MEMIC Safety Expert on Growth of Ergonomics, Workers’ Comp
Karl Siegfried, senior vice president of Loss Control & Safety Services at Portland, Maine-headquartered MEMIC Group, recently spoke with Insurance Journal about the safety management team that is in place at MEMIC and the ways in which it seeks to benefit agents, brokers and customers. Siegfried heads a team of 40 professionals that service policyholders across the country at MEMIC.
Insurance Journal: Can you discuss the strategy carried out by the safety management team at MEMIC?
Karl Siegfried: Prior to writing new policy owners, the safety management consultant visits with the prospective customer. That meeting has a number of objectives, including establishing relationships with a prospective customer and determining where the company exists within the whole safety matrix. Also, during the meeting, we evaluate workplace conditions, medical management teams and resources and company culture. Our safety management consultant collaborates on a service action plan. That service action plan focuses on the issues that really reduce risks and costs for the policyholders. Fast forward, when they do become a MEMIC customer and have agreed upon an action plan in place for improving and enhancing safety, performance and culture, we’re off to a running start.
IJ: What was the reasoning behind MEMIC’s decision to establish this team?
KS: Safety has been such a big part of MEMIC’s culture from the very beginning. I really think it starts at the top with our President and CEO John Leonard, who has created a company culture here at MEMIC of true teamwork within our own departments and provides an ability for us to do our jobs. Our people are empowered. No matter whether it’s underwriting claims, audit, communications – every department within MEMIC is really empowered to do their jobs. Our mantra really is safety, service and excellence. That is who we are, and that’s our DNA.
IJ: What are some of the benefits the team provides to agents?
KS: One of the things that agents really like about MEMIC is that we’re a workers’ comp carrier that truly puts safety first. We’re consistent. Year after year, we don’t change. We don’t change as the market changes and fluctuates. We don’t say, “Nah. We’re really not doing that anymore.” We’re the same. We’re the same year in and year out. When you’re really successful, you don’t have to change. You can continue doing what you’re doing. If we change, it’s toward the better in increasing our services and increasing some of the things that we do.
IJ: What are some of the main safety issues you’re seeing today?
KS: Overall, I think companies are doing a better job with safety. As a result, you see injury rates are continuing to go down. If you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for labor standards, statistics will show you that the number of claims are going down. Injuries are going down. Fatalities are pretty much going down. OSHA has done a great job when it comes to issuing guidelines. Some of the key problems I see right now moving forward are that we have a real issue, especially in the Northeast, with an aging workforce. That’s one of the key things that we see as a challenge. The other one is, once a company gets a positive safety culture, how do you keep it?
IJ: Could you talk about how companies can take a proactive approach to controlling injury costs?
KS: Being proactive is where it’s at. That’s honestly where the safety culture comes in. If you have a company that has a strong safety culture, they’re continuing to push themselves to be better. They are pushing themselves to reduce injuries. When they’re starting a new line, or they’re putting in a new piece of machinery, or they’re doing something that’s different, they get out there and analyze and say not only, “What do we need in order to make this happen?” but “What do we need in order to make this happen safely?”
IJ: In what ways can ergonomic improvements positively impact a company’s bottom line?
KS: I’m a firm believer in ergonomics. The stance that I’ve always taken here at MEMIC, and in my entire career in ergonomics, is that you want to engineer the behavior you want, not rely on training or reeducation to abate an injury. You want to use engineering to predict what behaviors you’re going to get out of the employees. I think that ergonomics is key when it comes to reducing injuries, and at the same time, increasing efficiencies and in improving quality. Good ergonomics makes good sense all the way around.