Making the Business Case for Safety

Prompting company management to view workplace safety as a business value is not always an easy feat, but it can be accomplished if safety and health professionals use “business-speak” and other tools to effectively demonstrate the benefits safety can bring to the workplace, said David Galt, legal editor for Business and Legal Reports, at the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) “The Business of Safety — A Matter of Success” symposium in Baltimore.

Galt stressed the importance of presenting safety as an investment and a value to encourage management to view safety performance as part of the company's business values. He outlined several challenges facing safety professionals — including a lack of terminology describing safety performance in financial terms — which might prevent discussions of the value of safety from translating smoothly to the language used by management who administer financial support. This also makes it difficult to produce or obtain consistent injury/illness cost data to illustrate the value of safety programs. Lastly, Galt explained safety managers often lack the technical skills needed to link safety strategies to financial outcomes.

To break through those barriers, Galt suggests identifying one of the drivers that steers an organization, such as profit margins, productivity or mandated directives. He adds that safety managers should use language found in their company's mission statements, press releases and annual reports to align the safety message with the company's mission. He urged safety managers to learn fundamental financial terms such as “return on investment” and identify and learn from the company's key financial players. He also suggested that safety professionals do an inventory of the company's safety programs and break them down by the cost of each activity.

The most important element to keep in mind, Galt stressed, is to follow up with senior management by updating them regularly on safety program processes. “Follow these key points and you'll definitely have senior management's attention,” he said.

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