SAFETY ECONOMICS 101: Proactive safety approach boosts productivity and provides a competitive edge

(This blog post is a series. Part one of three)

Through the years, safety has become one of the most important aspects of the construction industry, if not the most important. Legislation protecting workers from harm is extensive, as lawmakers require businesses to put worker safety ahead of profitability. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your business will lose money by implementing sound practices.

As you know, OSHA requires companies to have a safety program that outlines good practices and policies designed to protect workers from harm. The intent is for everyone in the company, from the president to the laborer, to understand what constitutes safety, how to avoid potential hazards and what to do in an emergency. It’s often a general outline, but can be more specific to your business. For example, an underground utility company should have a good portion of its program dedicated to trench safety as well as material safety data sheets that list the hazards of using all types of pipes and glues.

Worker in PPE

While many aspects of a good safety program, such as wearing a hard hat and safety vest are simple to implement, they can be very effective.

Avoiding implementation woes

While good intentions abound, implementation of these programs is often less than ideal. For small businesses especially, the idea of putting together a manual that covers nearly every possible safety scenario can be daunting. Larger companies often have designated safety experts on staff, but smaller firms typically lack the resources necessary to hire, train and maintain these specialists. However, they face no less risk and responsibility than their larger counterparts do.

So, what happens? Businesses often copy or modify a standard OSHA or other safety plan, keep it on file and forget about it. Safety sometimes becomes secondary to production, and safety manuals are put on the shelf to collect dust. Some businesses tend to take a reactive approach, responding after an accident has happened, rather than a proactive approach to preventing mishaps.

If this sounds familiar, it may be time to rethink what safety can mean to your business and its profitability. If you don’t already understand how safety can improve your competitive position, you’re behind the game. No longer does the lowest bid always win a job. More and more owners and municipalities are checking the safety records of bidders, and factoring in those records, before awarding contracts. Those with spotty safety profiles will often find themselves left behind, no matter how much lower their bid is than the competition.

Focus your efforts

Putting safety first can help your company be more profitable in an increasingly competitive construction market for a number of reasons, including:

  • Decreasing the number of incidents your business records, can lower your workers’ compensation and insurance rates.
  • Earning lower rates enables more a competitive bid, increasing your chances for winning a job.

It’s in a project owner’s best interest to hire companies that demonstrate good safety practices, as it reduces the chances of an accident happening on the jobsite, thereby lowering the likelihood of being sued because of an accident. If you have a reputation for unsafe practices, your chances of getting a job decrease dramatically.

If your number of incidents, insurance rates and workers’ compensation claims are higher than you’d like, you can do something about it by changing the way your company views safety. Starting immediately, make safety a top priority. By doing so, your productivity and profitability should increase as the amount of time and money lost by accidents decreases.

Check out part two on this topic: Safety is a Team Effort

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