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June 17, 2021

Make every month a safety month

Bruce Morton

With June being National Safety Month, and as more workplaces slowly begin to return to normal across the United States, now is the perfect time to evaluate your safety program to ensure it will help to educate and protect your employees. 

There are a number of resources available that can help you evaluate your overall safety program, a great place to start would be to review the information contained within the 2021 Safety Performance Report  issued by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). This particular study shows how top performing employers who implement industry best practices are 655% safer than industry average.  The ABC study discusses not only the foundations of world class safety programs, but also shares eight core leading indicators that have the most dramatic impact on safety performance.  This study should be required reading for anyone involved in construction safety. 

In addition, OSHA also provides excellent guidance on safety and safety programs, including their Recommended Best Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction. OSHA also offers free consultation to small and medium-sized businesses. An OSHA study of small employers in Ohio found that workers’ compensation claims fell dramatically after working with OSHA’s SHARP program to adopt programs similar to those described in these recommended practices. Average number of claims dropped 52%. Cost per claim decreased by 80%. Average lost time per claim decreased by 87%. And claims per million dollars of payroll dropped by 88%. OSHA also reports that indirect costs that result from workplace incidents – including time lost, training and replacing injured workers, and loss or damage to material, machinery and property; have been estimated to be at least 2.7 times the direct costs.

What are some essential elements of an effective safety program?

  1. There is a commitment to safety – Making safety a core value creates a vision that the workplace will be 100 percent incident-free. This starts from the top down and includes everyone. But it is not merely putting up signs and mentioning it during an annual meeting. It must be a standing agenda item, part of the company’s constant vision and a routine part of the business decision-making process.

  2. Safety is treated as an investment, not a cost – Safety is funded properly and not viewed as a negative. It is an investment in your employees and part of the cost savings program because it is the way to lower claims and insurance costs and increase productivity.

  3. Safety is part of the continuous improvement process – Resources and time must be set aside to identify ways to strengthen and improve safety performance.

  4. Training and information are provided – People who are properly trained in safety are more aware of how their actions can affect themselves and others. Posters and signs are useful, but not enough. Training can be done in different forms, but should be ongoing and part of the development of an employee.

  5. Workplace analysis and hazard prevention are done – Data analysis is instrumental in devising appropriate control and prevention measures. Developing Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that target specific safety metrics is essential to understanding where the issues are and what is working.

  6. Workplace environment is “blame free” – This encourages employees to report incidents (injuries and near misses) so that corrective actions can be taken. It is important to find and correct the root cause of the incident. This is the best way to prevent reoccurrences.

  7. Successes are celebrated – Recognition, rewards, reinforcement, and positive feedback are important. Celebrate successes both big and small. Rewarding managers and employees for their commitment to safety is essential in reinforcing the psychology of safety.

As a safety professional, we don’t just want to be there when something goes wrong, we want to be there to help employees perform their jobs tasks free from danger or the risk of harm.

I received a call recently from a client’s worksite where the sheet metal supervisor had questions about working from a penthouse roof. I met him on the job site to determine ways to get the work done effectively and safely. We came up with two options and I let him choose which one to use. I remained onsite while the team set up a fall protection system and to answer any further questions.

Stories like this illustrate how “top down buy in” and open communication contribute to a safer work environment. A well implemented safety program can boost productivity and enhance your bottom line. Clients and prospects want to work with companies that make safety a priority, and a culture of safety makes your company more attractive to job seekers and employees.

For specific questions, or for safety training assistance, please contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency safety consultant.