Safety shouldn't be target of cutbacks during recession, expert says
In a recent address to Canadian safety leaders, C. Christopher Patton, president of the ASSE, warned that businesses could significantly harm productivity, efficiency and profitability by slashing safety budgets during difficult economic times.
"The economy struggles to recover, and employers are increasingly tight with budgets," said Patton. "Layoffs and cutbacks have affected many of our members."
However, Patton said safety, health and environmental employees are not expendable.
"Safety should not be the place to look for reductions," he said. "In fact, a company can have significant competitive advantage by continuing to invest in safety, health and environmental during the hard times. This will reinforce their positive company image so when the economy does improve, they will recover quickly."
Patton said that maintaining these systems during a struggling economy is critical to survival.
"In order for a safety manager to be successful today, they must understand how they contribute to their organization and how to sell the value-added proposition to their employer," he said. "This means understanding the business and the language that goes along with that. It means integrating safety into everyone's roles and responsibilities so that it is viewed as a value, not a task."
In addition, Patton said employers should not let their guard down as the Obama administration ramps up its workplace safety enforcement activities and its regulatory rulemaking.
"The U.S. has a relatively new administration and a new regulatory mind-set," he said. "Enforcement, strong enforcement, seems to be the message we hear. Our Occupational Safety and Health Administration will set the bar high and will help ensure all employers are providing a safe and healthful place of employment."
Good management systems and solid risk control programs will take employers far beyond compliance, Patton added.
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October 22, 2009
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