This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Integrating safety practices into your business not only helps protect workers, it can also help your organization’s bottom line by improving efficiency, quality and productivity.
James Boretti, CSP, president of Boretti, Inc., joined “The Case for Safety Podcast” and spoke with host Scott Fowler about how to demonstrate the value of safety and health in your workplace.
Fowler: How does safety impact other aspects of business?
Boretti: Safety professionals look at the hazards within processes to determine ways to mitigate or eliminate them. This has a positive impact on business operations. By eliminating hazards, you may also eliminate the number of touches involved in a process, which can help cut costs by reducing the amount of material and waste.
Having a strong safety culture can also be benefitical in attracting and retaining employees in your organization. Talent has changed what they're looking for in a workplace, and safety plays into their decision.
Fowler: How can safety professionals demonstrate the importance of safety to their organizations?
Boretti: You have to look at how you contribute to business performance. We deal in the technical world as safety professionals, but it's how we deploy that technical knowledge and solve problems that improves efficiency, productivity and business operations.
Consider a time-on-task type of operation — for example, a situation where machine guarding is missing because people feel they can be more productive and meet production goals by bypassing the guard. When that happens, it creates a risk by bringing a human resource into a mechanical operation. Their skills are better suited to overseeing the process and making sure the machine runs properly.
By looking at why the guard is bypassed, it reframes the safety hazard as a business performance issue. By eliminating the risk, productivity improves and it creates an expection that there will be fewer errors, greater productivity, and that the process will run more smoothly and efficiently.
Fowler: How can safety professionals integrate safety practices into other business operations?
Boretti: I'll give you a quick example. Working with a retail organization many years ago, I noticed that they always did a quality assurance check from the customer’s perspective before they opened the doors. Even while the doors were open, they were looking at things to make sure everything was pleasing and inviting to the customer.
While you're doing these kinds of checks, you can also do a safety check. You're looking at it from a customer safety standpoint, which goes hand-in-hand with occupational safety. You might have to train people a little bit more on what they're looking for, but that integrates safety within a check you're doing on a regular basis. Safety inspections can be once a week, once a month, quarterly — whatever a good cadence is to make sure you’re handling all the details.
Fowler: How can addressing safety issues help improve production?
Boretti: As an example, I worked with a home builder back in the 2000s and was able to look at how houses were typically built. I found that while the construction workers were wearing fall protection, they weren’t attaching to anything because they felt it got in their way and slowed them down. As a result, workers would hold onto the rafters and lean over the edge of the building to cut the tails of the rafters.
This created a quality issue with the tails of rafters being uneven, which was also unsightly for potential homebuyers and would need correcting. With a fall protection system in place, trusses could be set quickly and easily and workers could cut tails evenly without fear of falling.
When comparing the cost of building a house with the cost of buying a fall protection system, we found that by the time the home builder got to building the eighth house and beyond, they would be making money by investing in the fall protection system and training workers on how to use it.
After implementing the fall protection system, the homebuilder found that they were able to increase the number of homes they could build by 30% by reducing the number of quality corrections needed. The success of this project convinced the home builder to use the fall protection system on all homes moving forward.
Fowler: Anything else you’d like to add?
Boretti: Implementing safety measures that improve business performance comes from understanding how your organization measures success in order to know whether or not they're on track to be productive and profitable.
This is where safety professionals have an opportunity to lead. Facilitate meetings about changes and improvements. You can’t do this in a vacuum. Invite people to the table, even your detractors. It gives you an opportunity to show that what you bring to the organization is valuable.
Change doesn't happen automatically. The challenges companies face didn't happen overnight, they happened over time. They usually happened because the company was growing and they tried to grow using the same processes they had in place. Sometimes companies need to rethink how they do things, and executives needs to be aware of that. Give them the thoughts, plant the seeds and help them start thinking that way.
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