How-To: Supporting Safety & The Unseen Return of Occupational Safety Investments
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!
Let’s say that you want to buy new personal protective equipment (PPE) for your workforce. Or, maybe you want to schedule additional time this year for hands-on safety training aimed at specific injury reduction. Or, you’re thinking this is the year to approach your management about budgeting for critical work related to additional machine guarding, or air quality monitoring, or a professional risk assessment, etc., etc.
The point here? It doesn’t matter what your great safety idea is, the involvement of decision makers in your organization is required because money is involved.
Let’s forget about the dollars and sense of safety for a minute, and think about the ‘why’ behind the need.
You know that a failure to make the necessary investments in your occupational safety and health program is not without consequences—you wouldn’t be asking management for safety improvements if there wasn’t a need. In fact, you can work up the analysis to show injury or illness reduction, prove a return on investment, and build a sound dollars & sense case using workers compensation statistics.
And you can always point to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics research showing that a good worker safety and health program can save $4 to $6 dollars for every $1 dollar of investment. Nobody is gonna argue with that one, right?
Sometimes, saving money isn’t a strong enough of an argument without trust in place; to earn trust, you have to make your idea real in ways that are not always obvious.
So what’s the X-factor that connects with management on a deeper level, and helps make the changes you seek real and personal?
To broaden the impact of your good safety idea, consider thinking beyond the numbers and examining the effect on organizational culture.
When management approves a new investment in occupational safety and health—however large or small—a message is sent to the workforce about the value of safety. Because each dollar committed to your safety program is an opportunity to realize the old cliché that “safety starts at the top”, or to “walk the talk” about organizational values, and “put the money where the mouth is” when it comes to safety talk. The money committed to worker safety and health is in many ways a direct reflection of organizational health and culture, symptomatic of the way it functions, and emblematic of its reputation.
The benefits of organizational safety behaviors are numerous even if they are not immediately obvious. A strong safety program not only promotes worker wellbeing, it’s a message sent across the organization to each and every employee about exactly how much the people at the top of the organizational chart value employees. This is deeply personal to the workforce, because attitudes about safety are as important as actual safe working behaviors. People want to work for organizations where safety culture is strongest because the low rate of injuries and illnesses positively impacts brand and reputation. Strong safety records attract employees and new business opportunities.
There’s a tangible return on each dollar committed to worker safety. The investments made in safety programs show employees that you care on a personal level, because those efforts can be tied to each member of your workforce, from the new PPE they are expected to wear, to machine guarding for equipment they frequently use, to training that shows them a new level of insight. And when workers feel cared about, their value their jobs more and commit more deeply to organizations. That means worker safety and health initiatives may also be leveraged to bond management with the workforce—you can provide workers with new opportunities opportunity to ‘buy in’ to your safety program. That’s important on a broader cultural level because positive safety attitudes are powerful.
In our opinion, there’s never a wrong time to investment money in occupational safety and health. So if you’re building the case for an extra item in the safety program budget, don’t forget about the impact to culture. Safety investments are new opportunities for your management team to encourage positive attitudes about working safely, another chance to do something in support of your organizational culture or mission.
Through safety, you can show your management team another way to reach employees.