Risk Management
Monday | 04 February, 2013 | 4:38 pm

Power of protection

By Jeffrey C. Terry & Tom Heebner

Workplace injury prevalence in metals service centers

January 2013 - When it comes to exposures to loss in the metals industry, the possibilities are endless. General liability, employment practices, business interruption, property, auto liability and environmental liability all present potential loss scenarios.  Most steel service centers will see occasional claims from one of these areas, with auto fleet exposures experiencing more frequent claim activity. However, the area of most concern for metal service centers is workers’ compensation where claim frequency and claim severity can be alarming.  

Workers’ compensation claims in the metals service center industry have a distinguishable pattern. Workplace injuries are prevalent in three distinct claim scenarios: Manual material handling, handling material with equipment and machinery use.

Metals service centers need to be proactive to prevent these types of workers’ compensation claims from occurring.

Manual material handling and industrial ergonomics

Improperly handling material can cause severe injuries to lower backs, spines, knees, shoulders, elbows and soft tissue. An organization should perform baseline ergonomic risk assessments to determine which jobs have the highest risk for cumulative trauma disorders. Based on the results, in-depth assessments of high-risk areas can identify which postures, temperature extremes, forceful exertions or vibrations are driving the risk.  

Once the company identifies the risks, it should develop re-engineering and job rotation strategies to reduce exposure to the employee. For continuous improvement, a companies should offer a training program to engineers, managers and employees on risk identification and control measures. Strict no-tolerance safety rules should be implemented to prevent overexertion or improper and unauthorized manual material handling. 

Material handling with equipment 

Cranes, forklifts and powered industrial vehicles are great tools for moving material, but they present significant hazards. Equipment must be evaluated prior to purchase to ensure it meets the appropriate load requirements for your facility. After purchase, operators must be trained and evaluated before operating equipment. 

Materials and operations should be coordinated to minimize the risk of someone being struck by a moving load or being caught between a fixed object and a moving load. It is critical to designate walkways with railings or painted lines that will physically separate individuals from the production floor. Further, job safety analyses need to be conducted in order to evaluate jobs systematically and to document job protocols, hazards associated with each phase of the job and to develop a safe plan of action to eliminate the hazards associated with that job.

Machinery use

Setting up, clearing jams, making adjustments or performing maintenance on machinery all present potentially serious hazards for employees. To ensure employees’ safety, machines must be properly guarded and procedures for controlling hazardous energy must be established.  

The basic rule of thumb for machine safeguarding is simple: Any machine part, function or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. To do this, companies need to perform machine guarding assessments and ensure all moving parts are properly guarded from employee contact.  

When employees have to bypass a guard to perform periodic maintenance or other activities, the machine must have all energy sources isolated and locked out with residual energy release before any actions take place. All equipment that is not a single-cord device in the control of the individual performing the maintenance has to have machine-specific lockout procedures. Once these procedures are developed, all authorized users must be trained on machinery hazards, lockout/tagout methods and how to properly execute energy control procedures. In addition to authorized individuals, all other employees who work around machinery need awareness training so they can recognize and avoid hazards.

Being proactive is the best action an organization can take to reduce the likelihood of injuries. A well-structured safety review process includes signing off on safety procedures at all phases of a company’s operations to confirm all parties are held responsible for evaluating safety.

By focusing on safety in these claim frequency areas, a metals service center should mitigate losses, improve performance and favorably impact the bottom line while protecting its employees from injury or death. MM

Jeffrey C. Terry is senior vice president with HUB International Insurance Services in its Los Angeles office. HUB International is a top-10 U.S.-ranked insurance brokerage and risk management firm with headquarters in Chicago. Jeff has specialized in risk management consultation and insurance program design for the metals industry for more than 20 years. Jeff can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Tom Heebner, AVP, practices in the HUB Risk Services Division in Chicago. Tom serves as a resource for the metals industry, providing risk control, safety, regulatory compliance, and workers’ compensation cost reduction guidance. Tom has achieved his Associate in Risk Management, his Associate Safety Professional and his Associate Business Continuity Professional. He holds a Bachelors of Science degree in occupational safety from Illinois State University.

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