Published on Aug 22, 2022
Workplace Safety. You’ve hired someone for that, haven’t you. Ticked the box, perhaps. And yet is that enough? Is that sufficient for C-Suite leaders to sleep at night?
Frequently, we see Workplace Safety – or Health & Safety – as a “stay out of jail” card. We’ve hired someone to look after it. They’ve produced a handbook, and we’re fine. They’ll look after things so we don’t have to.
But that’s not enough – and increasingly, brands are seeing Workplace Safety as a means to improving productivity and enhancing brand reputation. Or, at the very least, ensuring that Safety issues don’t harm productivity and don’t harm the brand’s reputation. How?
There is evidence that employees are more productive in workplaces that are committed to health and safety. What’s more, if a Safety culture is promoted by the C-Suite, then it is more likely that employees are likely to buy into that culture and – for instance – report issues that may cause potential health & safety problems in the workplace.
There are reports that 30% of employees are less likely to report these issues if a Safety culture is top-down. Employees afraid to report issues are more likely to be less productive and potentially are more likely to leave. It is estimated that each departure costs a business around £30,000 due to lost productivity and recruitment costs – another potential impact on the bottom line.
A report in the US found that 39% of employees thought management did the bare minimum to keep employees safe. And this despite the US having one of the best records in terms of employee safety in the world. If employees don’t feel safe, are they productive?
The Safety vs Productivity debate isn’t really a debate. If we look at the most productive countries in the world, we’ll see that they are the countries with perhaps the most stringent Health & Safety laws in the world. When you map competitiveness to workplace deaths, you see that the countries with the fewest workplace deaths are, without exception, the most competitive in the economy. And in a global economy, contracts are often won on a low-risk basis.
In the US, the National Safety Council discovered that for every lost-time injury or illness, an employer would save an estimated $37,000, and each fatality avoided would save nearly $1.4m, on the basis of avoiding litigation, lost productivity and business reputation.
But again, rather than looking at this through the prism of litigation and pure cost to the business, the positive impact on the bottom line is obvious – if the C-Suite leads the business in terms of workplace safety, if the C-Suite is evangelising safety and encouraging employees to come forward when they feel that safety issues need to be reported, then employees will feel empowered, they will feel safer, and they will ultimately be happier in the workplace. And happy employees are generally productive employees.
Business leaders need to empower both those involved in protecting employees at work, as well as employees, to participate in safety initiatives. An empowerment culture gives people the autonomy and the openness in which to escalate issues quickly, and in which to make recommendations that would enhance workplace safety.
And this empowerment can only come through the encouragement of the C-Suite. Whether that be creating mechanisms for escalation of such issues or communicating more regularly the importance of safety and how the C-Suite is encouraging employee involvement, it has to be consistent and regular, with an emphasis on collaboration.
It’s about building trust within the business – trust that employees will be listened to, and trust that the business leaders are doing all they can to guarantee employee safety.
What’s more, seeing this as a wider initiative can be of benefit to everyone involved. At Dalkia Energy Solutions, for example, they view safety leadership as ‘zero harm’ – to prevent any harm to the team, to the environment, to clients and communities. Widening the remit puts the focus on culture, not just on safety, and it’s a fascinating example of how a business can view safety from a leadership point of view.
Because it’s not just about avoiding litigation, it’s about a culture of trust that ultimately improves productivity.
We're running a special 1/2 day course on Workplace Safety for business leaders. Entitled "An introduction to Health & Safety - how to identify and avoid safety icebergs", this is an invaluable course for leaders who want to do more than just stay out of jail. Discover what is expected of you on this course.
Published on Aug 22, 2022 by Dwane Charalambous