During the years I have been involved in the EH&S sector of business I am amazed at the attitude many companies and management take toward safety and compliance with OSHA standards. In many cases the general attitude is “I am a small company with only fifteen employees’, OSHA isn’t going to take time to visit me”. Other attitudes management takes toward a safety program are “Safety is a money pit with no return on the dollar and it adds to the cost of doing business”, “I can’t afford to have employees take a half hour a month for safety training”, “I can’t afford to implement a safety program”.
Unfortunately and sadly many employees of both small and large companies pay the price by being injured, permanently disabled or worse, losing their lives needlessly. Beside the false belief that safety costs money many companies and managers are also willing to roll the dice that no serious accidents are going to happen and OSHA will not pay them a visit.
The General Duty Clause of the OSHA Standard states that “Each employer shall furnish to each employee of his place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm to employees”. When an OSHA compliance officer shows up to your business to conduct a compliance inspection they are not there to hassle or make your life miserable and shut your business down. They are conducting the inspection to ensure you the employer are providing a safe and healthful work environment for your employees. Under federal law OSHA can not shut down or cease a business, however, they can issue citations and levy monetary penalties. Depending on how your business fairs during the compliance inspection will determine the type of citations and penalties issued. What management also must consider the standards the company is found not in compliance with and a penalty has been levied, besides paying the penalty, the company must also abate and correct the cited violations. This must be done by the abatement date on the citation for each type of violation, not when management decides they will get around to it. Failure to abate and correct the hazards may also lead to additional penalties on a daily basis until the hazards are corrected.
For the safety professional, changing the mindset of management about safety can sometimes be the same as running into a brick wall. When management is presented statistical and financial data on what accidents and injuries are actually costing the company they will usually sit back and take a different view of safety. Your company comptroller, workers compensation carrier, company liability carrier and OSHA will all support the fact that a comprehensive safety program pays dividends more ways than one. In a recent newsletter published by ADOSH (Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health) they estimate that for every dollar invested in a comprehensive safety program, an employer can realize a return of up to four dollars. Where else in todays or tomorrows business world can companies get that kind of return on an investment?
Any accident resulting in an injury has a direct affect on the bottom line of any size company. Take for example a business operating at a twenty percent profit having only one injury resulting in a workers compensation claim of only $495. The total direct and indirect cost of that accident would be approximately $2,722 which would require the company to generate an additional $13,610 is sales to cover the injury. This is the cost of not having a safety program in place to eliminate hazards, training employees in safety and reducing accidents. This goes to prove that the absence of a safety program cost money and a comprehensive safety program could be viewed as a profit center.
For companies who don’t know the process of implementing a safety program or what the OSHA standards are there is plenty of help in the business world to choose from and some of it is free. There are private consultants, PEO’s, professional organizations and OSHA, yes I said OSHA.
Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health
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