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Five Safety Actions that Cut the Cost of Accidents

by Keith Brown, USF SafetyFlorida Safety Leader

Keith Brown1

Keith Brown

To capture a share of the marketplace, companies today must operate more efficiently than ever before. This requires companies in all industries to effectively manage the quantity and quality of their goods and services, as well as the processes used, to ensure the costs of doing business do not exceed the benefits of doing business. This also includes the effective management of human and financial resources, eliminating waste and unnecessary costs at all levels of the company.

In their efforts to minimize costs, managers need to carefully evaluate where cuts in the organization will not only have short term benefits, but what the long-term impact will also be.

Safety management is one aspect of a business which is difficult to analyze from a cost vs. benefit perspective. There is no denying when there is a lack of effective safety management of an operation, as indicated by the repeated occurrence of near-miss incidents as well as those resulting in employee injuries and illnesses. It is much more difficult to identify when there is too much emphasis on safety, especially when no incidents occur.

I believe there are five basic safety related actions every employer, in every industry, can utilize to minimize or eliminate costs from unforeseen incidents despite the challenges presented by the economic environment:

1. Develop a safety management plan involving both management and employees and incorporating goals and objectives, and follow it. Within the plan, assign responsibilities, delegate authority, and recognize the accountability of everyone within the organization pertaining to the success of the plan.

2. Identify the potential hazards within the workplace as presented by the facilities, production processes, work practices, tools, and equipment. Analyze historical injury and illness data for the establishment as well as the industry to gain further insight as to what have been problems in the past.

3. Implement means of eliminating or at least controlling the hazards to minimize employee exposure. This might include conducting scheduled preventive maintenance on tools and equipment; upgrading electrical services to meet the needs of the processes; installing or upgrading machine guards; implementing appropriate environmental controls to address potential health concerns such as noise and airborne contaminants.

4. Train all personnel within the organization, including top management as to their safety and health responsibilities.

5. Review and adjust the safety management plan. Periodically, management and employees must jointly review the successes and shortfalls of the safety management plan. Are the objectives being met, leading to the achievement of the goals? Do additional objectives need to be established, or do the goals need to be revised?

Despite the size of a company, or the economic environment in which it operates, by performing these five actions, the cost of workplace safety and health can be controlled while the benefits can be maximized.