At the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI) Inc.’s annual conference, the executive chairman of Pankow Management Inc., Rik Kunnath, reinforced the intrinsic connection between general wellness and workplace safety initiatives. “Among a lot of companies, there’s a growing awareness that for workforce safety programs to really affect behaviors, there needs to be a culture of deep concern for the well-being of employees,” Kunnath explained. He suggested that by implementing programs that promote a more holistic approach to employee wellness, workforce safety initiatives will subsequently fall into place.
Unfortunately, it took the occurrence of a number of on-site fatalities during the early 1980s for Pankow Management Inc. to take a closer look at the workforce safety protocol they had in place, and to re-evaluate the priority of a safe work environment. “What led to some soul searching as to whether we were really doing all that we could to work safely,” Kunnath explained, “and whether or not our drive towards high rates of production were overwhelming the safety message.”
Since then, Pankow has made a concerted effort to rehabilitate their practices, and have committed themselves to protecting their workers. Their newfound approach takes a much broader look at overall employee health, and offers workplace wellness programs to decrease the likelihood of on-site injuries occurring. Kunnath voiced initial concerns that some people at Pankow had about the change, explaining, “In the beginning, there was some concern that by taking this view of our values, our safety programs could get watered down as they compete with other wellness initiatives.” Fortunately, the outcome was far more positive, as Kunnath continued, “But if anything, the opposite has occurred.”
Kunnath discussed that it is no secret that the contracting industry as a whole is a high-risk work environment, and there are many opportunities for workers to sustain injuries. Whether the injuries sustained by contracting workers are due to accidents or unsafe environments due to negligence or other oversights, there are always ways to prevent injuries if everyone is more mindful of their surroundings and the wellbeing of everyone on-site. That sense of communal recognition of the importance of everyone’s wellbeing is the crux of Kunnath’s message; “It’s just that it’s a lot easier for employees to accept your safety message when everything else you do in your interactions with them says that your concern for their well-being is real.”
During the IRMI conference, Duinink Inc. was awarded the 2013 Gary E. Bird Horizon Award, which recognizes their employee wellness program, especially for the success it has shown by significantly decreasing the company’s insurance claims costs, in addition to its workers comp and lost productivity costs. Duinink Inc.’s Risk Manager, Rick Maursetter, explained, “Wellness, like safety, is a journey that never ends. From the company’s standpoint, it offers benefits in the form of greater productivity, lower loss potential, and reduced premium costs in the areas of workers compensation and health care. If you’re working for a company that’s not promoting a wellness program, we challenge you to return to your company and get that journey started.”