Background

The corporate safety and health department is still perceived as a separate entity rather than a support organization essential to maintaining the workforce. To accelerate integration of safety and health into company activities, a common process must be identified and emphasized. One process common to all business elements is assessment. The safety and health professional performs assessments to determine the effectiveness of controls. Other corporate elements use assessments to measure performance. Through integrated assessments, the performance aspect of safety and health programs can be emphasized as it is related to company activities.

The Value of Safety

When surveyed, employees do not identify safety as one of the forces driving performance. Instead, other factors - such as opportunities for advancement, comfort and happiness, recognition for good work and a sense of community - are common drivers for employees. While this does not state workers do not care about occupational safety and health, it does indicate that employees do not value safety and health.

Annually, lists of the "100 Best Places to Work" are generated. Although the criteria are not often released, occupational safety has never been discussed as an important factor. The factors shown in Figure 1 appear to be considered most important in determining the best places to work:

Figure 1. Common Evaluation Factors to Determine the Best Places to Work (available in full paper).

Although corporate safety and health performance can be reflected in these factors, it is not considered directly. Either occupational safety is not valued or it is assumed that it will be provided. In either case, a worker has to place safety as an area of focus in their workplace.

Workplace safety can be implemented as a dependent, independent or interdependent function. In a dependent model, the worker depends upon management to take care of safety. This is how safety programs are executed in many companies. Under the independent model, workers are aware of their role in maintaining workplace safety. Although workers value safety, this approach is often disorganized and results in confusion. An interdependent model is where management truly supervises safety and workers implement safety principles as being one aspect of their job functions essential to achieving the corporate mission. When safety is a part of doing business, everyone is successful.

Integrated Safety Assessments and Risk

Safety excellence only occurs when it is part of doing business. Before safety and health is adopted at all levels in a company, the value has to be understood and the function integrated. According to a National Safety Survey (1), Occupational Hazards magazine readers felt as if safety and health programs were not well integrated into business goals and processes. An aggregate of 43% of readers responded that integration was rated as being average, fair or poor. Without integration, safety and health programs will not be fully implemented and will not be cost efficient. One area readily suited for integration is the assessment function.

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