Supply chain safety is gaining attention as preventable accidents and mistreated laborers put people at risk and negatively impact profitability. This paper provides guidelines for assessing supply chain risk and setting up supplier safety criteria, as well as examples of companies that are assessing their machinery safety programs using the Safety Maturity Index tool as the first step in implementing safety throughout the supply chain.

Understanding Your Supply Chain and Your Supplier's Supply Chain

Managing risk is always a key issue for EHS professionals. And while international supply chains have created tremendous business opportunities for companies, they have spurred great risks, too. It is no longer enough for organizations to manage their own exposures. They should be equally concerned with their supplier's exposures – especially their supplier's supply chains.

Companies face major financial and reputational risks if their operations are interrupted by, or even associated with, supplier negligence in a multitude of areas. Supply-chain safety is one such area gaining attention, as safety violations, preventable industrial accidents and mistreated laborers can result in costly fines, company downtime and negative news coverage that can impact profitability.

More companies are implementing comprehensive corporate social-responsibility or corporate-sustainability programs that address everything from reducing energy use and waste to monitoring worker safety throughout their entire supply chains – both upstream and downstream.

Companies should expect their suppliers to abide by the same product-quality, environmental and worker-safety standards that they follow, regardless of location. Manufacturers that simply select the lowest-cost supplier and close their eyes to how that supplier operates is no longer acceptable.

While supplier worker safety is only one component of corporate sustainability programs, it is an important one. Every year throughout the world, approximately 337 million people are victims of work-related accidents and more than 2.3 million people die because of occupational injuries or work-related diseases, according to information from the International Labor Organization.

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