Although it is somewhat of a paradox to many organisations who believe that doing something quicker (and often less safely) results in a more productive output, it is in fact the opposite that is true across every business sector. But why is this the case and why do many organisations not understand this?
The Financial Case:
No matter your work environment, reducing downtime is the key to maintaining productivity and this means running at peak efficiency. In the workspace employees are critically necessary to maintain optimal productivity and because businesses rely on employees in this way, injuries will lead to lost productivity in any workplace. The direct and indirect costs of a workplace accident varies across sector but is always an extremely large figure when all of the costs are added up (e.g. lost time, lost productivity, cost of investigation and reconciliation process, cost of staff retraining, impact on claims culture, insurance premium increases, legal costs, lost morale, reputation loss just to name a few!).
Businesses that cut corners to save time and speed up production can often seem productive and profitable (only if these business’s are lucky enough not to have any costly accidents). In the long term however these environments tend to be unsafe, leading to increased downtime. While sustainable safety programs often require an initial investment, they also have a positive impact on employee health (physically and mentally) and healthy employees are more reliable, productive and good for the bottom line over the short and long term.
The Psychological Case:
Because safety and security is so intrinsic within the human psyche (e,g, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) and is high on most organisations’ priority list, when people begin to trust the safety message and feel like a valued part of the whole, other boats rise including productivity. Feeling valued and respected at work is one of the best factoral predictors of productivity no matter what the industry. Organisations who prioritise and invest in a proactive safety culture as a primary business pillar consistently report increased staff morale, decreased absenteeism and increased productivity and quality in comparison to organisations who don’t invest in their safety culture. The most important resource any organisation has are its people, and world-class safety systems can tap into this resource and motivate based on autonomy rather than a compliance-based obligation.
The Real-World Evidence:
Former Alcoa CEO Paul O’Neill prioritised Safety Culture as the main business focus when he took over as leader in 1987. The emphasis was on ‘Zero Accidents’ and despite negative feedback from his peers and company stakeholders O’Neill quickly showed that a focus on his people’s most basic need had exponential tangential benefits in other areas of the business. Alcoa’s profits hit a record high after just one year under his tenure where he manged to lower Alcoa’s workplace injury rate to one-twentieth of the American average and at the same time raising the company’s annual net income by a factor of five. O’Neill asserted the that the same habits that ensured reduced workplace accidents paved the way for profitable innovations within Alcoa.
In a nutshell, invest in proactive and sustainable safety culture solutions that connect your staff to safe behaviours to reduce accidents, increase productivity, improve morale and make more money!