Why a safety program?

/Why a safety program?
Why a safety program?2017-05-09T10:19:23+00:00

Safety Managers often tell me they cannot talk to management, or sell them on the importance of safety in an organization. This is not surprising, since safety is a passion to most safety professionals and reason and passion often do not go together. If you want to sell management on safety, talk the following:

  • Financial
  • Legislative
  • Due Dilligence
  • Moral

Financial reasons are the big carrot on the stick for managers – saving money helps them justify a safety program to owners, and helps owners justify it to shareholders. Saving money is the nuts and bolts of any reasoned discussion with management. However, not everyone is convinced.

Recently an individual in claims management field told me that safety does not save money, good claims management does. But, how do you put a price on accidents that do not happen? You can by estimating the possible severity and frequency of an occurrence, putting numbers to it, and telling management that they’d have to sell $1.6 million of widgets at a 3% profit margin just to recoup the costs of a $50,000 accident. Yes, Virginia, you cannot control market share but you can control losses.

How do you put a price on morale? Safe places are better places to work and this is reflected in productivity. And, since safety and quality go hand in hand, less rework, more profit. Moreover, the government of Alberta has entered into a partnership with industry so if a company gets an audit, passes it, and obtains a Certificate of Recognition, they get a 5% rebate on their WCB insurance premium. As well, in some sectors (e.g. construction), you require a Certificate of Recognition before you can bid on large jobs. That’s a definite financial advantage!

Legislative reasons also justify a safety program. A good program meets the minimum requirements which are legislated. When building a safety program, a good safety manager always consults the legislation, compares his/her program to the minimum legal standards, and exceeds them. Legislative compliance prevents fines ranging from $150,000 and up to 6 months in jail for a first offence or $300,000 and up to 12 months in jail for a second offence. Anyone can be fined: workers are often under the happy assumption that they are immune… that only the supervisor or management will get fined. Wrong! Workers have, in Alberta and most provinces, the legal responsibility to protect their own and their co-workers’ safety and co-operate with their employer. It’s the law.

Due diligence ties in nicely with legislation: usually someone is thought to be guilty in administrative law (the area dealing with occupational health and safety) before being proven innocent — the opposite of criminal law. Due diligence is paperwork happy… you must have a written trail to prove you did everything, “reasonable and practicable” to prevent the occurrence. Paperwork often proves this. If it is not written, for most purposes, it does not exist. Directors, owners, and senior management can be found not duly diligent by being aware of an unsafe condition and doing nothing to correct it. They are, in fact, negligent under the law. In the Bata Shoe Case in Ontario, the Canadian President of Operations and his Vice President were fined $10,000 each, which they had to pay personally. This was reversed on appeal but it set a precedent.

Moral considerations are the raison d’etres of any good safety professional. Everyone has a moral obligation to protect the health and safety of his/her workers. It is engrained in any safety professional that protecting people from losses is as important to them as breathing, eating and sleeping. But how do you get this across to management? Do not pump up the volume or get into a yelling match. Crunch numbers, look at the legislation, talk about due diligence and then ace it with your passion, your beliefs and your values.

You will go a long way to convincing management. Reason often wins over passion, so be passionately reasonable! Good luck and have fun!

For more information, click here to contact Barb.