How-To: Supporting Safety & The 4 Questions for Return On Investment (ROI)
We believe you shouldn’t have to ‘sell safety’, and assume that occupational safety and health are the foremost priorities for all organizations. Still, Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) professionals ask us the same question, time after time: How do I get management to ‘buy in’? This Selling Safety Series has the answers that will help you take your great safety idea to management teams with a winning strategy. If you’re a safety pro needing to build advocacy for organizational improvements, know that you’re not alone!
You’ve done some research and have a big idea that you know will make a positive difference for the people you work to protect.
And this idea should be important to everybody, right, because…safety.
Now, you have to replace your safety ideology with a salesperson’s thinking cap, and go about convincing management to invest in the safety of their people beyond the status quo.
Like many of the Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) professionals we work with, the decision makers in your organization don’t want to be sold by outsiders, so the job falls on your shoulders.
The problems are (a) you’re not a professionally trained salesperson, (b) the relationships you need are undeveloped, and (c) gathering supporting resources to make your case is hard.
Let’s cut to the chase: return on investment (ROI) is a big deal. We all know that. But how do you demonstrate it?
Start by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- Will the safety improvement I want to make save the company money?
- If so, how much?
- Can I prove it?
- Is that enough of a change to eventually offset the upfront cost of the big safety improvement?
That last part? That’s what Return On Investment (ROI) is. It’s when something pays for itself, many times over.
Here’s an example:
Slips, trips, and falls, are a big seasonal problem for your workforce, and you’ve been asked to make reduction of the injury a priority this year. So your suggestion is to increase the slip resistance of certain surfaces near high-traffic entry ways. After shopping around for possible product solutions, you discover that you can, in fact, accomplish the necessary changes with the involvement of a few team members and some materials, saving the company even more money.
Now, apply those 4 simple questions to the example, and do the work to get definitive answers:
- Yes, reduction of slip & fall injuries by 5% will save the company money.
- The 5% reduction will save X amount of money annually in workers comp claims.
- Data on cost per injury last year for slip, trip, and fall injuries shows a clear benchmark backing up your assertion.
- The one-time cost of parts & labor for the safety improvement is far less than the savings realized from the 5% reduction in slips, trips, and falls.
When you’ve finished that problem discovery, there’s one more critical question you must ask…where do I take all of this information, or, to whom do I present? It’s important to understand the people and teams you’ll need to earn support from to accomplish the change you want to make.
There’s no way a team of 1 should have to handle all of this alone; building a wide partnership with colleagues who support your idea is wise. Your colleagues in accounting and human resources can help you gather the necessary data, while allowing those key individuals to invest in your good idea, sending a signal to management that you’re not alone.
There’s strength in numbers.
The burden of proof to show management the ROI of your good safety idea is on your shoulders, and it is absolutely critical to connect the change with math when possible—that’s the language spoken by the people who fund your good safety idea.
If you understand the way to approach those individuals, and know how to build a case they understand, anything is possible.