Keeping risk to a minimum
SEEK recognized for managing costs, keeping workers safe

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

July 14, 2015

The insurance broker Assurance recently recognized Grafton-based SEEK employment agency with its“Minimizing Risk, Maximizing Health” award. Front row, from left: Laurie Stueber, vice president, human resources, SEEK; Lynne Kossow, health and safety administrator, SEEK; and Carol Ann Schneider, founder and CEO, SEEK. Back row, from left: Randy Matter, vice president-finance, SEEK; Joel Schneider, president, SEEK; Jay Shelton, senior vice president, risk management services, Assurance; Jeff Tuisl, principal, Assurance; and Dan Klaras, principal, Assurance.
Submitted photo

Imagine trying to manage a business where the majority of people you employ don’t actually work for you. Now add to that fact that you can’t completely control the individual job sites each of those employees reports to each day. And in the end, you’re still ultimately responsible for those employees completing a successful and safe workday.

Welcome to the staffing industry, where managing risk is a complex and ongoing process. This ongoing process is not just about keeping employees safe, but also minimizing the costs associated with it.

“Managing risk is something that’s never, ever done,” said Lynn Kossow, health and safety administrator for Grafton-based SEEK. “We’re always working on our goals; there’s always new rules, new regulations and better ways of doing things.”

During the past three years, SEEK has made this effort a priority, and was recently recognized as a Minimizing Risk, Maximizing Health recipient from Assurance, a national independent insurance broker.

Assurance started working with SEEK on its safety initiatives when the company experienced a significant increase in its premiums.

“We didn’t really have a tipping point; things were the way they had been for a really long time,” said Kossow. “But we started to experience a number of worker’s compensation claims and injuries, and it was worth looking into things a little further.”

According to Jay Shelton, vice president of risk management at Assurance, SEEK’s situation is fairly common among the clients he works with.

“As a whole, we find that companies often don’t understand the fundamental impact risk can have on a business, from injury rates to increased premiums,” he said. “Generally, when premium rates start to go up, that’s when companies will take a look at what’s going on.”

In the case of SEEK, Assurance came in and performed a proprietary Safety360 diagnostic assessment, which analyzed the company’s existing safety program and provided specific recommendations, including the hiring of a safety manager to oversee SEEK’s 13 locations; establishing health and safety performance goals for each location; defining safety roles and establishing a safety committee; implementing a safety program based on loss trends and utilizing Assurance resources in risk management and safety initiatives.

“The goal of this program is to motivate more businesses to take a proactive approach to risk, safety and health, and make a profound impact on not only insurance costs, but also workers and their families,” explained Dan Klaras, president at Assurance. “SEEK is a great example of a company dedicated to their employees’ overall safety and well being. “

“You can sit on your laurels and continue to hope that there won’t be a proverbial catastrophic situation, or you can put practices in place to protect your employees,” said Kossow. “It’s a priority in our business to protect our people, which is even more of a challenge in the staffing industry.”

Shelton agrees, and said that SEEK did an excellent job of educating its internal corporate work force, the employees who go to client worksites and the clients themselves. The newly formed safety committee also took a three-pronged approach with groups focusing on each of these areas.

“That helped us create a culture that involved all levels and all people in the organization,” said Kossow. “Everyone has ownership in what we are doing to minimize risk and improve safety.”

“The cost of doing business includes controlling loss, and SEEK focused on how to impact that directly,” he said. “For example, SEEK hosted a safety summit, which was an open panel discussion that featured clients who had implemented safety initiatives, which they were able to share with other clients.”

Shelton said that other implemented initiatives included a safety hotline and a safety survey, along with improving communication about these issues.

Combing the recommendations from Assurance along with their own initiatives has also made a big difference in the company’s loss ratio, resulting in $770,000 in premium savings.

Taking a long look at risk reduction and safety is something that Kossow said is important for all businesses.

“Start today,” she said. “Everyone always says they don’t have time or the resources in place to do it, but the repercussions of not making the time to do it are so great.”

In addition to having a direct impact on loss, initiatives like these also improve a company’s environment.

“It’s a great way to build a culture within your company,” she added. “It takes time, but you can start small and that will build momentum over time. We’ve made so many changes compared to what had been in place a few years ago. It’s really resulted in a big improvement for us.”