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Facilities management plays it safe

In an ongoing budget challenge, cost savings in Facilities Management couldn't have come at a better time

January 20, 2010

With more than 1,000 employees and an operating budget among the largest at the University, Facilities Management (FM) has and will continue to play a significant role in reducing costs at the U. As units University-wide work to set priorities and reduce costs, Facilities Management's Safety and Risk Management group targeted reductions in costs related to lost-time injuries last year by introducing a team-based safety incentive program.

The resulting safety awareness throughout FM led to a 60 percent reduction in lost-time injuries during 2009--a savings of about $800,000. The unit as a whole incurred just 25 lost time injuries in 2009, which is less than half the amount suffered in 2008.

"By making safety a team effort, we have been able to reduce workers' compensation costs and expend less resources covering for injured employees," said FM's Mike Berthelsen.

FM Safety’s incentive program focused on making safety a group effort. The unit was divided into 30 separate teams. Those remaining injury free for designated intervals earned an incentive, like a t-shirt or sweatshirt. A monthly scorecard allowed employees to track their team’s progress towards the next goal. By creating a team approach to safety with opportunities for every individual to participate, FM was able to move closer to an injury-free work environment and substantially reduce costs.

The cost savings couldn’t have come at a better time. With the University facing more budget cuts in the new fiscal year, the reduction of workplace injuries impacts not only the bottom line, but employee well being, too.

In another cost saving initiative, Facilities Management has led a Twin Cities campus effort to reduce energy consumption through the "It all adds up" campaign. To date, FM has implemented more than $2 million in energy savings measures and identified another $2.4 million in savings that they expect to implement next year.