Typically, this kind of material is not the most popular to read due to the dry nature of the topic. With that in mind, this topic is often vital to successfully sustaining the importance and justifying the contribution safety provides to the bottom line of a company's profitability. We must continue to speak the terms of business versus the terms of OSHA and safety to demonstrate our positive impact on our respective business areas. We must graduate from safety professionals to also be business people.
When I graduated from college, I became enamored with safety & health, and I thought, "Wow," I get to go out and make my employer's workplace safe! Well, very quickly, I found out how complex my responsibilities were. I came to the realization that safety involved not only engineering design and management, but also marketing and business. I was required not only to write, implement and maintain safety & health programs but also to manage people, activities and tasks so that they got done in an orderly fashion; that is, on schedule and budget.
I was in the midst of a dilemma. All I wanted to do was safety & health, however, I was now placed in the position that required me to market and manage even before I was given the go-ahead to engineer for safety & health. Unfortunately, the only selling I was really good at was selling myself. After all, I was the candidate selected after the interviewing process, so now I had to research and think about why the company needed to manage safety and health programs. This was not an easy task. As a professional, I know all the reasons why a good company needs safety and health management systems, but my dilemma is how to convince an unschooled person to accept the monetary costs of these systems.
Once I came to the understanding of why I was really hired in the first place, I changed my plan of attack. I was not hired because my company was altruistic about providing an environment where employees did not get hurt. I was not hired because my company was enamored with safety. I was not hired because of my good looks (thank goodness, I may have never gotten hired). However, I was hired because it makes good business sense. I was hired to reduce the costs of workers compensation, the medical costs resulting from injuries, the costs of potential OSHA citations. From this assessment it is easy to see why safety has been labeled a cost center. Employers are in business to do one thing, make money. If they do not make money, they will not stay in business. Once safety & health professionals come to grips with this reality it will make the road to successful health and safety planning will be much easier.