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“What’s the bottom line?”

“Value” of Safety & Health in the Workplace has gotten a lot of press in the past year and continues to gain momentum. What does “Value” mean? Bottom line…it means aggressively applying the benefits of employee safety and health to the “business” bottom line. In other words, it is about dollars and cents. As much as we would like to place the morality of safety and health at the head of the list, there is significant pressure to find tools to measure the financial benefits. Over the years a strong correlation has been drawn between increased Productivity, Quality, Employee satisfaction with increased safety initiatives and better safety results. However, this has been and continues to be difficult to prove. In the business world today, tangible dollar benefits take precedent. Research shows that concerted efforts to quantify benefits are growing strong in the Safety and Health field.

Some of the indicators are:
• Increased number of Safety & Health professionals enrolling in business
management courses.
• Intense competition between companies in this economy forces them to look at more cost
• OSHA officials publish that the organization
represents more than regulatory & compliance
issues. With all the statistics on injuries/deaths and related costs compiled by OSHA, the organization should be able to help put value figures to Safety & Health.
• National Safety & Health Associations, Companies and Universities are sponsoring
seminars, symposiums, summits to bring out
and educate in the business side of Safety &
Health. “Awards for Outstanding Achievements in Safety & Productivity” was recently instituted by the National Safety Council. There are so many factors in the money losses resulting from accidents. Costs can be considered “direct”.

Some of these are:

- Medical expenses

- Wages paid while employee off work

- Repair of damaged items -Or- “indirect” (too numerous to list all)

- Administrative (recording, investigating, etc.)

- Production stoppage/delay

- Cost of 1st Aid, Medical and Safety Staff
Statistical tools and metrics approaches are being developed and some are now out on the market, even though methods have existed as early as 1951.

The new ready-made mathematical tools can be found through Safety & Health associations/Organizations. However, the data is all there.

If a company has a good statistician, a formula can be developed to measure Safety & Health “Value” for figures to be applied to the books. Why not measure Safety & Health in the same way Productivity and Quality? Why not bring Safety & Health into statistical control with continuous improvement as a never-ending goal? This author recognizes the need for quantitative tools for Safety & Health, but emphasizes that industry must never lose sight of the human element involved. All professionals must work with the business culture of the times, but must also preserve the morality issues involved with keeping people safe and healthy in the workplace. Also, emphasis must remain on active participation and ownership by employees (a company’s greatest asset) in any Safety and Health effort. In all our client experiences, Productivity has improved significantly with improved Safety results. New generation Safety is based on Culture and Behavioral (Practices) change, driving over 90% of safety results. Successful companies practice the same fundamentals in organizational Culture, Strategies and Tactics (i.e. best practices).

Safety is no different.
Again, why not measure Safety like productivity and quality, striving to bring Safety results in “statistical process control” with continuous improvement. Otherwise a company’s safety process may stay in maintenance mode only. So why haven’t the formulas of the past been used more? Obviously, there is a significant administrative commitment to be made for this undertaking. And there has been a reluctance to speak to the mathematics of Safety & Health in fear of losing the humanity factor. The key is to combine the two. The bottom line is, any tool that can increase safety and health efforts in the workplace should be welcomed.

A great philosopher once wrote,” May you live in interesting times”. It could not be more true today. As this is being written, there are many questions about war and what is happening with the economy. The economy issue is the most baffling to me. Mortgage rates are at an all time low, unemployment as of Fenruary 2010 was about 9.7% which is very high, but there has been some growth in the Real Gross Domestic Product. So, why all the doom and gloom? Well if you live in the north you know the answer. Cold weather and slow buyers. This is the time of the year that you start to question whether 2010 will be as good as you hoped back in November when you were doing a budget. It gets to the point where you start to question every decision and every dollar you spend. You question whether you really need that last person you hired late last year. You even get to where you question your own ability. You think back to the past year or two and try and reason why some of your really good people left. Well, the workplace environment can be positive and motivating or negative and demoting. During the early days
of spring, it can get negative and demoting if we, as managers, aren’t careful. We must set the example as a leader. The leadership style can be the single most important variable. It can separate success from failure. We must be able to listen and act on what we hear. We need to do what we have to do to be a good leader. We must have integrity, great vision, be a great communicator and be innovative, wise, inspiring and hopefully intelligent and all this must happen at the same time as you are telling somebody, “No” to wanting more money.

A number of years ago I sat through
a seminar where the facilitator asked,“Do your employees trust you?” Makes you wonder. The facilitator then went through a shopping list of questions to determine whether your employees trust you. Needless to say a lot of people in the room failed. That was probably the reason we were all at the seminar. Since that time a lot has changed. The workforce is younger and they have a lot of high expectations. Homebuilding has been at a record pace and it has been difficult to keep up. Our industry is going through big change. Our Association is looking at change. We must change the way we do business, the way we hire people, the way we inspire our people or we are doomed to failure. If 2010 does not turn out the way we hope and we don’t change, we may not all be together at this time next year.