Is Safety the Key to Operational Success?
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published October 29, 2020
Let’s be honest: Does anyone in industry ever choose safety as a career? How does someone find their way into facility and safety management?
Some people are groomed for it, such as Ken Scott, a safety expert in Georgia. “Sometimes others see more potential in you than you do yourself,” he said. “I was coached into EHS by my mentor 15 years ago.”
For others, a career in safety came from answering a call. “I lost my best friend to an industrial explosion in a refinery,” said Chris Hall, a safety professional in Port Lavaca, Texas. “People are still dying trying to make a living for their family.”
Then, there are those thrown into the trenches. “I was volun-told I was going to be the safety coordinator, and my first assignment was to respond to an OSHA citation concerning MSDS and lack of PPE,” recalled Betty Stout of Tennessee. She’s now worked in safety for 23 years. “Through the years, I developed a passion and saw a great need. So, I stuck with it.”
Why is Safety Important?
Looking at workplace injury and fatality statistical data, the importance of workplace safety is apparent. In 2018, there were 5,250 fatalities and 2.8 million nonfatal injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers are relatively unchanged year over year.
“On his first day of work, a paving superintendent’s son was backed over by a dump truck when he walked behind it. No one knew what to do,” Jeff Stephens of Springdale, Arkansas, recalled. He wondered how he could use his experience to improve workplace safety, so he went to school and became an EHS manager. “I’ve been doing it ever since. Still love it every day.”
A facility manager’s job covers a vast number of tasks and oversees the strategies for transformational success. Safety is part of it. However, safety management success can only go so far without complete company buy-in. Without a strong emphasis on safety, companies can face:
- Worker injury or death: By improving training and awareness, workplaces can save lives and reduce injuries.
- Financial loss: An injury or death can have a significant impact on a company’s finances and insurance policy. Property repairs, equipment and machinery replacement, and worker’s compensation are just a few expenses that can incur through a lack of safety.
- Poor reputation: Other businesses will not want to work with a business that risks lives, has had negative press and doesn’t take its reputation responsibly.
- Productivity inefficiency: When workers are confident in their employment and wellbeing, operations improve. This helps eliminate waste and reduce downtime.
- Quality of throughput: Employees will make the effort to improve quality when employers show they care and demonstrate quality leadership.
How to Invest in Safety
The five points above easily demonstrate why safety is an investment that workplaces cannot afford to squander. Yet, oftentimes, businesses still choose to opt-out, thinking that it costs too much time and money. When there is a lack of money and support from management at the top on down, safety falls to the wayside. With the right priorities and consistent strategies in place, facility managers can ensure the company remains competitive and safe.
Robbie Krausen of Kentucky said he was almost permanently blinded in a workplace incident. “The company I worked for had no formal safety program,” he said. After weeks of painful tissue scrapings, it took him a few years to recover. That was his motivation to act and follow a career path into workplace safety management.
“Having a great safety culture and Company Safety and Environmental record benefits not only the company, but the employees as well,” said Jared Sweatman, a safety professional in Louisiana.
Workplaces can use safety to understand and improve operational performance. These days, technology is helping connect people, equipment, and worksites for even more safety and efficiency benefits. Workplaces can utilize safety and lean principles, which support each other, to accomplish smart goals. Reinforce safety and efficiency best practices through continuous training. Use signs, labels, and floor marking as part of safety upkeep and to remind workers of the steps they need to take to maintain their role in safety. These habits will decrease risks and improve the workplace overall.
Get a reference guide to individual safety-related programs, regulatory requirements, and more in our free EHS Managers Guide.