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Promoting a Safe Work Culture: Disincentives Aren’t Working

Chris Mumford

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Chris Mumford | December 20, 2013 | Comments Off on Promoting a Safe Work Culture: Disincentives Aren’t Working

Promoting a Safe Work Culture: Disincentives Aren’t Working

Considering the hefty fines, serious injuries, fatalities and lawsuits associated with OSHA violations, it would seem companies have no shortage of reasons to maintain strict compliance.The numbers suggest otherwise: citations have increased dramatically over the past year—by as much as 56% in some cases.

The consequences of non-compliance, no matter how severe, are apparently insufficient to promote safety among U.S. businesses. So what is?

A recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine may provide part of the answer. According to the authors’ analysis, companies that have been awarded for excellence in health and safety practices saw their stock value rise by an average of 97.26% between 1999 and 2012.

The authors of the study are careful to point out that this is just a correlation. Promoting a strong, compliant safety culture may or may not directly impact a company’s overall performance. But a company’s ability to keep employees healthy and safe does suggest that they are highly organized and capable ofimplementing detailed procedures.

In other words, a company that is able to integrate complex and ever-changing health and safety regulations (which include, but are not limited to, requiring workers to undergo OSHA outreach training for construction and general industry) into their operations is likely to be able to do the same for other initiatives that definitely do have a direct impact on their bottom line.

In the world of Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS), the relationship between organization and overall performance is particularly clear. When companies move from outmoded forms of asset tracking—like paper based systems or basic spreadsheet software—to more robust systems, they find that they are much better able to maximize ROI on their capital investments. Organizing their data makes it easier to employ different strategies to improve overall performance—safety included.

For instance, a company that uses a CMMS system to organize and implement a preventive maintenance routine can easily incorporate checks of safety components. An inspection of a machine’s emergency shutoff function can easily be added to a schedule group that also includes motor checks, for example.

Companies that fail to integrate work in this way run a higher risk of letting safety checks fall through the cracks, which, if OSHA’s numbers are any indication, is a widespread and growing problem.

If companies want to bring these numbers down, the key may be to focus on the positive business reasons for enforcing proper health and safety standards. Recasting compliance in this way makes it easier to see the value in investing in safety training and organizational tools—like software. By tackling safety in an aggressive, forward thinking way, companies can use regulatory burdens as a catalyst for fundamental, company-wide organizational change.

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