Is your safety program…healthy?
We spoke to Mark Giordano about some of the simplest ways to better gauge the health of your company’s EHS program.
“Many companies are not budgeting for occupational safety and injuries,” explains Giordano, retired Senior Ergonomics Consultant for the Division of Safety and Hygiene, for the State of Ohio – Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. (For more than three decades, Giordano has helped organizations prevent accidents, injuries, and illnesses.)
“That’s a problem, and companies should have safety as a value that is equal to their productions rates, profits, and customer service,” says Giordano.
Giordano helped us come up with three valuable questions you can be asking in 2018 and beyond to improve your safety program, no matter where you’re at today.
1. Do you have a meaningful safety goal?
Giordano shares a story from his time at the BWC when he was working with a company in Ohio to create an occupational safety program and safety committee. One day, the CEO flew in to join a meeting.
Presenting to the group, the CEO shared the company’s goal: to reduce injuries from ten to nine in the next year.
Another person in the room asked the CEO about the number of injuries that the company had experienced this year.
The CEO replied, “Only eight.”
The (sarcastic) response back to the CEO was: “Then you better go out there and hurt someone so you can meet your goal!”
This story shows how your safety and health goals need to be goals your company truly wants to live up to. Are your goals and metrics meaningful? Are they helping you to use leading indicators to reduce accidents and injuries? Do they reflect how important avoiding injuries is for the company?
“If you have a goal of having any injuries, you’re missing the point. Your point and objective should always be zero accidents and zero injuries,” says Giordano.
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2. Are you (still) investing in a proactive safety culture?
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When Giordano and his team showed the company how much injuries were costing the organization, the CEO was stunned. The eight injuries the company had seen in the past year were extremely costly—just in looking at direct costs alone.
What’s more is that preventive steps would cost far less, not to mention all the other benefits of avoiding injuries and accidents. “It’s far better to invest ahead of time in your people, and to take those steps beforehand, than afterwards,” adds Giordano.
The business case for safety repeatedly shows that proactive safety is worth the investment.
Not surprisingly, 95 percent of executives report that an investment in safety has a positive impact on the company’s financial performance (1).
But many leaders still don’t think through all the indirect costs of accidents and injuries, says Giordano. Indirect costs of an injury generally total between four and ten times the amount of the direct costs. What that means: a $2,500 visit to a medical provider could cost a business $10,000 in indirect costs, which many businesses fail to realize (2).
“You have everything from shutting down that piece of equipment, to training a new employee to do that person’s job, to negative press. You have morale impact, loss of productivity, and so on. All those indirect costs are really where the rubber meets the road, and it’s what a lot of companies aren’t aware of or don’t look at.”
On the other hand, each lost-time injury or illness that is prevented saves a company $37,000, on average. And, what’s more is that each avoided fatality saves a company around $1,390,000 (3). That’s not to say that financial numbers alone are the only reason to invest in safety, but it’s vitally important for company stakeholders to be aware of all the costs that can occur without a proactive safety strategy and activities in place.
“The key point is instead of fixing things after a problem has occurred, it’s far better to do it right the first time. The key factor is prevention of injuries,” says Giordano.
3. Are you doing more than the basics?
One of the biggest missteps a company can make is only doing the minimum when it comes to health and safety. “You have to do more than the basics. You want to do as much as you can. Yes, there are sometimes financial restraints on your company, but having a program that includes your employees’ suggestions, allows time/pay for employees to be involved, and even allows employees to make ‘safety’ decisions, is important.”
Best-in-class companies are always asking, “Are we doing all we can to invest and continue to grow our safety program?” And, these companies have leadership that fully believe in that investment.
“The best-in-class companies that I’ve worked with do much more than the basics, and they have had a top-down philosophy of zero accidents and injuries. It can’t be from the employees up. The owners or the board of directors—all the leadership at the top—has to say that it may be a cost, but it’s a cost we can control and we will control.”
There may be a multitude of ways to do that in implementation, but prevention is going to be the “easier” way to go, says Giordano. “Prevention is the more effective, efficient way to go. It may be harder at first, but it’s more cost effective, more efficient, and healthier for the employee and the company. And it provides for better morale and a healthier environment for the employees than it is to retroactively try to resolve or deal with an issue or incident.”
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