Mr. Doolittle, America’s “safest worker.”
Meet America’s safest worker, Mr. Doolittle. You’ll find him
pictured with this article. Note that both Mr. Doolittle and his room are
equipped with numerous safety conveniences, including a HAZMAT suit, work
gloves, a radiation detector, an eyewash station, an emergency exit map, a
motivational safety poster, even wall padding and bubble-wrap. There is no work
equipment in the room, so a machine will never injure him. He isn’t interacting
with anyone, so workplace violence is out of the question.
Unfortunately, his productivity is low. In fact, it’s
holding steady at zero.
Certainly it is important to protect workers from harm. But,
the work still needs to get done. Products must be produced and services must
be rendered. That will entail movement and interaction, and that means risk.
Safety must be integrated into the workplace in an efficient
manner that will not hamper productivity. Before that can happen, some attitude
adjustment may need to take place.
Sometimes management perceives workplace safety as optional
- an ‘add-on.’ That’s an unsafe attitude. Safety is integral to all aspects of
work. If you want to improve safety at your company, you can change unsafe
management mind-frames by talking the talk. Explain what they need to know in
ways that will make sense to them.
Here’s a metaphor especially appropriate to the air
conditioning/heating/refrigeration industry. Let’s say you are a typical
Midwesterner who pays heating bills during the winter. If you insulate your
home, you will save money. Bills are lowered and you will live in comfort. A
win-win situation. You would never say, “It’s cold out, but this week, we can’t
afford heat.” You are going to keep the house heated no matter what -
otherwise, water pipes will freeze and burst, and you’ll catch pneumonia and
frostbite. Keeping the house warm is part of your budget, and to some degree,
part of most of your household decisions.
Think of workplace safety like home heating in winter. The
threat of injuries and illnesses is always out there, like cold weather, and
you must keep that threat from becoming a real-life danger.
Of course, making the case for safety doesn’t stop with one
metaphor. Bear this in mind: In business, we’re asked to stress benefits, not
features. When discussing the merits of workplace safety, always remember that
it satisfies the five Essential E’s of company benefits:
- Workplace safety raises the
- Workplace safety saves
time and increases productivity.
- Fewer injuries/illnesses
- A fine safety record
impresses potential employees and investors.
- Workplace safety
contributes to the company’s longevity.
SAFETY CONTEST: Can you name the 17 OSHA safety violations
in this picture? If you can, e-mail your answers to email@example.com. One
winner will be drawn from the correct e-mail and the prize is one copy each of
the MANCOMM 1910 OSHA General Industry Regulations Book and the MANCOMM 1926
OSHA Construction Industry Regulations Book. Correct answers will appear in a
future edition of The NEWS.
As you interact with people in your company to forward the
cause of safety, be aware of the four channels through which any type of
progress is made in the workplace:
- Deciding how things get done.
- How things get done.
- The ‘theory’ side of
- The ‘application’ side of
Various branches of
management include human resources, production, purchasing, marketing, and
finance, and safety touches them all.
Human resources personnel focus on people, so they are
receptive to safety issues - they know the high cost of employee turnover.
Production leaders naturally want to increase productivity, and safety measures
can help meet their objectives. Staff members in purchasing want to know what
criteria they should apply to their selections, and might appreciate input from
the company’s Safety & Health (S&H) Professional.
The marketing department wants to protect the company’s
image, and certainly workplace injuries and illnesses are not good public
relations. The folks in finance want to save money, and fortunately, monetary
savings, such as lower workers compensation premiums, are a wonderful byproduct
of an excellent safety plan.
While many companies with
great safety programs often say, “Safety First!” we all realize that businesses
produce products and render services first. If safety is first, the workers had
better just shut down the equipment and stand in a bunker, just like Mr.
Doolittle. Then nothing would get done. That is why safety needs to be
integrated into every decision and built into every process.
With that in mind, the next question would be: just how are
these workplace safety objectives achieved? They are carried out through such
measures as: creation of, and adherence to, safety policies, safety training
and follow-up, effective investigation of unsafe incidents, including near
misses, questioning the obvious: just look around for problems, or employee
Every workplace needs to consider whether drug testing is
appropriate for their employee selection process. Employee drug testing can
positively affect employee health and attendance, since users have more “sick
days.” Poor performance by users often leads to their dismissal, so employee
drug testing also helps to reduce turnover.
As for the quality of job candidates: Drug testing won’t
deter the best applicants. They will appreciate that your company is selective
about who is being hired.
You may need to educate
management that safety is part of the process - especially the decision-makers
who focus on figures. They are held accountable by three financial documents:
1. Income statement
- The bottom line:
company earnings for the period.
2. Balance sheet
- A quantitative summary
of the company’s financial status.
3. Statement of cash flow
- Measuring the
flow of cash in and out of the company.
Return on Investment (ROI) is also a high priority. For
those who are math-minded, ROI equals the net present value of savings minus
investment, divided by the net present value of the investment.
But for everyone else, ROI means: How much will safety
measures cost, and will they be worth the investment? Those are just some of
the questions for which they will turn to you for quantifiable answers.
In your answers, you may wish to share reasons why workplace
safety raises the bottom line. Workplace safety helps to:
• Reduce injuries/illnesses
and illnesses come with a high price tag; and recuperation can be extremely expensive,
• Enhance corporate image
- A positive
image encourages community interaction, including sales.
• Improve employee morale
- Happy workers
are productive workers.
• Lower turnover
- Turnover necessitates
time-consuming recruitment effort and training.
• Foster a family atmosphere
measures foster camaraderie.
• Improve productivity
- Time isn’t tied
up by accidents.
• Hold the work quality
workers do a better job, and if they are injured, a less experienced
replacement worker might not do the job as well.
• Reduce business expenses
- Money is
saved in a variety of ways including lowered workers’ compensation costs,
lowered health insurance costs, reduced overtime of staff who must make up for
lost workdays, less risk of government citations (which are not
tax-deductible), and reduced expenses are especially important because they are
much like an increase in profit.
To make $1 million at a 5 percent profit, you must make $20
million in sales. Therefore, saving a million in safety is like making $20
million in sales.
Training teaches compliance,
and compliance was designed with workers in mind. For every safety regulation, there was probably some worker
injured in a manner which the regulation is meant to prevent. Employee training
becomes a key element in all safety initiatives, since it helps to prevent the
incidents that can lead to workplace injuries and illnesses.
Here’s a thought that should make any company realize the
merits of training: Any employee who isn’t trained by the company usually ends
up being “trained” by the nearest employee with the most free time. Is that who
you want providing safety training to your new employees?
Ultimately, both employee and management buy in to safety to
establish the right workplace safety culture. Management and employees alike
see the benefits inherent in an enhanced safety culture when they realize it
can save the company money. After all, who wants to work for a company that
loses money to constant accidents? What quality employee wants to work under
The changes in attitudes addressed here would lead to new
levels of safety excellence. Workers everywhere would be just as safe as our
friend Mr. Doolittle - and they’d get a lot more work done, too!
COUNT THE OSHA VIOLATIONS
See the OSHA picture with this story above to test your understanding of safety. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 2 with the 17 violations. All winning entries will be eligible for a grand prize of a three-year free subscription to The NEWS
and a set of OSHA safety manuals. Publication date: