Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require that employers provide for the safety and well-being of their employees while at work.
Rather than viewing workplace safety as a drag on worker productivity, employers have started to see the benefits of workplace safety, including happy and healthy workers, injury reduction and operational efficiency.
Workplace safety benefits the entire team – from the corner office to warehouse workers and everyone in between. In fact, many of the highest-rated companies for worker happiness and productivity have built a culture of safety.
However, says Sandy Smith in EHS Today, “Every responsible employer strives for a safe working environment for employees. But many don’t take that next step, to strive for true safety leadership. Perhaps they think that building a world-class safety culture is out of their reach.” But, she adds, “The ability to create a world-class safety culture exists for every business, in every industry: manufacturing, oil and gas, transportation, chemical, construction, retail, food service, agriculture and recycling, to name a few.”
The type of safety culture Smith refers to can be created by companies large and small by professionals in occupational health and safety careers. Eastern Kentucky University prepares individuals to take on these tasks by offering online emergency management degrees, including the Master of Science in Safety and Security Management with concentrations in occupational safety and corporate security operations.
The Benefits of Investing in Workplace Safety
The American Society of Safety Professionals lists a number of workplace safety benefits, including:
- A positive public image: It’s good for business when employees, customers and the public all view a company as safe, health conscious and sustainable.
- Compliance with regulations, laws and standards: Compliance may seem expensive, but it’s much more cost-effective than workplace injuries and a negative public perception.
- Cost savings: Occupational safety and health (OSH) programs reduce worker injuries and incidents – providing sizable cost savings in medical care, paid time off, litigation and disaster mitigation.
- Increased operational efficiency: A focus on safety leads to higher productivity and efficiency, which can drive short-term revenue growth and support long-term sustainability.
- Improved employee satisfaction: Recruiting and retaining top talent is easier when an organization is known for providing a safe and comfortable workplace.
Workplace Safety Sets the Standard for Employee Satisfaction
When companies provide for the safety and well-being of their workforce, employees notice, says Drew Greenblat, president of Marlin Steel, in Inc. “It’s meaningful for an employee to think, ‘My boss wants me to come home with all my fingers tonight. He’s not risking my well-being to cut corners and save a penny.’”
In fact, employees at some of Fortune’s Best Places to Work cite safety as one of the reasons they like coming to work every day.
“I feel safe, cared for, included, and celebrated for who I am,” says an employee of Genentech, which has made more than a dozen Fortune lists since 2016.
In terms of recruitment, a 2017 study by Employers, a small business insurance company, found that job candidates ranked safety just under compensation, the nature of the work, and the proximity to home. The survey concluded that “the safety of the work environment was among the top criteria employees consider when evaluating a new job offer.”
Safety and Security Saves Money in the Long Run
In terms of pure dollars and cents, many smaller businesses might consider the cost of safety too high. But this strategy overlooks the high cost of injuries.
According to Injury Facts, an online statistical data resource developed and maintained by the National Safety Council, workplace injuries and deaths cost the U.S. economy $151.1 billion in 2016. That figure includes direct costs (in workers compensation, medical care and legal fees) and indirect costs such as lost productivity.
Those figures include:
- $49.5 billion in wage and productivity losses
- $48.3 billion in administrative expenses
- $33.8 billion in medical expenses
- $12.1 billion in employers’ uninsured costs
- $4.7 billion for motor vehicle damage
- 7 billion for fire losses.
These numbers make clear that investing in safety keeps workers active and productive, and keeps money flowing through the business, making it feasible to invest in future projects – rather than paying for past mistakes.
Finding the Biggest ROI for Workplace Safety
According to a comprehensive literature review performed by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the majority of cost-effective safety and security interventions were done on the organizational level – as opposed to an individual level.
They include global:
- Mental health training and awareness
- Substance abuse prevention programs
- Slip and fall prevention training
- Motor vehicle safety initiatives, such as mandating seat belt use
- Lower back and lifting ergonomics
- Respirator use for workers in hazardous chemical situations
- Lockout/tagout security training
OSHA’s $afety Pays program can help employers determine the cost – and benefits – of their workplace health and safety program. The online tool uses workplace injury data compiled by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. to calculate direct and indirect costs to the business.
About Eastern Kentucky University’s Master’s of Safety, Security and Emergency Management
Students enrolled in EKU’s online emergency management degree program learn the essential components of safety, security, and emergency management.
The program allows students to customize their experience through a Multidisciplinary Track or concentrations in Corporate Security Operations, Occupational Safety, or Emergency Management and Disaster Resilience. The concentrations are also available as stand-alone graduate certificates, independent of a master’s degree.
EKU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. For more information, contact Eastern Kentucky University now.
America’s Safest Companies: Building World Class Safety Leadership EHS Today
How a Safer Workplace Can Lead to Happier Employees: Inc.
Genetech: Great Place to Work
The ROI of Safety: Safety and Health Magazine
Workplace Safety Can Give Small Business Owners a Recruiting Edge: Employers Economic Evaluation of Occupational Safety and Health Interventions From the Employer Perspective: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The ROI of Safety: Safety and Health Magazine
$afety Pays: Occupational Safety and Health Administration