Safety Corner: No More Cutting Costs

Embracing Safety as an Investment

by Stephen Zasadil, WSRCA safety consultant, president, SNK Services LLC

(Editor’s Note: Stephen Zasadil spent ten years as a safety of flight operator with the United States Navy before beginning his career as a safety compliance consultant in 2009. He currently works with companies across the United States to provide OSHA compliance information, documentation, and training.)

In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving construction industry, maintaining a strong focus on safety programs is not just smart, it’s essential. Yet, even with the best intentions at heart, many companies find themselves grappling with the decision to scale back on these critical initiatives when financial strains loom large. This trend, while understandable from a short-term fiscal perspective, overlooks the broader implications and the true value that safety programs bring to the table. Let’s delve into why this happens and how we can shift our mindset to view safety as an indispensable investment rather than an expendable cost.

It’s no secret that setting up and maintaining safety programs requires upfront investment. For smaller companies with tight budgets, the immediate outlay for safety training, equipment, and personnel can seem daunting. However, this perspective misses the forest for the trees. The real question we should be asking is not how much safety costs, but how much we stand to save in terms of lives, livelihoods, and legal fees by investing in it.

Unlike more direct investments, the return on investment for safety programs is often less tangible, manifesting in what doesn’t happen such as accidents, fines, and lawsuits rather than in a clear-cut profit margin increase. This can make safety seem like a luxury rather than a necessity, especially when times are tough.

In times of financial crunch, it’s human nature to prioritize immediate survival over long-term benefits. This short-sighted approach can lead companies to erroneously view safety programs as non-critical, overlooking the fact that the real value of these programs unfolds over time.

For some, safety is seen merely as a compliance checkbox rather than as a core component of operational excellence. This view diminishes the potential of safety programs to enhance workplace efficiency and employee morale, reducing them to a mere formality.

Skimping on safety may seem like a savvy cost-saving measure in the moment, but the true cost can be astronomically higher. Workplace accidents and injuries carry with them not only the immediate burden of medical expenses and compensation but also the hidden costs of lost productivity, increased insurance premiums, and potential legal ramifications. Perhaps even more damaging in the long run is the impact on a company’s reputation and the trust of its employees and customers.

So, how can we shift our perspective and start seeing safety not as a drain on resources but as a valuable asset to our business? Here are a few friendly suggestions:

Celebrate Safety Success Stories: Let’s shine a spotlight on the positive outcomes of safety programs. Sharing real-life examples of how safety initiatives have saved money, prevented accidents, and improved workplace morale can help change the narrative around safety investment.

Make Safety Part of Our DNA: Safety should be more than just a policy, it should be a core value that informs every decision and action within the company. When leadership leads by example and integrates safety into the corporate culture, it sends a powerful message to the entire team that safety is paramount.

Embrace Innovation: The world of safety training and technology is constantly evolving, offering new and cost-effective ways to protect our teams. From virtual reality simulations that provide immersive training experiences to apps that streamline safety checklists, there’s a wealth of resources out there to make safety both effective and engaging.

Involve Everyone: Safety is everyone’s responsibility. By encouraging employee participation in safety programs, soliciting their feedback, and recognizing their contributions, we can foster a culture of mutual respect and vigilance that elevates our entire operation.

Think Long Term: While the benefits of safety programs might not be immediately visible on the bottom line, they are undoubtedly there. Investing in safety is investing in the sustainability and longevity of our business. It’s about protecting our most valuable asset, our people, and ensuring that we can face the future with confidence.

In the grand scheme of things, safety is not just a regulatory requirement or a line item on a budget, it’s a fundamental aspect of how we do business. By reframing our approach to safety, recognizing its true value, and integrating it into every facet of our operations, we can build a safer, more resilient, and ultimately more successful business. Let’s not view safety as a cost to be minimized but as an investment in our future, one that pays dividends in the form of healthier employees, smoother operations, and a sterling reputation. Together, we can create a workplace where safety is celebrated, not sidelined, but a place where we all thrive together.