Author: Ryan Hill
Back row from the left. Mike Neal, Phil Duke, Sam Adams, Kevin Hutchins, James Fox, Tom Whalen, Paul Roberson, Ernesto Kimble, Tom Thedieck
Front Row from the left: Michelle Harris, Glenda Vestal, Todd Aderholt, Allison Edwards, Mike Gill. Rich Meyerson, Martin Sinicki
Feb. 21, 2019 – Since joining DHHS in 2014, Safety Programs Director Martin Sinicki and his team have reduced workplace injuries within the Department of Health and Human Services by 28 percent, and lowered worker’s compensation costs by an astonishing $30 million.
Sinicki began by assessing the state of safety within DHHS and looking for areas of improvement. Fire safety, emergency management and environmental safety were added to the officers’ responsibilities, and their job titles were renamed Environmental Health and Safety Officers.
“Without this dedicated group of safety professionals, reducing workplace injuries was not achievable,” Sinicki said.
Sinicki and his team didn’t stop there. They set up work groups that standardized safety programs for DHHS, and even created a standardized safety manual and forms. The Environmental Health and Safety Officers received leadership, training and mentoring development. Infrastructure was increased for continued compliance. Facility inspections went from occurring annually to quarterly, making it possible to find and fix hazards before they could lead to injury. To make the quarterly inspections more effective, the work groups created an auditing assessment tool and a process for following up with facilities until noted deficiencies were corrected.
“The biggest thing was change,” said Sinicki. “Our motto is ‘Ownership Brings Change’ and support from leadership was instrumental in incorporating change, as they wholeheartedly bought into the process.”
In 2016, a workers’ compensation attorney was hired to close claims and streamline worker’s compensation processes and procedures. Coupled with the creation of a Return to Work program that helps employees go back to work after they’re released from their doctor, DHHS has reduced worker’s compensation costs by $30 million.
The focus on safety has also expanded to employee education and training through safety Stand Down courses taught by local fire departments, the NC Department of Labor, and the State Bureau of Investigation, among others. These included hands-on fire extinguisher training, using personal protective equipment, hazardous materials, food safety, infection control, chemical safety, and occupational and fire safety. The initiatives were based off the National Safety Council’s “No 1 Gets Hurt” campaign, which focused on emergency preparedness, wellness, falls and driver safety. Employee programs have been developed that enhance employee safety to the point of reducing and sometimes even eliminating injuries.
“The key is to be forward thinking,” Sinicki said. “We have to think of what will affect us in five to 10 years, not just today.”
Congratulations, Martin and team!