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Prevent an injury upturn in an economic downturn (4/9)

April 9, 2009
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On April 7, global safety consulting firm BST announced five recommendations for business leaders to protect worker safety and health during the economic downturn. The recommendations, released in a new white paper titled "Leading Safety in a Downturn," outlines the effects of a recession on workplace safety and proposes five actions to address them, according to a BST press release.

According to the paper, common downturn events, such as job reassignments and layoffs, can increase employee exposure to injury just as many organizations have fewer available resources to manage those risks.

According to BST Vice President Don Groover, "A downturn can also have significant cultural implications for a business. What leaders do now with respect to safety and the business sends a message to employees about what really matters. That message will resonate long after the outside situation improves." In the paper, BST recommends that leaders:

1. Open up and communicate why safety matters now.Employees anxious about the impact of the economy on the company, and on them personally, can be at increased risk for injury. Leaders need to be out front, demonstrating concern, listening, and taking appropriate actions.

2. Consider the effects of your actions on the culture. How leaders "do the hard stuff" - layoffs, job assignments, budget cuts - will dictate how people engage in safety and the business now and down the road.

3. Refine your strategy. Oftentimes safety performance can become bogged down, both financially and functionally, by legacy systems that no longer meet the needs of the business. Many companies find that their actual needs dictate an investment in fewer (or different) systems than they have right now.

4. Work the fundamentals. Survival in a downturn, for any part of the business, is about targeting the core elements that sustain the enterprise. In safety performance, that means protecting the lives and livelihoods of employees. Life-altering injuries and fatalities must be a primary concern. 5. Demonstrate - and develop - transformational leadership. Leaders who use a transformational style are more successful at creating the will to go "above and beyond" self-interest and give people a sense of purpose, belonging, and understanding regarding the work they do.

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