Have you been beating your head against the wall trying to sell safety to your workforce as well as the boardroom?

Made presentations pleading for more money, better staffing levels, and visible buy-in from upper management?

Try shifting your focus from being the safety cop or the safety fireman to a partner. This makes a huge difference in the way safety and health is perceived. To the employee you change from someone forcing rules and cumbersome compliance to a provider of help, an information source, an advocate and an ally.

To management you become a revenue protector, risk reducer, liability eliminator, and in many cases even a revenue generator.

Selling employees

Today’s employees are asked to do more with less, become the lean plant, stay competitive, be more productive. This is a natural opening for you to make the case that high (and costly) injury rates equate to less secure jobs in the competitive marketplace.

High-risk employees are not only at high risk for injuries but also for elimination from the world marketplace. I once had the president of my company visit similar operations in a third-world country. He was amazed at the lack of PPE, guarding and other things we’ve come to know protect our employees. He commented to the hosting plant manager that he surely must have a high (and costly) rate of injuries.

“Hardly any” replied the plant manager. “Every employee understands that if he gets hurt there are a hundred people outside to take his job, he will lose his benefits, and he will no longer have a job. That motivates them to work safely regardless of the conditions or circumstances.”

Your employees need to buy into the business case for safety performance. They must understand competitors with an injury-free advantage can literally run them out of business. The price of goods sold can become inflated by workers’ compensation costs, employee replacement costs, and medical costs for injured employees. These costs directly reduce bottom line profitability of their company.

Where you see an organization working in an injury-free atmosphere, you’ll generally see an organization also highly efficient at quality, production, customer service and other areas critical to maintaining a competitive workforce.

Employees must understand and accept that the global, highly competitive marketplace they work in today is entirely different than it was even five years ago — and radically different than 20 or 30 years ago. This is especially hard for long-term employees to fully grasp.

And of course, your workforce needs to understand their safety truly is important to many people: their families, the company, their coworkers. A moment’s failure to be safe can adversely affect them and the organization forever.

Selling management

Managers are motivated by different drivers: economics, compliance, ethical considerations, long-range plans, stockholder accountability, etc. A major issue is always return on investment dollar. Returns on safety investments exist in most cases, but we must uncover them and present them in a professional way.

For example: Reductions in workers’ compensation reserve accounts can often run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is seldom budgeted or even known until long after the books on a year are closed and are forgotten. These are real dollars that can be added right to the bottom line. Aggressive safety and health management can make a tangible, quantifiable monetary difference in the profitability of the company in this area.

Huge dollars are spent to improve efficiency and profitability. It’s our job to make sure managers see the correlation between improvements in safety and improvements in quality, customer service, etc.

Many companies are pre-qualifying companies based on safety performance before doing work with them or providing products to them. Their thinking: If you have a poor safety performance record this might very well signal other core deficiencies.

Obviously there are many more selling points — but these alone leave no doubt that exceptional safety performance equates to better business for employees and better business for companies. If you haven’t been tracking the business motivators for safety improvements, maybe it’s time you started — and stopped beating your head against the wall.