Keeping workers safe is a foundational element of any successful business. Safety incidents result in innumerable costs—direct and indirect—and their ripple effect can spread far and wide, often in irreparable ways.
It's impossible to eliminate all workplace risks but many incidents are preventable. As a business owner or acting supervisor, employees are under your care, and they trust you to keep them safe. A strong safety program is a critical investment.
Unfortunately, this investment often gets pushed down the priority list by other things that seem more mission-critical. Because accidents and incidents are events that have yet to happen, their cost doesn’t hit the ledger until it is too late. Have you considered the total cost of ignoring safety?
Closing Your Business
Depending on the severity of a safety incident businesses can be ordered by local authorities to stop work or shutdown pending upgrades, investigations, or penalties. Depending on the size of business, and their resources, these temporary shutdowns may result in permanent closures.
Employees Refusing to Work
If your safety protocols are not up to par, your employees may be scared to come to work. Many jurisdictions have laws and regulations where employees can refuse to work in situations where they feel that their health or safety is at risk. It's impossible to run a business if employees feel too unsafe to show up.
Reduced Employee Morale
Safety incidents are proven to have a huge impact on reducing employee morale, especially when incidents are the result of the negligence of their employer. Employees may feel unsupported and lose trust in their employer, reducing their commitment to the team and the company as a whole. Additionally, workers may feel disgruntled if they need to do extra work to compensate for lost employees.
Employees who miss work due to injury or illness, or because they are refusing to work can grind productivity to a halt. This can also happen when employees are afraid at workplace anxiety draws focus away from the task at hand.
High Employee Turnover
A poor safety record can lead to high employee turnover. Undue stress, emotional trauma, and frustration result in reduced morale and increase the chances of employees quitting. This leads to higher employee onboarding costs and lost productivity—assuming a replacement employee can even be found in a reasonable time.
Losing Your Employees
The ultimate price of ignoring workplace safety is that your employees may pay with their lives. Each year thousands die in the workplace and those deaths have a devastating ripple effect for families, friends and colleagues. Even less severe outcomes of workplace incidents can often have long-term effects on the health and wellness of employees and those around them.
Damage to Your Company Culture
Ignoring safety will ultimately weaken your company culture, leading to negative impacts throughout your organization. A safe work environment contributes to a healthy work culture, and healthy work cultures leads to happy employees. An Oxford study shows that happy employees are 13% more productive than indifferent staff.
Reduced Management Focus
It takes time to address safety issues after a workplace incident. It is incredibly difficult for an organization that has had a workplace incident to focus on ongoing company management, especially if there are injuries involved,
Damage to Your Reputation
Building a strong company reputation can take many years of hard work, determination and dollars. Reputations are fragile and can be irreparably fractured in an instant. This is especially true in the age of social media. If your company has a safety incident, what was once restricted to the local newspaper is now amplified into a global public relations nightmare in just a matter of minutes. Many companies never recover from reputational damage and are either forced to close or rebrand.
Difficulty Recruiting High Performing Talent
Employees prefer to be part of high-functioning teams. They want to be productive and work in a positive team environment where they can develop relationships. Who wants to work for a company who does not care about employee safety? Who wants to work for a company with a bad reputation and poor company culture?
Loss of Customers (and Revenue)
Loss of reputation, reduced productivity, low employee morale and reduced managerial focus all contribute to a poorly performing company. This reduction of performance results in decreased customer service or product quality and ultimately this results in losing customers; and revenue. Safety is truly connected to the bottom line.
Increased Probability of Incidents
While a safety program can’t guarantee that it will prevent incidents, a lack of safety awareness, training, policies, procedures, culture and leadership are all leading indicators that safety incidents are more likely to occur with greater negative impacts.
Financial risk goes beyond lost productivity. Most jurisdictions in North America have occupational health and safety related rules and regulations and routinely levy financial penalties when regulations are breached. Additionally, employers who fail to provide lone workers with the right safety equipment, the proper training, or supervision can find themselves liable for any injuries or deaths that occur from lone worker incidents. Employers can also be responsible for covering high medical bills and may face increased insurance costs.
Canada’s criminal code makes the employers responsibility to their staff clear as day:
All organizations and individuals who undertake or have the authority to direct how others work or perform a task, must take all reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to the person performing the work or task, and to any other person
Failure to fulfill this duty can expose the company to steep fines and criminal convictions for responsible company officials.
In the United States, the General Duty Clause, from the OSHA Act of 1970, prohibits any workplace practice representing a clear risk to workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the primary responsibility for enforcing the law, although state agencies may also have a role in implementing certain provisions. Repeated violations of the OSHA Act or incidents which cause death can result in fines and/or a combination of jail time.
Ignoring Safety is a Downward Spiral
The bill for ignoring the safety needs of your employees will eventually come due. Workers may lose their lives; the company may be forced to close; employees could refuse to work; and decreased productivity can also be an issue. This leads to reputation issues and problems with customers and human resources. It’s a downward spiral where recovery is difficult.
Safety as Insurance
You likely pay for all different types of insurance, from fire to accident to auto insurance and beyond. It’s important to think of investing in safety as the same thing. Like any insurance, you pay for it and hope that you never have to use it.
Need Help implementing Technology to Improve your Workplace Safety?
SolusGuard delivers a suite of workforce safety and lone worker protection solutions to help keep your employees safe and your business compliant. We work with you to create customized security plans that minimize risk for your workers and your business. Our suite of solutions includes a wearable panic button; employee check in/out software; customizable alert processes; and a satellite extender. SolusGuard is an excellent solution for any business with lone workers, or for which worker safety is a concern, such as—home care, mental health and addictions, property management, inspection and compliance, security and transportation.