Health and safety professionals' salaries, personal protective equipment purchases, employee safety training courses, inspections, audits, health and safety consulting services, etc. are all significant costs for any business. In today's global marketplace, which continually grows more and more competitive, any overhead cost should be carefully examined. When it comes to spending money on a scaffold-user training program, or installing a local exhaust ventilation system in a welding shop, some managers might ask, "What are the benefits?"

The justification for providing a safe and healthful work environment for employees is typically one or all of the following:

  • It's the right thing to do. One of the 5 principles of good corporate citizens, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Labor, is to provide employees with a safe and secure workplace.

  • It's required by government regulations and industry standards.

  • It protects important assets such as employees, equipment, and facilities. One of the Du Pont company's safety principles has been that "It is good business to prevent injuries and illnesses."

What about profit?

Employers recognize that protecting assets will have an effect on the company's profits. The permanent or temporary loss of a trained employee costs money. But, how exactly are profits affected?

A recent annual report of a Fortune 500 company included the statement, "Our primary objective is to create value for shareholders". Companies exist to make a profit for their owners and investors. At the same time, health and safety professionals are motivated to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses. Making money and keeping valuable employee resources healthy at the same time are mutual goals.

Consider a typical mid-size special-trade construction contractor. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nonfatal injury and illness incidence rate for lost workday cases for this type of company is 4.7 per 100 full-time workers (1997).1

From your own OSHA Log No. 200, you can find the number of lost time injuries that your company had last year. Let's assume it is 4. If you have 160 employees who worked a total of 320,000 hours during the year, then your incidence rate is 2.5. This rate is 2.2 lower than the "average" company in your industry.

If we then multiply 2.2 by the number of your employees (160) and then divide by 100, the result is approximately 3.5. This is the number of actual incidences that haven't occurred at your company as compared to the average company in your industry.

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