Embrace Abilities!
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Workers With Disabilities Prove Workplace Safety Pays
8/10/2016 - One of employers’ greatest concerns is workplace safety. While safety issues affect the care and protection of their employees, it also affects companies’ bottom lines when injuries and strains result in Worker’s Comp claims, lost time and increased insurance costs. One organization and the individuals with developmental disabilities it serves take workplace safety very seriously, attaining the highest safety standards while still getting the job done better than anyone. And they’re encouraging more companies to see the benefits of including the abilities of this dedicated, hard-working population.
Pictured at the right is: KSI crew member Arthur Bunting stands ready to keep up with Procter & Gamble Dover Wipes’ high production rates while watching out for his and his fellow crew members’ safety.
Kent-Sussex Industries, Inc. (KSI) is a not-for-profit in Milford, Delaware helping people with developmental disabilities reach their highest potential in community employment and inclusion. KSI has ongoing community-based work crews operating within manufacturing plants at Kraft Heinz Company in Dover, Procter & Gamble Dover Wipes plant, Merck Animal Health in Millsboro and Dover Air Force Base. Reportable injuries and safety incidences among KSI’s work crews at?these four production facilities were reduced more than 64 percent from FY2014 to FY2015. Much of this excellent workplace safety stems from?the consistent training KSI performs with?crew members. The training covers everything from slips, trips and injuries to taking responsibility for clean workplaces and reducing injury hazards.
“The improvement in safety overall is the heightened safety awareness at all levels of the organization. Safety is clearly defined as?a major part of our daily routine at our worksites every day,” says KSI’s Director of?Community-Based Production Gerald Morris. “The KSI Risk Management Team has also been instrumental by continually monitoring and addressing root causes of risks and incident trends.”
The results of these efforts were remarkable, according to Mr. Morris. “We accomplished great outcomes by going a?full 52-week period with only four OSHA reportable incidences involving medical attention. That’s a record covering 114 crew members and supervisors, which includes 66 KSI program participant workers with disabilities.”
A Different Way to Work
 A lot of the improvement has come through minimizing injury potentials. Simple stretching and light exercises prior to working help workers’ muscles warm up and prepare for use. However, the?highest incidences of reported injuries in FY2014 among KSI’s community crews were strains and sprains due to repetitive motion. With that in mind, tremendous effort has been invested in training crew members for multiple jobs, allowing them to rotate into various tasks and reduce repetitive motion issues.
“Focusing on cross-training personnel in multiple jobs allows for rotation of people in and out of certain tasks, thereby reducing strains and sprains due to repetitive use,” Mr. Morris explains. “We keep our people fresh on their jobs.”
Safety Doesn’t Mean Sacrifice
Paying more attention to safety did not?hamper the KSI crews’ production rate?at plants like Procter & Gamble Dover Wipes, where aggressive production quotas were expected to be maintained regardless of workers’ disability status. KSI’s P&G crew sustained production rates of 85-90%, a number matching P&G’s corporate performance and often outpacing other contract labor groups hired at the plant. Giving credit where credit is due, KSI recognized safety performance throughout FY 2015 by giving these highly-conscientious crew members incentives like gift cards and luncheon parties for excellent safety ratings during benchmarked periods.                                         
As KSI expands its community-based work to other sites in FY2016, workers with developmental disabilities will continue to set the standard for workplace safety. And because of their dedication, more employers can be assured that hiring people with disabilities is a safe move for their companies.
KSI is a not for profit agency providing vocational training, employment, supported employment, and day habilitation services. KSI is committed to making all reasonable accommodations in order to ensure that its programs and services are as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. Contact Alicia Hollis at 422-4014 ext. 3015 for hollisa@ksiinc.org for more information. See how you can partner with KSI to Embrace Abilities.