money“You know, a lot of safety managers don’t like that saying, ‘Safety Pays.’ They think it’s cold and heartless, impersonal,” said the PPE vendor from the 2013 NSC Congress & Expo show floor.

“But let me tell you, when you get down to it, a lot of businesses look at safety now in terms of dollars and cents. I think it has to do with the recession of 2008. That’s when I started hearing customers talk more about the cost of safety. Businesses back then were trying to squeeze every cent out of their costs that they could. And it was like suddenly their eyes opened up to the dollars lost to injuries, downtime due to accidents, medical costs of severe injuries, and the drain on the bottom line, which wasn’t in great shape to begin with back then.

“I think it was the recession that focused businesses on the costs involved in not having the right PPE, wearing that PPE, as well as things like facility safety conditions.”

Paul O’Neill, the former Treasury Secretary who spoke here at the Congress, was famous for saying he would shoot the first accountant who came to him, when he ran Alcoa, with a calculation of the cost of an injury. O’Neill felt that approach was inhumane and insulting to workers. Many safety pros share O’Neill’s feeling.

But there’s no getting around the fact that the business of business is to generate profits and stay in business. That blunt but realistic truth is dressed up with business’s involvement in sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and other “feel good” ventures and spin.

Some corporations truly do have a values-based culture that is professional, polished, and caring. You can find this culture especially in family-run operations. But let’s not kid ourselves, many attendees are shopping the aisles of the expo floor here looking for safety gear because…well, it makes good business sense. As well as making you feel good as a person.