Harris Group formed our Safety Task Force in 2007 to assess and improve our safety programs and position. Based on the recommendations of this task force, we are renewing and improving our training programs, rewriting our safety manual, and monitoring our ISNetworld site by a third-party consultant to improve compliance with customer requirements. Our injury rates are historically very low, we will continue efforts to investigate each incident and take preventive measures with both physical controls and manager and staff training.
As a Company, we believe that employee health and wellness are correlative and inextricably linked. Therefore, we committed $43,000 to startup costs in 2007, and to an ongoing program cost of $40,000 in 2008, and each year thereafter, for a completely new Wellness Program. We have seen no less than 9 (nine) out of our 25 (twenty-five) known smokers, participate in our tobacco cessation program. At an industry-wide accepted return-on-investment (ROI) figure of $6,000 per smoker in health plan dollar savings (savings due to decreased absences due to smoking-related illness), we reached break-even point after just six months of our program, and have seen an extraordinary overall ROI of $81,000, or a NET BENEFIT of $38,000 during the first 8 months of our program.
Our Wellness Program is open and non-discriminatory, and as a result, we have seen 23% participation, which is quite high for a voluntary program.
Located nationwide amongst 13 offices, each office has an additional unique contribution to our Wellness program, and we encourage and fund these additional efforts. In Portland, some of our employees take part in morning stair walks and lunchtime tours of the local area. In our Seattle office, small groups do lunchtime walks around the hilly neighborhood and workout in groups, and in our Denver office, several employees have formed a volleyball team through a local parks program.
We are committed to continuing and enhancing these programs in 2009. Well employees have improved alertness, better coordination, and often less existing illness, which all lead to fewer industrial injuries and illnesses.
Our Wellness program has been widely recognized. In January 2008, Harris Group participated in a Tobacco Cessation Community Action Task Force, called Washington Quits!. In February 2008, Harris Group was awarded one of 25 â€śBetter Places to Workâ€ť, a prestigious award granted by the Association of Washington Business and the State of Washington Governor, Christine Gregoire. In addition, Bridget Frolich, our HR Manager, spoke in March 2008 to an audience of 300 at the WAHU (Washington Health Underwritersâ€™ Association) on an employer panel, showcasing our Wellness program. We have shared and are happy to continue to share our Wellness Program with other companies, in the overall health and safety interests of our community.