During the last decade there have been numerous re-tellings and variations on the often-made assertion that $1 spent on safety returns $2-$6 in bottom-line benefits. The actual data came from a Liberty Mutual workplace safety poll conducted 2 decades ago. Every safety consulting firm, every EHS software company and most safety hard goods vendors have published articles and blogs – often annually – on the topic. The good part is that the message is potentially true for most companies. The other part deserves more attention than it usually receives in those articles.
To be clear, I am a believer in the hard-dollar benefit of investments in safety – when the dollars are spent in a targeted way. Different companies are likely in different stages of safety systems maturity and have different kinds of exposures. Should we buy more safety training or PPE? Motor vehicle monitoring equipment or lone worker tracking? Better ventilation for the paint booth or yoga classes for pre-work stretching? Just throwing money into the safety bucket is not a path to better safety – spending decisions must be tailored to circumstances in order to maximize the impact of safety spending. This tailoring requires an understanding of your current environment, thoughtful goal setting – what improvements do you want to achieve – and then accurate, timely measurement of performance against goals.
In the early days of Sospes, our mostly manufacturing customers tended to have high incident rates. Their immediate hard dollar benefits of deploying Sospes came from understanding root causes and then taking actions to mitigate the hazards – kind of a lagging approach, but measurably effective for them. Our oilfield services customers were very different: if their recordable incident rate approached 1%, they were at risk of not being able to compete for work with major energy companies. As a result, oilfield services companies were very pro-active in their approach to safety and were always on the lookout for ways to reduce workplace hazards, by collecting and organizing performance data and employee input so they knew where to focus attention for meaningful impact. These customers’ financial returns from deploying Sospes came largely from dramatic administrative overhead reductions and automated report accumulation that freed safety professionals for higher value activities and guided them to where their skills would be most productive, such as focusing training and coaching where it was most needed.
I have presented three (anonymous) sample cases below derived from actual customer results. Each case illustrates a different situation calling for a different approach, but in each case the company achieved impressive results quickly, enabled by an easy-to-use
system that included all employees, and targeted reporting that supported decision-making, accountability and evaluation of actions.