March 1, 2022
RCS Empowers, Inc., a Sheboygan-area non-profit focusing on meaningful work for all, recently received the Safety Leader of the Year Award from the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce. Each year, the Chamber hosts the Champion’s Gala which recognizes area businesses and individuals for their contributions to the county. The Safety Leader Award, sponsored by the Wisconsin Lakeshore Safety Council, is awarded to an area business that has seen improvements in safety due to changes in its protocol and other criteria. As part of its mission to “empower individuals with disabilities and special needs so that they may work, live and function with dignity and respect,” RCS has implemented a safety management system. The system intends to reduce workplace accidents through various proactive practices specialized to those with additional needs. While some accidents are inevitable, RCS has seen great success in reducing the severity of those incidents and consequently decreasing the number of days of work missed due to injury. This reduction has been accomplished through prevention, equipment maintenance, education, and training while maintaining state and federal regulations compliance. In addition, all individuals receiving services (participants) go through an initial health assessment to identify any accommodations needed, and then, are communicated to appropriate personnel. Likewise, all new employees go through the same process to ensure that they can meet the position’s responsibilities with or without accommodation.
Another key of the Safety program is a modified duty component. Injured persons return to a light-duty position based on the restrictions they have in place. RCS believes that the sooner a worker returns to work following an injury, the better it is for their overall physical and mental health. RCS has become the solution for the light-duty needs of area businesses. When an area business has an injured worker and cannot offer light-duty within their own company, RCS can step in to help.
Though many of the guidelines have existed for years, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the need for additional protocols and training. Given that many RCS participants were and are at higher risk for complications from COVID, an advanced safety response was crucial to their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the community. Many of the protocols put in place were commonplace, such as social distancing and ongoing cleaning of all touchpoints. Still, others
were more rigorous such as propping open as many doors as possible and staggering break schedules. Masks were and remain an essential part of safety protocols even among the vaccinated. In addition, they held three vaccination/booster clinics on-site to ensure easy access for employees and participants. Throughout, RCS states that “employee input was sought to help determine protocols that needed review and/or modification.” These practices have helped make RCS facilities an area for low risk of transmission. RCS Empowers, Inc. would like to thank the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce for recognizing them with this award and the entire Sheboygan area community for their continued support of their mission.