No Time to Cut Back on Safety - The Cost Is Too High

Workplace safety processes must be in place at all times and are even more critical during business downturns – if only to prepare for unexpected incidents and prevent worker injuries, illnesses, or even death. Companies that have a strong safety culture and continually invest in and implement effective safety processes see positive results, including a reduction in worker injuries and illnesses as well as a parallel reduction of costs associated with injuries to employees – e.g., worker’s compensation payments and time lost from work. During financially difficult times, cutting costs by reducing safety ultimately hurts businesses, leaving them unprepared for unexpected incidents that end up costing them more in the long run. Businesses spend an estimated $170 billion a year on costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses, and pay almost $1 billion every week to injured employees and their medical providers. In addition, when companies do not invest in safety they may face a damaged reputation and brand when employees are injured, especially if the incidents are or were preventable. Investing in safety pays off in many ways and contributes positively to a company’s bottom line.  For example, a recent study of an investment firm in Australia showed clear links between workplace safety and health factors and investment performance. The results of the study indicated that companies that did not adequately manage workplace-safety issues did not perform as well financially as companies that did pay greater attention to safety. 

Prudent and Practical Preventive Measures 

Although most companies are always looking for ways to cut costs, even and perhaps particularly in the current very difficult economic climate, they should not forget that there are many ways to save money without cutting corners on business safety measures and programs. The South Carolina chapter of the American Society of When safety-related items such as hardhats, safety glasses, and respirators  are critical to operations their purchase must not be deferred. Safety training also should not be deferred Safety Engineers (ASSE) has suggested that employees can take a number of prudent and easy-to-implement measures to help companies save money without compromising safety and health in the workplace. Among the most important, and most obvious, of those measures are: (a) following safe working procedures and practices to not only prevent injuries but also to reduce related downtime and expenses such as costly fines; (b) properly using, cleaning, and caring for personal protective equipment (PPE); (c) re-using gloves whenever possible – and for as long as possible; and (d) keeping track of safety glasses and re-usable hearing devices and equipment. Laura Comstock, president-elect of ASSE’s South Carolina chapter, emphasized that when safety-related items – e.g., employee PPE such as hardhats, safety glasses, and respirators – are critical to operations their purchase must not be deferred. Safety training during tough economic times also should not be deferred, she added, pointing out that some safety-related training is time-sensitive and therefore cannot and should not be delayed. She also suggested, though, as an alternative, that some training costs can be reduced by using online or electronic-based training services instead of requiring face-to-face settings in a room for safety training. In addition, having on-site safety and training professionals available at the workplace reduces costs by allowing training to take place both on-shift and at jobsites, thereby eliminating the need for overtime sessions and/or taking employees off the job for extended periods of time. Accidents and incidents will still happen, of course, but companies that continue to invest in safety – and, of perhaps even greater importance, that create and maintain a safety culture – will almost always reduce the number of injuries and illnesses associated with unexpected events at the workplace and/or during working hours. When incidents do occur, those same companies should and will have in place the tools needed to protect people, property, and the overall work environment. In short, establishing and maintaining a comprehensive safety program continues to be essential for business operations not only now, during difficult economic times, but at all times, not only to prevent unnecessary tragedies – the most important objective – but also to reduce normal everyday operating expenses. The bottom line, employee and customer safety, is good business, always. 

Warren K. Brown

Warren K. Brown is safety supervisor of DMAX Ltd. of Moraine, Ohio. He also is a 30-year member, and current president, of the American Society of Safety Engineers. Prior to affiliating with DMAX he served as a plant layout engineer, OSHA coordinator, and both supervisor of safety and associate administrator of Safety for General Motors and Delphi. A certified safety and health manager, he has won a number of national awards in the field of industrial safety. He holds a bachelor of science degree in industrial technology from Ohio University, and an MBA from the University of Dayton.



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