Pulp and Paper Canada

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Safety and the Bottom Line


November 1, 2006
By Pulp & Paper Canada

If we took a survey of CEOs today and asked for the top ten ways to increase the bottom line of their companies, how many would include a safety program? We need to encourage real benefits for industr…

If we took a survey of CEOs today and asked for the top ten ways to increase the bottom line of their companies, how many would include a safety program? We need to encourage real benefits for industry. We need to “get through” so that safety will be included in the top-ten list, as a means of improving the bottom line. It’s all about attitude.

What is the cost of safety?

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In Canada, there are almost one million reported mishaps at work each year and about half of these result in work-time loss. The treatment of occupational injuries costs about $1.2 billion. When you add in indirect costs such as productivity losses, the cost balloons to more than $10 billion. That’s coming from our bottom lines.

If you think safety is expensive, just try having an accident sometime!

An in-depth article in a major consumer magazine in North America places the responsibility for safety and health squarely at the doorstep of senior management. The article cited one example after another of employers who got a slap on the wrist for major infractions causing injury and death. To protect workers, safety experts agree that they must be given three basic rights:

* To participate in decisions that affect their health and safety;

* To know about hazardous materials and practices; and

* To refuse work they have reason to believe is dangerous.

Talk the CEO’s language: money

CEOs today can work to help change attitudes. Senior management must realize that safety is not a cost; it is an investment with payback. We all know that the 90s brought a lot of cost cutting to industry and, far from trying to improve occupational health and safety, employers are actually cutting back on safety measures, training and equipment.

CEO reflects the company

The CEO with a change in attitude can change the status quo. First, we must evaluate relationships. What is the structure of the OH&S function in an organization? To whom does OH&S report? Who is responsible and held accountable for OH&S performance? This is a clue as to how OH&S is seen in the organization.

The best solution according to most professionals is “ownership of a company’s OH&S program is everyone’s.” But the buck stops at the CEO’s door.

Rules to follow:

* The top managers must visibly commit to safety in the same way.

* The company culture must show “no tolerance” for unsafe practices.

* Effective communications channels would be established to encourage employees to notify management (without reprisal) about conditions that appear to be hazardous.

* Organizational and employee knowledge would enable the work force to achieve objectives.

* Employee empowerment would allow workers to fully participate in work planning and safety, including making in-field safety decisions.

* Employee responsibility and excellence would mean that all workers are preparing for, and sharing in, responsibility for a safe work environment.

* Management by fact would mean that work process and worker safety management are based on a framework of information, measurement, data and analysis. Lastly, the long-range viewpoint would mean that there is a strong future orientation for planning for safety.

The positive attitude that brought ISO 9000 and Total Quality Management (TQM) is the kind of attitude needed in our industry. If it’s good for the customers and the products we produce, then it’s good for the people we employ.

The smart CEO will make it a good investment with real payback by sharing the company’s objectives with stakeholders. Let each group take ownership of OH&S. Have the finance department budget expenditure and processes; have human resources develop a training plan; have purchasing develop policies for chemicals, materials and machinery, and have marketing implement a “green” marketing strategy. Team work. 100% organizational ownership of the safety process. It’s necessary to establish responsibilities and accountability. It’s necessary to negotiate with stakeholders. It’s necessary to build relationships sometimes with the people you like the least. It requires someone to “champion” the cause in each company, a leader who has the right attitude to persevere with passion and energy.

Our survival depends on it. We must show them that their survival does, too. We have a responsibility to inform, to educate and to truly communicate a safety mandate to survive.

“The essence of survival”

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t matter if you are a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

Let’s start running with a renewed attitude for safety; our survival depends on it.

Mark Baker is the advertising & PR manager for North Safety Products.


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