Selling Safety in a Tough Economy

stock_market_crashSource: EHS Today & the National Safety Council

Barriers to Selling Safety

Phil La Duke (Director of Performance Improvement at O/E Learning) outlined the following common roadblocks to selling safety to company leadership:

  • No budget. According to La Duke, this is one of the biggest barriers to selling safety. Even more, the budget often is an excuse for company leadership who really don’t want to address safety; they use it to push safety professionals away.
  • Safety is perceived as discretionary spending. “Sometimes, [safety] is discretionary spending, something it’s not. We have to do know the difference,” La Duke said.
  • Safety is viewed as an overhead cost. Company operations or leadership sometimes assume people inevitably are going to get hurt, and they therefore accept those injuries as an overhead cost.
  • Safety is seen as important but not urgent. While La Duke said it is extremely rare to hear company leadership say that safety is not important, they might not view safety as urgent or as the most important concern.
  • The “We might get lucky” attitude. Company operations may hope things proceed normally without any accidents happening – a dangerous strategy that relies on luck.
  • The company’s recent safety performance has artificially improved. Sometimes, safety performance appears to improve for little or no reason. When that happens, company leadership might question why it’s important to focus on safety.

Keys to Selling Safety

La Duke explained how EHS professionals can overcome those barriers and present safety in a way that ensures it gets attention, no matter what the current economic climate. The bottom line is to meet company leadership’s needs and to show how safety fits it with the organization’s goals and success.

“If you can get more part of the way they do business, part of the day-to-day team, the more indispensable you become and you can get what you want,” he said.

He suggested the following strategies:

  • Get buy-in from operations.
  • Run safety like a business.
  • Integrate safety into operations’ activities.
  • Demonstrate the value of safety.
  • Demonstrate the urgency of safety.
  • Avoid fads or complex initiatives.
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