You are sitting at your desk, typing up a report, when a notification pops-up reminding you to complete your monthly safety training. This time it’s on proper use of a nail gun. Now instead of spending time finishing your report, you sit through a 20 minute eLearning presentation on nail guns, all the while wondering if you’ll be able to make your report deadline. 

San Diego County Seal the Noblest Motive is the Public GoodSan Diego County saw an opportunity in 2003 to improve their overall safety training program. Called Work Safe/Stay Healthy (WSSH), the overall concept was to create trainings for specific job types, not larger departments or groups, since within one group could be a wide range of jobs each with their own risks and the Program resulted in a 5.57% decrease in injury expense in the first year alone!

There are five keystones that guide the County’s WSSH: tailored trainings, website, incentives and rewards, program rebrand, and ongoing program evaluation.

Getting the Go Ahead

The biggest key in the success of WSSH was having the buy-in from leadership, said Janice Mazone Deputy Director, Department of Human Resources. She explained that having support from the top from the beginning of the program enabled them to bring focused trainings to employees. County leadership was very involved, and remains involved, as well as specific department heads. 

The program started with basics creating a foundation to build on —what is risk, workers’ comp, spotting hazards—and grew from there. Bridging safety training with wellness has made for a rounded approach.

Realms of Learning

WSSH is about people—their jobs, how to both keep them safe and help them improve. By focusing on job types instead of overall departments or divisions, more tailored plans were created and continue to be maintained, leading to improved education and training.

“People learn in different realms,” said Mazone.

The County created trainings around the ways employees work. Some are in front of a computer, others are in the field. Easy access, including an online Learning Management System, were key.

Trainings are done using various mediums such as PowerPoints, articles, checklists, and worksheets. If being at a computer everyday just isn’t what a person does, then articles, tip sheets, printed posters, and discussion topics for “tailgate talks” are used instead. Easy instructions on getting involved with WSSH are included in the various training types.

Six Training Tracks

The creation of trainings in the WSSH program involved job classifications, injury risks, and educational needs. Six tracks were identified:

Track 1: Office—intended for employees whose job is primarily located in an office setting and requires a significant amount of time at a computer or in meetings
Track 2: Field—designed for County employees who have jobs requiring varied physical efforts such as lifting, carrying, pushing, or walking
Track 3: External Care—for healthcare employees who work in various locations throughout their workday
Track 4: Internal Care—for support employees who work in a healthcare setting
Track 5: Enforcement—designed for employees charged with enforcement activities
Track 6: Managers and Supervisors—designed to support employees who supervise others so that they can reduce their own safety risks and support their teams

Having these specific audiences in mind, specialized trainings were then created and distributed.

Involvement and Engagement

In the first year of WSSH training, there was an overall 5.57% decrease in injury expenditures. To date, there has been a decrease of 7.84%, according to the County.

The amount of County employees who completed trainings has increased by 371%.

The intent was to make training a part of the culture of working at the County, not “just checking boxes,” as Mazone described.

Employees are encouraged to keep involved throughout the year through a three part supplemental system: task safety analysis, website challenge activities, and partner events such as wellness programs.

According to the County, best practices show that incentives and rewards increase participation. County employees qualify for quarterly and grand prizes by completing their training and participating in the supplemental activities:

  1. The Task Safety Analysis is an opportunity for employees to analyze the safety risks of one task and then create a plan for mitigating those risks.
  2. Challenge Activities are interactive activities that employees can participate in to increase their safety awareness. For example, in one activity employees were emailed weekly pictures of people at work and asked to correctly identify the safety risk.
  3. Partner Events are activities hosted by the County’s Employee Wellness or Live Well San Diego programs. Each quarter a calendar of qualifying partner events is distributed to employees.

Time for a Tune-Up

The success so far of WSSH for San Diego County has been the focus on people—both for the training content and in the overall program leadership. Quarterly meetings are held with various departments across the County, including law enforcement and human resources, to review the program.

There is also an annual review, or tune-up as Mazone called it, of WSSH. It works as a great way to keep the lines of communications open between various County departments and the County leadership. It is important to analyze both the successes of the program and the things that didn’t work, she explained, and to build on successes. The County is always looking for feedback, to keep things interesting for employees.

“It’s about the employees, after all, to support their needs,” said Mazone.

San Diego County received the 2017 EAGLE Award for Innovation in Development of Loss Prevention Programs.