The safety/productivity chasm: do you see safety as an investment in productivity? Or do you see safety and health programs as something that takes away from productivity?

It’s difficult to believe that the mindset still exists that a well-designed safety program takes away from a company’s productivity.

But that mindset does still exist.  

If you dig a little deeper, here are a few factors that show how safety does indeed drive productivity:

Safety boosts performance

For the doubters or skeptics, even research supports the connection between improving safety and improving a company’s performance.

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which sought to understand the true value of safety, examined the connection between safe companies and stock market performance.

This particular research showed that after 13 years, companies that integrate their health and safety efforts are much more likely to have a competitive advantage in the marketplace (1, 2). More specifically, investments in health and safety resulted in returns as great as 333%. That was in comparison to returns of 105% for the S&P 500 during the same timeframe (1, 2).

The conclusion: investments in safety can, and do, result in greater performance.

Safety results in more employee engagement 

Additionally, on an individual level, workers need to feel safe to do their best work.

Too simple to be true?

Envision a worker who doesn’t feel safe at work. It’s someone who feels some sort of physical or mental threat to their well-being, It may not be constant, but it’s there.

This isn’t the picture of someone who’s increasing the amount of discretionary effort they put into their daily tasks.

On the other hand, imagine an engaged employee who feels supported and safe at work. This worker knows their employer values their overall well-being and safety.

This person is more willing to go “above and beyond” with their work. They are more loyal to their employer. They add (rather than take away) from the company culture.

This is also someone who has the ability to put their focus on their work—rather than concerns or perceived threats to their safety. 

The bottom line: an engaged worker who is equipped to do their best work means greater output, or more productivity, for the company.

Safety improves workplace design

When proactive safety is a part of a company’s DNA, processes and systems can be improved as a result.

For example, a safety program can do the following:

  •     Help drive a focus on outcomes
  •     Help uncover meaningful business metrics
  •     Help make sure the right behaviors are the norm
  •     Help to drive accountability
  •     Help support collaboration across teams/business units
  •     Helps to provide integrity for a company

Proactive safety activities can also help your company become more organized and efficient.

For example, a well-designed safety management system should allow you to focus on your people, and focus on activities that help you add to your culture. On the contrary, tasks like finding or compiling paperwork, hard copies, or spending time in spreadsheets to compile data takes away from your meaningful productivity.

Safety helps foster a culture of caring

Safety drives performance and it can result in more engaged employees (and vice versa), but it’s also an investment in culture. That, in turn, helps to drive more meaningful output from workers.

Consider, at a fundamental level, what happens when you improve safety? Just for sake of argument, here are a few potential benefits of improving safety:

  •     Fostering a culture of continuous improvement
  •     Ability to combat complacency
  •     Less incidents, injuries, illnesses—and less downtime related to those issues
  •     Improved operational performance
  •     Improved quality
  •     Fostering a culture of feedback
  •     Improved trust, morale, and commitment from workers
  •     Lower EMR and premiums (cost savings)
  •     More engaged workers
  •     Improved clarity on roles, expectations, and career paths within an organization
  •     Fostering a culture where individuals, vendors, and customers feel cared for and respected

Taking a look at that list, doesn’t an investment in safety look a lot like…an investment in a better culture—a culture that’s more focused on the entirety of an individual?

One could argue that an investment in safety is an investment in a more positive, productive work environment. 

See the Connection Between Safety & Productivity

Want to learn more about fostering a proactive (versus) reactive safety culture that helps you improve morale, productivity, and much more? If you enjoyed this article, you may want to check out these resources:

Sources:

  1. https://www.ehstoday.com/blog/safety-profitability-and-data-driven-business
  1. https://journals.lww.com/joem/Fulltext/2016/01000/Tracking_the_Market_Performance_of_Companies_That.2.aspx#O15-2

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