The Value of Safety Programs

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), along with more than 25 OSHA Alliance Program participants, will demonstrate during the North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) week in May that workplace safety not only saves lives, but also is a good business strategy.

Throughout NAOSH week, held May 4-10, ASSE, Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) and OSHA will join groups including the American Heart Association, the Shipbuilders Council of America, Dow Chemical, Abbott, and the National Association of Home Builders to provide information, solutions and best practices to illustrate the business sense of safety.

According to ASSE, workplaces can reduce injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent by establishing safety and health management systems. Considering that businesses spent $171 billion a year on costs associated with these occupational injuries, as much as 5 percent of a company’s total profits could be saved by implementing health and safety programs. Workplace safety programs also decrease workers’ compensation costs, absenteeism and faulty products.

“Effective management and implementation of workplace safety and health programs add significant value to individuals and companies by reducing the extent, severity and consequences of work-related injury and illness,” said ASSE President Michael W. Thompson. “We strive to demonstrate for businesses and employees alike the advantages investing in safety has on people, property and the environment.”

Study Shows Value of Workplace Safety

Thompson adds that investing in safety also can have a positive impact on the economy. For example, Goldman Sachs JBWere (GSJBW) recently conducted a survey that reveals that from November 2004 to October 2007, companies that did not adequately manage workplace health and safety issues underperformed those that did.

The study, which used data supplied by Regnan Governance Research and Engagement, also suggests that by incorporating workplace health and safety measures in their investment strategies, investors could increase returns.

“Overall, while the total history is too short to be definitive, the results indicate that [workplace health and safety] factors are showing significant promise with regards to correlating to share price returns, and therefore there is potential for investors to utilize these factors,” said Andrew Gray, head of GSJBW Environmental Social Governance.

Thompson indicates that the investment numbers from the GSJBW study show that communities, families and businesses alike must pay the price if appropriate safety programs are not implemented.

“Each year, more than 5,000 people lose their lives from on-the-job injuries, thousands more are injured and become ill and even more telling is the ultimate impact on families and communities. “Many of these are preventable,” Thompson explained. “We know that every day millions of people go to and return home safely from work due, in part, to the efforts of occupational safety, health and environmental professionals and their employers.”

Numerous success stories support the claim, Thompson noted. When Laidlaw International Inc. worked to implement safety initiatives in recent years, for example, the company decreased its insurance and accident claim costs by 47 percent.

NAOSH week will start with a kickoff ceremony in Washington, D.C., and will feature events at the Department of Labor, the U.S. Capitol and nationwide. On May 7, ASSE will celebrate the annual Occupational Safety and Health Professional day.

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