Reducing Workplace Injuries Starts at the Top and is All About Continual Improvement

Jacobs joins growing NSC pledge community committed to transforming workplace safety and helping millions of people around the world.

Sarah Ischer, CIH, CSP
May 24, 2024

Workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses more than $1 billion per week, according to the 2023 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. Recognizing that musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs,  are the most common workplace injury – not to mention the physical and mental toll these injuries take on workers as the second leading cause in shortening people’s careers – the National Safety Council launched the groundbreaking MSD Solutions Lab in 2021 with funding from Amazon to solve this pervasive safety issue. 

Our vision at the lab is simple: to create a world where all workplaces are free from MSDs and workers can live their fullest lives. To help in this quest, we started a global movement in June 2022 through the MSD Pledge to transform workplace safety and improve the lives of millions of workers. To build on this effort and expand our network to any organization committed to safety progress, we introduced the MSD Pledge 2.0 in October 2023. Today, our pledge community is nearly 200 members strong – ranging from multinational corporations to small family-owned businesses – and represents more than 2.8 million employees across every major continent worldwide. 

We recently caught up with Shayla Glendenning, ergonomic program and occupational health services coordinator at Jacobs, one of the first 20 organizations to sign the MSD Pledge 2.0, to discuss their safety journey and why they joined this initiative. Below is what she shared. 

A Safer, Healthier Future for our Families and Communities

Shayla Glendenning

At Jacobs, we created our BeyondZero approach to the health, safety and security of our people, the protection of the environment, and our core values as a company nearly 20 years ago. We view this as our philosophy or mantra – it’s the foundation to our culture of caring and how we manage our business, and it permeates throughout everything we do. BeyondZero spans from keeping our employees safe at work on a physical and psychosocial level, to how we protect the environment, to our philanthropy work and more. Our goal is beyond driving statistics to zero, it’s about creating a safer, healthier and more secure future for our families and our communities. 

We believe this is not a static strategy but one that is built on the evolution and refining of our outlook on the safekeeping of our employees. An example of this in action was during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when we changed our operating model to employees primarily working remotely rather than the office. This presented a widespread challenge in that we couldn’t physically be at every employee’s home to ensure their workplace was set up properly and functionally. We knew we needed to adapt to this new reality and set out to not only change our ergonomic assessment model through technology and employee feedback, but also create new resources and information for employees to implement so they can successfully and safely work from anywhere, whether it’s a home office or on the road. Today, we dedicate time to meeting with people virtually to evaluate their workspace and ensure it’s as safe as can be.  

The Constant Search for Improvement

The bottom line is, even though we have made significant progress since we began our BeyondZero journey in 2007, we are constantly searching for better ways to take care of our people and seeking out opportunities to improve. That’s why we signed the NSC MSD Pledge 2.0, which calls on organizations to reduce MSD risks and enhance the physical and psychological wellbeing of workers by:

  • Analyzing the causes of MSD injuries and investing in solutions and practices that reduce risks to workers
  • Leveraging innovations and sharing learnings that improve safety practices
  • Building a culture of caring where everyone, at every level, is accountable for the safety and health of workers

As a hallmark of the MSD Pledge 2.0, members have the unique opportunity to identify their own MSD risk reduction goal over the next five years after signing based on organizational-specific objectives, resources, and priorities. For us at Jacobs, after researching company data from recent years, we set an MSD risk reduction goal of 20% in the next five years, focusing primarily on injuries affecting the back and shoulders, which are the most common MSD at our company. We’re pleased to say we have developed systematic plans and strategies to reach this target and progress is already being made.

A Culture of Safety Starts at the Top

Our commitment to improving workplace safety starts at the top and can be seen at every level of the organization. Our CEO Bob Pragada sets the example and was a key driver of creating a psychologically and physically safe and healthy work environment as a central element of Jacobs’ EHS policy statement. As the company’s first CEO of color as well as a military veteran, he’s been a tireless campaigner for inclusion and an active member of Jacobs’ eight employee networks. He makes it a point to open every global town hall with a safety moment and reminder that the success of the company depends on living up to our BeyondZero philosophy.

Because of this company-wide dedication, we have received recognition in recent years for our award-winning culture, including the 2023 Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Patron’s Award in the United Kingdom, 2023 NSC Rising Stars of Safety Award, 2023 Occupational Excellence Achievement Award, and Bob Pragada was recently named a 2024 CEO Who “Gets It” by Safety+Health® magazine. But what we are most proud of is reaching 2,200 positive mental health champions and a 0.18 total recordable incident rate.

We know we have more work to do, but joining the MSD Pledge community and focusing on our risk reduction goal will help us take another step forward along our journey to taking care of our people the best way we can.

Join the Movement

To join the growing MSD Pledge community or learn more about the MSD Solutions Lab and resources to reduce MSDs, visit nsc.org/MSD. You can also check out our recently released inaugural MSD Solutions Index community report for key insights from pledge members in 2022-2023.

Sarah Ischer, CIH, CSP

Sarah Ischer is senior program manager III, MSD Solutions Lab, and EHS manager at the National Safety Council.

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With a century-long legacy, the National Safety Council is a global center for safety expertise. Let's work together to align resources. We look forward to learning about ways we can join efforts to expand safety everywhere!

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