Safety Equipment Investment Yields 191% Return for Koonse Glass Company

November 13, 2023 • Missouri Employers Mutual

It’s not that heavy. I can lift it myself.

Most of us have been there. Whether it’s a box of holiday decor or a bag of dog food, we’ve all encountered a heavy object that needs to be moved.

It’s probably a two-person job – but you’re the only one around. Determined, you bend over and hoist it up. Then, a familiar twinge in your lower back.

Overexertion accounts for about 20% of all work-related injuries. While these injuries are often less severe than others, they’re common and a real problem in many industries.

Today, tools and technology are available to help employees who do frequent heavy lifting. However, investing in those tools can be challenging for business owners to justify when they have payroll and overhead to worry about.

What does the ROI for heavy lifting equipment look like? Just ask Silas Koonse, owner of Koonse Glass Company.

Safety grant presents an investment opportunity

In 2022, Koonse Glass Company was one of 38 MEM policyholders selected to receive a safety grant. Koonse purchased a SmartLift 608 vacuum lift for handling large, prefabricated glass materials.

“Before the vacuum lift, the team was predominantly manually handling glass panels using suction cups,” explained Brad Minor, Senior Safety and Risk Consultant at MEM.

He continued, “This was necessary when the manufacturer delivered the glass, the team moved it to storage, and when they transported it to a job site. There were multiple points of manual handling throughout the material’s life.”

Each panel averages around 200 pounds – reaching 400-500 pounds at times – putting Koonse employees at frequent risk of a strain or sprain injury.

When Koonse was awarded a $10,000 safety grant toward purchasing the vacuum lift, it solidified that this investment was worth making.

Breaking down Koonse’s return on investment

While most people recover from strains and sprains, these injuries can leave a lasting impact. Research has shown that back pain is one of the leading causes of limited activity and work absence.

A severe back sprain can lead to chronic pain, mental health challenges, and reduced physical activity. The truth is the value of preventing these injuries goes beyond dollars.

At MEM, we believe in the monumental value of investing in safety. So when our consultants work with a policyholder on an investment like Koonse’s, we do an ROI analysis to uncover that value.

Let’s look at Minor’s breakdown of implementation costs, operational and loss avoidance savings, and net ROI for Koonse.

Cost to implement the SmartLift vacuum

Koonse’s investment in the SmartLift vacuum lift was significant. It’s a big decision to purchase equipment costing nearly $40,000. Like most business owners, Koonse could probably list 20 other worthwhile uses for that money off the cuff.

Plus, bringing in new equipment means training employees to use it safely and incorporate it into their processes.

Luckily, Koonse had their safety grant check to help lighten the load – but this was still a substantial up-front investment.

Cost of equipment $39,485
Expenses for employee training over the lifetime of the equipment $3,500
Financial support from MEM Safety Grant ($10,000)
Total cost to implement $32,985

Estimated expected savings over the 5-year lifetime of the equipment

It takes a seasoned leader to look at this type of expense and see the potential long-term savings. What are those savings?

First, implementing the vacuum lift brought a significant productivity boost. Minor established a conservative estimate of 10 hours per week saved across the equipment’s five-year life.

Second, there are the benefits we’re interested in as a work comp carrier: preventing injuries. We assumed the manual handling of glass could cause two strain and sprain injuries over the equipment’s lifetime – again, a conservative estimate.

When a compensable workplace injury occurs, the work comp carrier shoulders most medical and indemnity costs. These incidents also have very real costs to the business, including:

  • Increased insurance premiums
  • OSHA fines
  • Property damage and re-work
  • Lost productivity
  • Replacement employee training costs
Operational savings: Employee time saved (10 hours per week) $65,000
Loss avoidance savings: 2 strain/sprain injuries (direct costs and premium increases) $31,031
Total expected savings $96,031

Return on investment

All things considered, Minor arrived at a return of 191% on Koonse’s investment of around $33,000 – nearly doubling it over five years.

Cost to implement $32,985
Expected savings $96,031
Total ROI for Koonse Glass Company $63,046 = 191%

In case you’re wondering, the ROI is clear for us at MEM, too. We invested the $10,000 safety grant and Minor’s time working with the policyholder to ensure proper implementation of the SmartLift.

For us, preventing one or two (or more!) work comp claims is well worth that investment. That’s what makes stories like these genuinely win-win.

Improved safety and productivity – that’s the idea

Minor revisited Koonse Glass in the Fall of 2023 to see how the lift was working for the team. Koonse reported a great experience so far:

“We recently used it on the Logboat Brewing Company expansion project,” he told Minor. “We offloaded 15 panes of glass weighing 500 pounds each, and the employees noted they weren’t even tired.”

Pleased to hear this, Koonse told the employees, “That’s the idea, guys.”

According to Koonse, employees did have to adjust to the new equipment. At first, they were apprehensive about whether the vacuum would work for the project. (We’d be nervous, too, if we were handling 500-pound glass panes.)

Koonse’s solution was to bring a SmartLift representative on-site to show employees firsthand how to use the equipment. Today, it’s part of their daily operations, and they look for opportunities to use it.

The efficiency boost from using the lift also allowed the team to improve their delivery process. Now, the glass manufacturer delivers materials directly to the job site, eliminating the need for Koonse employees to handle them multiple times and further reducing their exposure to strain and sprain risks.

Increase your ROI with a MEM Safety Grant

If a $30,000+ investment isn’t realistic for your business right now, don’t worry. There are ROI opportunities for safety budgets of all sizes.

All MEM policyholders are eligible to apply for a safety grant to help cover the cost of approved safety initiatives. If awarded a grant, we’ll match every dollar you invest, from $500 to $10,000.

“We see the Safety Grant program as a huge opportunity for our clients,” commented Rich Miller, EVP of Risk Management at TIG Advisors and Koonse’s insurance agent. “It compounds the ROI on a purchase like this to create even more value for the business.”

We’ve been in the business of safety for nearly 30 years. Our Safety and Risk Services team can help you identify where to invest in safety to make the most significant impact on your employees’ lives and your bottom line.

Start your safety grant application today, or check out how other policyholders have used their safety grants for inspiration.

November 13, 2023
Missouri Employers Mutual
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