EHS OutLoud Blog

Financial Safety Strategy: The Five Safety Questions Your CFO Needs to Ask

Boom! The struggling economy finally hits home at your company. Suddenly, there is talk of reductions in operations, production, functional areas, manufacturing, facilities and even executive leadership. Inherently, a change in organizational focus is lurking, but is anyone noticing that this change also is tearing at the very fabric of what makes your organization great: your safety culture.

Suddenly, the driving force commanding both organizational and your thought process is financially driven. Questions surface, obvious ones: What do we need to do as a company to reduce costs and still maintain our commitments to our clients/customers? What do I need to do as an individual to assure my family’s financial future? Should I stay and hope that I am not placed on “the list?’? Should I start searching for another job? Is my boss gone as well?

As everyone is thinking about the next paycheck, safety performance likely suffers. Rather than focusing on the job at hand, the brain notably is distracted. When the brain is distracted from the task at hand, bad thing happen to good people.

Distracted organizations are driven by moments in time. These moments in time encourage decisions whose yields are short-term and not well thought through. These decisions then impact workers in ways that are unintended. These unintentional impacts typically manifest themselves in terms of safety incidences and injuries.

In many companies, the gatekeeper for assuring that the organization is focused on the right budget line items is the chief financial officer (CFO).

CFO decisions either can make the organization greater or drive it into a tailspin that takes years of recovery. CFO decisions that are based on the consideration of critical variables produce the best results. One of these critical variables is safety culture and its dynamic response to change.

There is a strategy CFO’s can employ that will keep the “what if” scenarios to a minimum and empower your enterprise to work safely, regardless of the turmoil caused by the effects of inevitable change. I call it the “financial safety strategy.”

Financial safety strategies encourage safe behaviors by delivering a leadership message that only the bottom-line can deliver: Safety is a value that is financially fueled by the power and strength of company commitment to excellence.

Opportunities either are created or identified. There is no time to find this one; it must be created. Approach your CFO or financial lead(s) and ask them to deploy the financial safety strategy.

These are the five safety questions your CFO needs to ask the leadership team:

  1. Does anyone know of a viable business, social or legal reason for significantly reducing the safety budget? If so, what risks we are accepting? (This sets the stage for decisional awareness and ownership throughout the organization.)
  2. How are we mitigating the financial risk of safety culture inattentiveness? (This starts a structured risk assessment process.)
  3. What additional measurement tools have we implemented to assure we are focused on identifying the right safety trends and predicting/preventing injuries during this transition? (This encourages a goal-reassessment process and places importance on leading indicator measurement systems.)
  4. In your view, who is responsible for the financial performance of our safety program including workers’ compensation insurance, out-of-pocket and indirect costs associated with incidences? (This inspires the acceptance of organizational accountability.)
  5. If I were to say to you that my plans are to deduct $32,500 (the average direct and indirect cost of workplace injuries and illnesses) for every reported safety incident in your department from your reported profit every quarter, would you still meet your financial obligations to this company? (This motivates performance through expectation.)

Keep your corporate fabric strong in times of change. Speak the language of business. Bring your team to the point of being able to derive decisions that are based on the big picture versus those that are imprisoned by moments in time.

Create this opportunity for yourself and you will be better prepared for the next BOOM!

Dare to think differently.

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