Agilent Technologies, (www.agilent.com) headquartered in Santa Clara, California, is the world’s leading provider of bio-analytical and electronic measurement solutions to the communications, electronics, life sciences, and chemical analysis industries. The $5.5 billion company, which split from Hewlett-Packard Company as a separate business unit in 2000, has 18,000 employees and customers in 110+ countries.
After its separation from Hewlett-Packard, Agilent found itself with disparate employee training programs and a number of homegrown data management systems for managing employee health and safety. These legacy programs and systems were outdated and resource intensive, and none were integrated. As a result, the company was unable to produce reliable health and safety information to measure the return on investment on health and safety initiatives. In addition, Agilent’s onsite ergonomic services provider spent nearly 40% of its time managing systems instead of solving ergonomics-related issues for employees.
The Need for Change in EH&S Management
A significant employee environmental, health and safety department (EH&S) reorganization in 2005 exposed Agilent’s need for a centralized approach to managing EH&S and specifically the risk of injury, both regionally and globally. When Agilent’s Global EH&S Occupational Health Manager Rick Miller assumed his role in early 2006, he immediately began to assess whether Agilent’s existing resources could meet the company’s goals, which were to (1) reduce injury rates and workers’ compensation costs, (2) increase productivity, (3) provide a better work/life balance for employees, and (4) maximize the return on consulting dollars spent.
“Agilent’s approach to ergonomics had traditionally been regionalized. The EHS team decided to provide a more standardized, global approach to address these ergonomics needs,” explained Miller.
In his review, Miller assessed that in 2006:
- Approximately 44% of Agilent’s overall workers’ compensation case dollars dealt with repetitive motion injuries which represented $956,000 (developed) in ergonomics costs
- Agilent’s office injuries represented mostly strains and sprains in the upper extremities from employees working at desks and on computers
- Agilent’s ergonomic incident rate was 1.0
- Agilent’s total incurred costs were $821,000 (undeveloped)
The Search for a New Solution
As a result, Miller and the EH&S department decided to look for a global, web-based solution that could provide centralized support for EH&S, reduce injuries and injury related costs, and optimize its onsite ergonomics services.
Miller also wanted a full service solution available in multiple languages that included evaluation tools that collected, measured and validated EH&S program progress. Lastly, Agilent wanted a system that automated more data management tasks so that its ergonomics consultants could focus 100% of their onsite services on solving employee issues.
In addition to choosing a new solution, Miller and his team also faced internal hurdles. They had to sell the idea of purchasing enterprise software for managing and reducing ergonomic risk to the Global Director of EH&S, who then had to sell it to the VP of Workplace Services. Since each region manages its own budget for ergonomic solutions, Miller and his team had to get regional approval as well.
After receiving approval and evaluating a number of EH&S and data management software applications, in July 2006 Agilent purchased Office Ergonomics Software. OES is a web-based enterprise injury prevention software solution from Enviance. The company also purchased licenses of RSIGuard, Enviance’s desktop application, which provides employees with additional tools to increase comfort and productivity.
Using OES to Address Risk of Injuries
Agilent began rolling out OES in October 2006 as a two phase non-mandatory program. In the first phase, the Agilent Ergonomic Team invited 14,650 employees to participate in an initial assessment. Initially 4,729 employees took the assessment, after which OES calculated that 34% of Agilent’s employees were at high risk for injury. In the second phase, Agilent used ergonomics specialists to follow-up with those high risk employees to apply hands-on prevention strategies and further reduce risk of injury. As of today, 12,671 employees have participated in the program.
In addition to calculating the risk of injury post-assessment, OES automatically delivers targeted tutorials and educational information to help employees self-correct their work environment and behaviors. Over time, as employees continue to take re-assessments and implement the best practices provided by OES, they can further reduce their risk of injury. This employee education and self correction is at the core of OES’s ability to help organizations manage the risk of injury in their workforce.
OES also allows Agilent/Enviance administrators to collect this assessment data, analyze employee risk and discomfort, and prioritize the use of in-house ergonomics consultants. By proactively and strategically applying consulting resources to the individual employees or groups that need it the most, the Agilent Ergonomics Team can reduce in-person evaluation time and expense. In addition, Miller states that OES has reduced the IT resources previously dedicated to data management. Miller acknowledges that “before working with Enviance, we were operating in a reactive mode. Having OES allowed us and our employees to be more proactive and priority driven in our organizational injury prevention efforts.”
Between 2006 and December 2008, Miller estimates that using the combination of OES and ergonomic consulting services helped Agilent achieve the following results:
- Reduced the number of high risk employees 82%
- Reduced the ergonomic incident rate among office workers by 40% (to 0.6)
- Decreased the number of repetitive stress-related workers’ compensation claims by 45%
- Saved approximately $447,000 (developed) in direct workers’ compensation costs between FY’07 and FY’08, and a reduction of nearly 50% in the cost per claim between FY’07 and FY’08
- Reduced total incurred costs to $295,000 (undeveloped), a savings of 64%
- Confirmed 70% employee engagement in OES
In addition, Agilent can now effectively reach employees who work at home, in alternative workplaces such as hotels or coffee houses, or in other remote flexible workstations. Miller also considers the integration of the OES technology with onsite ergonomics services integral to Agilent’s health and safety program success.