Workplace safety in the economic slump

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Courtesy of Intelex Technologies Inc.

As we progress through the current downturn in our economy companies are finding ways to cope with such effects as declining revenues, reduced workforces and tight-to-non-existent credit. With organizations facing new challenges in order to remain afloat and sustainable, many areas of operation have begun to experience some effects. One such area that is critical to an organization’s success but has begun to receive some neglect in this economic crisis is that of workplace safety. This is the topic of a recent article featured in EHS Today magazine entitled “The Effects of the Economy on Workplace Safety” written by Frank Pennachio. In it, Pennachio takes a look at some of the issues that are arising around workplace safety in the recession and how cost-cutting measures taken by some organizations can end up costing more in the end than ever anticipated.

As Pennachio first mentions, layoffs due to the recession are resulting in more work to be done by less people while placing thoughts of “Am I next?” running through the backs of many employees minds. This concern for job security in itself can have an impact on workplace safety resulting in a lack of employee focus and attention to detail, a likely cause to an increase of workplace injuries. When incidents do occur the concern for job security can cause employees to be reluctant in reporting safety infractions as they fear they will be viewed as “troublemakers” and thus will be a more likely candidate to be let go. As organizations pinch pennies to save money wherever possible workplace safety can be easily overlooked by employers as the time and costs associated with it can be a significant hit to the budget. Another area of concern that has arisen is the maintenance and upgrading of aging machinery and equipment. Where in the past companies could acquire funds more easily to purchase or update aging equipment, currently they are forced to extend the life via quick fix methods such as re-tooling parts to save money resulting in a higher chance of breakdowns and mishaps. Some companies have even been forced to move to smaller facilities that may not be as “safety friendly” as their previous space was.

With revenues and workforces shrinking, implementing and practicing workplace safety procedures becomes crucial to the success of a company as the need to have employees on the job and working at full capacity is greater now than ever. If safety incidents do occur the effects can be significantly damaging when weighed against the costs of preventative measures. As Pennachio quotes Warren K. Brown, president of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), “A company’s reputation is at risk should a disaster or incident occur. Employers face a damaged reputation and brand when employees are injured, especially if the incidents are preventable.” Companies must make clear to their employees that they hold their safety as a priority and lead by example. As the temptation to divert resources from workplace safety initiatives grows stronger as budgets shrink, executives must keep in mind that investing in a safe working environment has a direct effect on their company’s bottom line. Web-based Safety Management Systems like the one offered by Intelex are a smart investment and provide a comprehensive easy to use solution to managing an entire organization’s safety program from top to bottom.

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