Now let’s work together to prove that we are both correct.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Michael Tiller Meet the Author
Michael Tiller is president and CEO of the Compressed Gas Association located in Chantilly, Virginia, and at www.cganet.com.