From 1999 to 2002, the number of lost-time cases per 100 full-time employees in firms surveyed by The Conference Board declined by an average of more than 40 percent. Recorded incidents declined an average of more than 23 percent. Both trends are consistent with OSHA statistics.

What's driving these impressive results? Execs view accidents and injuries as both unacceptable and costly, according to The Conference Board. They believe business strongly benefits from workplace safety programs — through reduced costs, improved morale and increased productivity.

"Operational integration" — building safety into all facility operations and processes — is the most highly rated practice driving performance improvements, according to the survey. It's been adopted by 90 percent of the survey participants. More than 75 percent give it an effectiveness rating of 8 or better, on a scale of 1 to 10.

Ratings for more traditional programs, such as safety committees and training, were less positive. The Conference Board suggests that surveyed companies view these programs more as necessary obligations than best practices.

Core elements of successful safety and health strategies, according to The Conference Board survey:

  • leadership at the top;

  • confidence on the part of all employees;

  • creating and implementing a safety and health management system that works for the individual company;

  • monitoring performance regularly.