When it comes to creating a safe workplace, research has found a reduction in a range of costs. These include direct costs such as reduced insurance premiums, sick days, litigation, injuries, production delays, product and material damage. There’s also an improvement in indirect costs such as absenteeism, staff turnover, brand image, staff morale and being able to win more contracts.
Even stock market investors know to invest in companies that prioritize health and safety, for better financial returns. According to a Goldman Sachs analysis, during November 2004 to October 2007, companies that inadequately managed workplace safety and health performed worse financially than those who did adequately manage safety. Investors could have increased their returns during this period had they accounted for workplace safety and health performance in their investment strategy (Source: Goldman Sachs JBWere Finds Valuation Links in Workplace Safety and Health Data)
But what are the factors that actually make safe workplaces, more productive? How is safety actually related to productivity?
Research suggests businesses that demonstrate the link between quality of work and productivity have the following common elements:
1. High-quality working environment – Astute safety professionals who regularly visit different company site locations, start to get a feel for which sites need to improve their safety record, without even having to look at their individual statistics. Research backs them up, with companies that have a clean safety record having a clean kitchen or clean site. Telling staff that they are important has to be backed up by actions. It needs to be reflected in clean and friendly working environment. Fix up your environment (eg: broken/unsafe machinery, PPE that needs replacing) and fix up the safety culture.
2. A good level of co-operation between management and employees – It’s critical that companies remove any “Us” versus “Them” mentalities between different layers or departments in the company. If you walk around any factory or construction site and hear workers talking about “they” when referring to the company, you know that both morale and safety are issues. Research has also found that good supervisors can smooth out any bumps between management and the workforce. That’s why it’s important that supervisors are trained on how to work with senior management.
3. Provide employees with challenges, responsibilities and job autonomy – As Dan Pink, argues in the fantastic book, Drive, autonomy is one of three basic human needs. Job satisfaction is highest among workers whose boss offers “autonomous support” – saw issues from the employee’s view, gave meaningful feedback on performance and allowed employees to choose what to do and how to complete it. People who feel in control of their life have higher satisfaction levels. Where you can, enable employees to do the work that they want to do. While this can be difficult, it’s important for staff to be really clear on what they like to do and to then be able to create the opportunities for them to do the work they like doing. We’ve all heard the Confucius saying “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Find out what work individuals love to do and free them up for this. High performance companies like Atlassian, 3M and 메이저사이트 Google even provide employees with the opportunity to spend 20% of their working time on personal projects that have meaning to them.
4. The development of new working methods and equipment to improve working postures and decrease the strain level of physical work – Introducing new processes and systems to reduce injury has found to improve the quality of working conditions quite remarkably within the last 20 years or more.
5. Allowing creative solutions for specific OHS problems and thoroughly analysing production techniques for potential safety risks – When Paul O’Neill the former CEO of Alcoa decided to focus solely on improving safety, one of the flow on effects was improved productivity and profits. As discussed in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Alcoa discovered that molten metal was injuring workers when it splashed, so they redesigned the pouring system, which led to fewer injuries, but it also saved money because less raw materials were being wasted. They also replaced any equipment that kept breaking down and discovered that injuries decreased (because broken down equipment was more likely to snag someone’s arm), but it also resulted in higher quality aluminium products. Equipment malfunctions were a major cause of poor quality aluminium.
6. Providing high quality safety and workplace training – Research has found that the most engaging methods of safety training are, on average, approximately three times more effective than the least engaging methods in promoting knowledge and skill acquisition, as well as reducing accidents,illnesses, and injuries. It’s not just formal training that’s required, it’s also important that managers use any opportunity they can to upskill staff just during normal conversations. Great workplaces have a mindset of constantly improving and training on safety. This means staff quickly realise how important safety is in the workplace.
7. Show staff you care – While little things count, like having a clean workplace environment, having a friendly, enjoyable workplace is also important. Management must care about employees at all levels and treat them like people they value. One of the shocking outcomes from the Bangladesh Factory Collapse earlier in the year was the appalling revelation that employees were chased and beaten with sticks to get them into the work building, despite massive cracks appearing on the outside. While those of us in Western society do not have to put up with such awful behaviour by management, it is done in other ways with managers who refuse to pay attention to people “below” them.
When it comes to business productivity, companies that believe having a safe workplace is a standard business requirement (and not an unnecessary expense) always manage to create friendly, happy and safe workplace environments. The natural outcome to this is high productivity levels.