Atlanta – Lane Co. has dramatically reduced the number of on-the-job accidents during the last several years.

The results come after CEO Bill Donges joined the firm in 2002 and made safety a companywide priority at the multifamily real estate firm.

In 2001, Lane Co. had 114 accidents. In 2004, the number dropped to just 66. The number of accidents was expected to drop even further in the 12-month period ending in March.

The drop in “lost-time accidents” is even more dramatic. Five years ago, Lane Co. had 33 accidents that were serious enough to cause a worker to lose time on the job. Last year, that number fell to just 16, a reduction of more than half. The picture looked even better for the 12-month period ending in March. Nine months into the year, there was only one lost-time incident.

Scott Wilson, service director and safety coordinator, is leading the safety campaign. After getting a directive from Donges to improve safety, Wilson began by working with the firm’s insurance company to come up with a comprehensive safety manual.

He then launched a safety-training program for managers. Property associates hold weekly meetings to discuss safety issues. About every six days, Wilson sends out a flier or quiz that can be used at the meetings.

The quizzes have become such a regular and popular feature that if Wilson is late sending one out, he will get e-mails asking about it.

In addition, Donges and Wilson have emphasized the importance of safety by making it the first topic at the meetings attended by department heads.

These efforts have made people more aware of ways to avoid injuries and change behavior. For example, service technicians have become more careful when carrying heavy appliances. Leasing staff learned ways to help avoid repetitive stress injuries.

The firm, which has about 1,100 employees, also works to get the message out to new associates, said Wilson, explaining that safety is one of the key issues discussed at a meeting held for new associates.

Lane Co. is one of the developers involved in building the big Atlantic Station mixed-use project in Atlanta, but it also acquires properties. As part of the safety campaign, the company does an inspection of every new property, including evaluating the site’s ladders and maintenance tools.

The increased emphasis on safety not only protects the health of employees, it is also good for the company’s bottom line. Lane officials say it is difficult to quantify the savings achieved through an improved safety record, but they report that the number of insurance claims they have been paying has dropped dramatically. After the program’s first year, Lane saw the number of claims drop 54%.

The firm also expects to see a positive impact on its workers’ compensation premiums. The premiums tend to be based on a track record over several years, so the benefits of an improved record may be coming soon.