Workplace safety is important for many reasons. Some reasons include protecting employees’ health, increasing employee morale, ensuring business continuity, protecting business reputation, and lowering insurance costs.
Six Explanations as to Why Safety is Important
There are six explanations as to why safety is important in this post. These explanations can all be used by safety professionals to explain to everyone within an organization why safety processes and best practices need to be implemented and/or followed.
Depending on the organization and who is being spoken to, one explanation may be more relevant than another. For example, the conversation with a floor employee about why they need to wear personal protective equipment will vary greatly from meeting with the board of directors about why a new safety investment is vital for the organization’s future.
Protecting Employees Health
First and foremost, the goal of a company safety program should be to prevent employees from being injured. While it is profitable to not injure or kill employees on the job, a company should care about their employees’ health regardless.
Employee fatality and injury rates have significantly declined since the days of the industrial revolution, but there are still many employees who are unnecessarily injured on the job every year. In the US, it was estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that 2.7 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses occurred in the private industry in 2020.
It was also reported that there were 4,764 fatal occupational injuries in 2020 in the US.
While employees may not always be excited to follow every safety rule or sit through a safety training session, there is a great chance they will be less happy and productive when the company they work for seems to not care about their well-being.
While the link between workplace safety and employee morale can be a difficult one to accurately measure, there have been several studies and publications put out that identify a positive correlation between workplace safety and companies that were voted as best places to work.
This article published by ASSE Foundation Research provides research linking employee morale and workplace safety. The paragraph below is an excerpt of the linked article discussing the correlation between survey questions regarding safety and organizations that rank at the top and bottom of the list of best places to work.
Regarding the two other questions, “Our facilities contribute to a good working environment” and “This is a psychologically and emotionally healthy place to work,” the differences between the best 100 and the lower 100 groups are larger when compared to the physically safe question. For the facilities question, 91% of employees in the top group answered “often true” or “almost always true,” whereas 75% of the employees in the lower group did (Lyman, personal communication, April 22, 2008); for the psychologically safe question, the difference increases to 20%—83% compared to 63% (Lyman).
While correlation does not always equal causation, there is a lot of evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, to suggest that employees’ perception as to whether their workplace is safe impacts their opinion if they work at a great company.
Employees mistakenly assume that if they decide to take risks and safety shortcuts that it will only hurt them if an injury or accident occurs. This is not the case. Employees need to understand that everyone’s decisions and actions affect one another in a workplace.
If an employee decides to take a risk that is against company policy and an adverse event occurs, it can have a significant impact on the business and other employees who rely on their paychecks to feed their families.
For example, in the construction industry, companies rely heavily on the total recordable incident rate (TRIR rate) when hiring subcontractors for a job. If a subcontractor experiences frequent or severe injuries, they may not be able to bid for new work for specific clients. This is true even if they would have the lowest bid for the job.
Less work, or the inability to win new projects, may mean that there will not be a job sometime in the future for some employees.
Lowering Insurance Costs
There is a myriad of insurance policies an organization needs to operate. Workers’ compensation, commercial property, general liability, auto liability, etc., are just a few types of insurance coverages that most companies need to operate.
These policies are a considerable cost center for businesses, and even when losses are controlled, these policies can increase 3% to 10%. For organizations that do not have proactive safety processes in place to prevent losses and reduce liability in the event of a loss, these costs can be excessive and unpredictable.
By having a proactive approach to workplace safety and focusing on continuous improvement, a company can significantly decrease its insurance costs over time.
Now more than ever, individuals have instantaneous access to information about any topic in almost real-time. If a business is injuring employees, having fatalities, or is perceived not to care about their workforce, the wider public will know. The negative impact of this information can be widespread for the organization.
End clients may not want to purchase from the company, business partners may cancel previous agreements, and prospective employees may not pursue a job at the company. All of these outcomes can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.
Safety is good business. All of the above explanations provided in this post have an impact on a company’s bottom line. Whether you are considering losing productivity and money associated with an injury or an increase in insurance costs, there is a verifiable cost to the company’s profits.
Companies with lacking safety programs are going to have significant expenses compared to companies that embrace safety. These costs can add up to a point where the business is no longer profitable, thus no longer viable.
This is especially true if a company has a significant loss, such as a fire or multiple fatalities. It may only take one adverse event for a company to have to close its doors forever.
There are many reasons why safety is important and why all organizations should want to have a proactive safety program.
The six explanations mentioned in this post are just a few of the significant items of a possible many. If not injuring employees is not a big enough “WHY” to invest in a safety program, all of the explanations provided have significant impacts on a company’s bottom line.
Understanding why safety is important and being able to concisely explain it to whomever you are speaking to as a safety professional in an organization is key to getting buy-in for safety efforts.
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