Is a Safety Program Really Necessary?

Is a Safety Program Really Necessary?

by National Peo

This is one of those standard questions most employers ask when asked if they have a formal safety program. This goes along with other quotes, “We haven’t had any injuries in years so we must be compliant”, ‘Safety is a waste of time”, “I can’t afford to have employees waste thirty minutes a month on safety training”, “Safety just cost money for which you get nothing in return”, and the list goes on.

The first statement “We haven’t had any injuries in years so we must be compliant”. Just because a business owner or president claims they haven’t had any injuries may be true. But in reality it tells me that employees aren’t reporting the injury and are taking care of the injury on their medical insurance. The employer is not maintaining the required OSHA 300 logs or in some rare cases the employer may be paying for the medical treatment directly and not reporting the injury to worker compensation.

Looking harder at this statement usually also tells me that even if they honestly haven’t had any injuries it is probably only a matter of time until the big one hits. They probably have guards missing from equipment; safety interlocks not working or disconnected, electrical hazards, fall hazards, chemical hazards, etc. With this statement the employer has set many traps throughout the facility and one day a trap will snap shut and an employee will suffer a serious injury or may even suffer a fatal injury. The reply to this standard statement is, yes, a safety program is really necessary for the well being of the employees and company.

The second statement “Safety is a waste of time”. Ask an emergency room doctor about the employees who didn’t want to waste time to put their safety glasses on for a 30 second job, they did’t put the chemical boots on for a 2 minute job, etc. Speaking from personal experience in manufacturing plants where I was the safety manager and also first responder for injuries requiring first aid and medical treatment. From the acid splashed in the eyes, caustic solution splashed in the top of a safety shoe, the lacerated wrist, the shattered toe, the partially amputated finger, etc. In each of these injuries the employee had the proper PPE and training for the job. The employee was going to save time and did not take the couple of seconds to get the required PPE and put it on properly or use the proper procedure for the process. So, is it a waste of time not to take a couple of seconds to put the PPE on or perform the process in accordance with established procedures? No, safety is not a waste of time. The real waste of time is the time required to do the first aid, transport the employee to the doctor or ER, and have the employee transported via ambulance, lost time of the employee or the employee being returned to work on light duty.

The last two statements “I can’t afford to have my employees take 30 minutes a month for safety training, and “Safety just cost money for which you get nothing in return”. Let’s examine the first statement. If you’re monthly safety training classes run an average of 30 minutes that equates to 1 minute and 24 seconds per day for safety training. Employees waste more time then that leaving the building to smoke a cigarette several times a day, but yet an employer won’t have a problem with that. That 30 minute safety training class every month is free insurance on the road to reducing injuries and workers compensation claims.

And last but not least, “Safety just cost money for which you get nothing in return”. Contrary to popular believe, this is not a valid reason for not having a safety program. The general consensus between OSHA and the workers compensation insurance industry is that for every dollar invested in a comprehensive safety program the employer can expect up to a six dollar return. You can not get that kind of return on your money at any bank or other financial institutions in today’s business environment.

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