Consider safety, occupational hazards, and culture when considering profitability.
A recent article in the Insurance Journal provided an example of a construction company on the Eastern Seaboard that is facing fines of nearly $150,000 being handed down from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2018/09/26/502373.htm.) Among other violations, they were cited for failing to provide proper fall protection, using damaged ladders, failing to provide eye protection, and conduct regular inspections of their work site. The construction company is given 15 days to comply and/or appeal before fines are handed out. This particular company had been cited in years prior as well.
So besides the obvious, why is this so significant? Because the culture surrounding your company can have a direct correlation with the safety and well-being of your employees. If your company takes pride in its safety, its loss control, and risk mitigation processes, many times the rest falls into place. In other words, when the culture of a company prioritizes the safety and well-being of its employees, the bank account will likely be directly affected through reduction in premiums, reduction in potential OSHA fines, and reduction in lost time. This can lead to increased revenues, increased job/bid opportunities, and overall positive growth.
How can your organization improve its culture, safety practices, and avoid potential OSHA Violations? Grainger is a top pick in our book for providing excellent safety tips, advice, and input for all things related to safety for companies. They provided a short article which describes the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations AND insights on how to avoid them. This is an EXCELLENT article, and we have highlighted three of our favorite insights below.
“3- Safety Is Smart Business
For some organizations, safety has become a matter of routine. They hang the appropriate safety signage, have monthly safety meetings and require or encourage compliance. Numerous companies are OSHA-compliant on the surface. Hollie Guidi thinks you can do better. She feels that building a strong Safety Culture begins with a true commitment from management, and a hands-on approach that includes the involvement of employees.
“The organizations that introduce a tough, caring, safety program and involve their employees in the development and reinforcement of that program generally have a better safety record,” Guidi tells us. “This involvement results in other positive impacts throughout the organization and the community at large.”
Engaging employees improves morale and trust, which improves productivity, and that “leads to helping keep costs down.” Safety is everyone’s job and the people most likely to spot problems are those closest to the work. The surrounding community also begins to view the organization as one “that cares for, and takes care of their employees…a good corporate citizen.” Those inside and outside your company trust that a safe and healthy environment will be maintained. When you fail to do so and you lose that trust, it opens the door to the negative impacts that follow from even one incident. This all begins with an open conversation with employees and figuring out the safety issues that aren’t just OSHA’s Top Ten, but the Top Ten for your workers.
9- It’s All About Behavior
One of the main factors keeping the OSHA Top 10 the same is behavior. People are doing the same things — climbing on scaffolding, working with certain chemicals and machinery. Tim Reinke, thinks it’s time we start thinking about behavior, trying to change it and being prepared when you can’t.
“They call it behavioral safety,” begins Reinke, “and it’s the largest struggle behind the OSHA Top 10.” Tim has visited hundreds of customers over the years and has seen it firsthand. “Sometimes you'll walk through a facility, and everyone is scrambling trying to find their glasses and their gloves and their respirators.” He believes that type of mentality comes from up top. “The high-ranking people in the building when they walk out the door don't have safety glasses or a hard hat on, and there are 25 signs that say you've got to have a hard hat, safety glasses, and steel-toe footwear, so it affects the perception of the employees. It's like, well if he's not going to wear it, then I shouldn't have to wear it.”
How do you change the “behaviorial safety” of your facility? Tim points to oil and gas refineries as the model. “Large O&G refineries make it real simple: You wear your specific PPE, follow procedures, policies and programs, training, stay in compliance or you don’t work there, period. That starts at the top of the organization and trickles down.” Taking the action is the key, according to Reinke. Getting upper managers to attend safety meetings and having them start talking to the employees about safety so they see the importance of the PPE they wear — and why it’s so important to keep them safe — so they go home the same way they came to work. “Make sure all managers and supervisors wear PPE to set the example,” he continues, “Remember, it’s a partnership and we are all on the same team to keep employees safe. They will see it and begin to change. Not an easy task but this will help begin the journey.”
10- Safety Starts With a Plan
So what does this all mean? With all the complex issues that the OSHA Top 10 highlights, where do you start? Well, according to Frank Grasso the answer is simple: have a plan.
“I think the worst thing you can do is nothing,” says Grasso. "Don't put it off because it seems complicated, because you're not going to get anywhere with that kind of a plan," According to Grasso, too many companies sacrifice safety for budgetary reasons, and it’s not necessary. “It's not really expensive to have the right eye protection, hearing protection. Hand protection is a little more expensive; but an affordable solution can be found when you consult someone with the right knowledge. You find the things that involve money, because they require a capital budget expenditure, and they have to be planned for and submitted for approvals, which is why there's always a time delay. But in the meantime, there is something they can do. There are other ways to attack this and get the proper assessment and make sure your people are protected.”
Grasso recommends looking at what you can do right now, with the budget you have available, to get moving forward. “Talking with a safety specialist can open doors you thought might be closed to you. They may be able to show more cost-effective ways to maintain your existing safety program and free-up money for other compliance projects.””
Stressing the importance of safety and making it a top priority may not only help avoid dreaded (and steep) OSHA fines, but can improve the culture, profitability, and overall aura surrounding your company. With one so strongly affecting the other, you can count on reaping the benefits of your investments. 1