What Happens When Safety is ONLY a Priority

Jan 25, 2016

There were 4,679 Work Related Fatalities in the USA in 2014. 4,679. Here’s a powerful quote from Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, “No one should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood, because a nation built on the dignity of work must provide safe working conditions for its people.”

Reviewing the causes of death made as pause. None were particularly unusual events. Many could happen at any worksite. Fatalities resulted from falls on wet floors, stairs and ladders; forklift incidents; heat stress; electrocutions and vehicle accidents.

No one wants anyone to be injured at work let alone die as a result of a work-related incident. It takes a proactive approach that moves beyond an emphasis on compliance alone. Preventing injuries and ensuring a safe work environment require a top down approach with safety held as a value. Unlike priorities, values never are compromised. And compliance results when this is the case.

A safe and healthy work environment can’t be relegated to the EHS department, but must be a collaborative approach involving all departments, managers and employees. The reasons found when safety is compromised are predictable: EHS alone is responsible for safety; management is not committed to safety as a value; employees are not involved; there aren’t enough resources; and often, there is a lack of engagement, trust, camaraderie, and respect.

The difference is palpable when all of these characteristics are present. It’s also almost a guarantee that quality, retention, employee well-being and profits will be high. Funny though, actually not really funny at all, even when considering compliance, the violations year to year aren’t all that different. Below is the 2015 list of violations, which is almost identical to the previous lists.

  1. Fall Protection (1926.501) – 6,721
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 5,192
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451) – 4,295
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134) – 3,305
  5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) – 3,002
  6. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,760
  7. Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,489
  8. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 2,404
  9. Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 2,295
  10. Electrical – General Requirements (1910.303) – 1,973