Lower incident rates, increased productivity linked to strong safety programs
As an OHS professional, it can be frustrating at times when trying to convince your organization to invest in safety. Health and safety is such an integral part of a business, but many may not view it as such.
“In dealing with senior business leaders and especially those in finance, safety is positioned as a cost centre, and many times dismissed or not viewed as adding to the profits, quality initiatives or organizational success metrics,” said safety consultant Peter Sturm to COS.
So how can safety professionals demonstrate to their organizations just how important OHS is? Here are six reasons to showcase when vaunting the merits of health and safety.
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1. Instrumental in lowering injury rates. This is something that business leaders should be aware of, but may need to be reminded of. In many cases, this is the main reason why health and safety professionals exist within an organization – and what all safety programs are geared towards. In 2019, the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) data shows that boards across Canada accepted a total of 271,806 claims of lost time due to injury. This is huge – and as we’ll see below, can have a big impact on an organization’s bottom line.
2. Increased productivity. Numerous studies at this point show that happier workers are more productive. And happy workers are those that don’t have to worry about coming into an unsafe place of work. Especially in more inherently dangerous settings such as construction or forestry, not having to worry about personal safety is a huge weight off of a worker’s mind and will lead to them being more enthusiastic and focused on their job – which in turn will increase productivity. It’s a win-win.
3. Creating safe behaviours workers bring home. Strong health and safety programs can improve every aspect of worker wellbeing. “An environment that focuses on both physical and mental health is an important part of ensuring employees have the resources they need to be their best selves at work,” said Meenu Singh, Manager of Safety Operations, Sun Life, to COS. It also benefits more than the worker. By teaching safe and healthy behaviours and getting buy-in, workers bring these behaviours home and share them with family, friends, and the community at large.
4. Fewer workers’ compensation claims. Most workers in Canada are eligible to apply for workplace compensation (organized on a provincial basis) if they experience a work-related injury or illness. This applies to a range of conditions, including COVID-19 (as of April 2021, the Canadian government says that “employers must provide employees with up to three days of paid infectious disease emergency leave if they miss work for certain reasons related to COVID-19.”). These claims can be hugely expensive for the business, and may also impact the organization’s productivity.
5. Fewer workplace fatalities. The crux of the (safety) matter is that a good safety program will make the difference between life and death. This is why it should be taken so seriously – though it often lacks tangible data. “I can say that there are definitely people still walking around today that possibly wouldn’t have been walking around if we didn’t do what we do. You could never prove it, but I do know it. That’s what keeps you going,” said Alistair McIntyre, Area Health & Safety Manager, Canadian Turner Construction Ltd., to COS.
6. Better reputation. In April, U.S. company Elliott Investment – which holds a 3.4 per cent economic interest in energy company Suncor – sent a letter to Suncor’s board criticizing the company’s safety record (various reports indicate that since 2014, there have been 12 workplace deaths at Suncor sites – more than its closest peers combined). This letter made waves in the safety space, because while the criticisms may be founded or not, the publicity generated by the letter has been a blow to Suncor’s reputation. This is a fine example of how a lack of attention (or alleged lack of attention in this case) can sour public perception of a company and potentially have negative financial consequences.