“The safety of the people shall be the highest law” – Marcus Tullius Cicero (Roman Philosopher)

Getting the best out of your workforce is not always a matter of throwing more money at them or having strict monitoring policies and procedures in place. It would not be farfetched to say that every worker would value his safety and indeed life above all else. As a business or facility owner, it is your responsibility to provide an enabling environment for those who carry out the various tasks that make your business what it is. These people include the technicians, accountants, drivers, cleaners, managers, vendors, customers and even yourself.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that “every 15 seconds, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease. Every 15 seconds, 153 workers have a work-related accident. Every day, 6,300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – more than 2.3 million deaths per year. 317 million accidents occur on the job annually”.

Grim statistics indeed.

Is Safety More Expensive Than An Accident?

Safety and the equipment that go with it costs money and that is a fact that cannot be avoided. On the other hand, accidents also cost money, much more in fact. Commonly reported accidents depending on the particular industry in question include falls, crushing injuries, puncture wounds, electric shocks, electrocution and fire.

Let’s take a typical example of a fire outbreak which is something we can all relate to.

Company XYZ Limited is a furniture making company and has its head office in Victoria Island, Lagos and its workshop at Ebute Metta also in Lagos. The head office is well furnished and equipped with state of the art fire detection equipment. The workshop does not have any fire protection because the one previously installed malfunctioned years back and was disabled.

Several requests by the workshop manager for a replacement, even if a cheaper one, have been turned down because the funds are needed elsewhere. The cost for this cheaper alternative is put at 75,000NGN.

It’s a few days to Christmas and the workshop is filled with customers’ orders waiting for onward transportation to the head office the next morning. Unfortunately, there is a fire incident that night after the closing of work. The guards on duty try putting out the flames and two of them are injured in the process. Eventually, the fire is put out by the Federal Fire Service.

Which would have been cheaper? Replace the fire detection system or pay for repairs of the severely damaged workshop, replacement of burnt materials including customers’ orders and medical care for the two guards?

The issue should be how to create a safe working environment with the required financial commitments and still keep overhead costs within limits.

Tips for Controlling Your Costs on Safety

In any human working environment, the potential for accidents is a daily reality. However, a proactive approach would limit the occurrence of accidents and the resulting expense.

Safety is a collective responsibility
One person in an organization cannot monitor and implement safety on their own. The entire staff need to be involved and made to understand the impact of the actions they take on their own personal safety and that of their colleagues.

Training is critical for passing information across to your team. The benefits of a well-trained and safety aware workforce far outweigh the costs of training them.

Communication and feedback System
An aspect of safety often overlooked especially in the Facility management field is informing workers about hazardous chemicals and dangerous equipment on site. This is especially risky for new staff that are being deployed to a particular location. Once they have been trained, your communication and feedback system should be open and allow for quick ease of relating issues.

For example, if your feedback system keeps getting information about a particular kind of illness among the staff working in the same location, that should raise a red flag. Without a feedback system, such information would be lost and you would be spending more money on repeated treatment of the same illness.

Appoint an in-house Safety Officer
You may decide to hire an external safety specialist but it is also advisable to have someone in-house responsible for monitoring safety on all your locations. Don’t leave this task for “everybody” because as they say, “Everybody’s’ job is done by Nobody”.

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