Searching for America's Safest Companies

April 1, 2010
Let me say right off the bat that I don’t believe in “accidents” when it comes to workplace safety. Nothing that causes harm or injury in the workplace is an “accident;” it’s a breakdown in communication, caring, attention and training.

I've been known to say to people, “If it's an ‘accident’ that someone was injured, then it's an ‘accident’ when your workplace is safe.”

It's no accident when companies are named to our list of America's Safest Companies. Generally, the application is preceded by years of sustained effort on the part of everyone at the company.

Over 100 companies have been recognized by EHS Today as America's Safest. Large, small or somewhere in between and spread out all over the country, these companies represent what is best in safety in the United States, and provide more than 1 million workers with a safe work environment.

Because of unrelenting hard work, innovative solutions to safety challenges, creative use of resources and the motivation to do the right thing, these companies keep their workers — and their bottom line — safe from workplace hazards. They regularly surpass what is required of them by OSHA, and often have earned recognition from the governors of the states in which they operate, EPA and other organizations that promote safe and healthy workplaces and work forces.

These companies, despite disparate industries, size, location and hazards, have a few things in common:

  • Support from management and employee involvement in the safety process;
  • Innovative solutions to safety challenges;
  • Appropriate management, use and maintenance of personal protective equipment;
  • Good housekeeping of facilities;
  • Proactive equipment and facility maintenance;
  • Management of the safety of contractors as if they were employees;
  • Injury and illness rates lower than the average for their industries;
  • Comprehensive training programs;
  • Evidence that prevention of incidents is the cornerstone of the safety process;
  • Good communication about the value of safety; and
  • A way to substantiate the benefits of the safety process.

I've found in the 8 years we've been doing this that there are intangibles that are difficult to put into words that set some safety processes — and companies — apart from the pack. For example, I check out the enthusiasm level of the answers. I immediately can sense when the person filling out the form is proud and excited about the safety process at that company. Enthusiasm is catching; if you have a passion for safety and your company's safety process and you can communicate that passion, you've passed my first hurdle.

Some safety professionals call me as they're filling out the application, wondering what kind of documentation we need. Is the application enough? Do we need copies of all their training programs? Should they send samples of the PPE they use? Do they need letters of support from insurance carriers, the local OSHA office and the governor? I don't know; you tell me.

I don't care if your application arrives via email or in four cartons that the UPS carrier delivers to my desk. More is not necessarily better in this case, but you need to back up any claims you make in your application with documentation. If you can do that, then you've passed the second hurdle.

The third hurdle is to remember that America's Safest Companies recognition is awarded to the entire company, not just a department or particular facility, so please keep that in mind when answering the questions and providing supporting documentation. Companies that previously have been recognized as America's Safest must wait 5 years before reapplying.

The application for America's Safest Companies can be found on our Web site at and the deadline for applications is July 15.

Does your company have what it takes to be one of America's Safest in 2010? Fill out the application and we'll find out together.

Send an e-mail with your thoughts to [email protected].

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