From The 'Lectric Law Library's Stacks WHY HAVE A SAFETY PROGRAM? - by Charles R. Haines , Certified Safety Professional & P.E. *
The loss of life will be irreplaceable. -- Vice President Dan Quayle after the San Francisco earthquake
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Why should you have a safety program? Well, first because it has become too costly to have people injured. That includes your employees, your customers' employees and the general public. Many managers I have worked with had no idea what the total cost of accidents and injuries were to their organization. Once the true costs were compiled, I can't recall one general manager saying the total was less than expected. If for monetary reasons alone, you institute a cost effective safety program, you will be financially rewarded.
There are several other good reasons to have an effective safety program. The second reason and a serious consideration is the moral obligation that we have as employers to provide a safe and healthful work place. This moral consideration does not motivate some managers very much, some possibly not at all. As a safety professional, I have personally investigated numerous serious injuries, and in most instances the top management of the organization were emotionally upset as they contemplated the pain and disability created as a result of the accident. These were genuine feelings verified by the corrective action almost always taken to prevent a re-occurrence. Management could not undo the serious consequences of these past accidents but future accidents can be prevented. At this point, most managers are interested in taking action to prevent injuries because they feel a sense of responsibility for their employees' and customers' welfare.
Another benefit of the moral response is the improved morale for employees. No one wants to work for a company that has little or no regard for him as a person. Often we assume that worker's primary motivation is monetary. Many studies show it as being fourth or fifth out of ten, rating below job security, job satisfaction, etc., once income is sufficient to cover the basic needs.
A common misconception is that if we are paying our employees a high hourly rate they should watch out for themselves. This is just not true. There is a surprising lack of innate self-protectiveness on the job. However, most employees, when provided with good job instruction, proper feedback on their performance and some basic training in safe work procedures, will do the job safely.
The third reason for having a safety program is a legal obligation. There are numerous federal, state and local laws and codes that must be met. OSHA, state and federal department of transportation and city requirements can be met with a properly designed and implemented safety program.
Sounds like too much work, trouble, time, etc. (you fill in the etc.)! What's in it for me, you ask? Well, there is a right way to do the job which in most cases also happens to be the safe way, the most efficient way and also usually results in less product damage.
Remember, accidents in most cases do not result in injuries. In fact, they more often result in product or equipment damage which is often accepted as the cost of doing business. I have seen numerous maintenance repair orders and bills for repairs on an overhead vehicle door. The door wasn't wearing out every two months, it was running out of "new" when a truck or for lift struck it.
Management has not devoted the small amount of time and effort to have an effective safety program. Management accepts the spiraling cost of insurance as an unavoidable and uncontrollable increasing cost of doing business. Workers take the attitude, "If they don't care, why should I?" In many cases workers have never been told what is expected of them. The responsibility for safety was never assigned to management and hourly employees. The "that's someone else's responsibility" attitude prevails.
We fortunately have some good employees who are self motivated to care. They work safely and in a manner not to damage equipment and product. Common sense prevails sometimes. We learn from our mistakes. (This is a very costly way to learn, however.) Some efforts for improved safety may have been provided in the past.
You can achieve increased motivation, improved morale and better efficiency through an effective safety and loss control program, thus achieving your ultimate goal of increased profitability. The exciting aspect of this program is it is achieved without capital outlay or significant expenditure.
* Mr. Haines founded the firm of C.R. Haines & Associates, consultants in safety and loss control. A Certified Safety Professional & registered Professional Engineer, he was also the corporate director of safety & health for Anheuser Busch Companies, Inc.