Why safety needs more attention in tough times

The economic downturn has forced many firms to cut back, sometimes dramatically. That’s risky, in a lot of ways.

It’s fairly straightforward that safety-related problems can and do arise more often as the economy tightens.

Layoffs force fewer people to do more work. That alone increases exposure and risks.

Plus,  some of those “surviving” employees are thinking in the back of their minds, “Am I next?”

For them, focus often shifts from the task at hand — and that results in distraction and higher injury rates.

Concern for job security, and not wanting to be seen as troublemakers, leaves workers less likely to report safety infractions. Yet peer-oversight is a necessity in any safe workplace, and is the heart and soul of every successful workplace safety program. Don’t let people start work without it.

Equipment replacement, machine repair and preventive maintenance also tend to take a hit in tough times, increasing the chance for breakdowns and mishaps.

Lastly, it’s a real probability that a company’s reputation can take a big hit after a serious safety incident, resulting in lost business.

U.S. businesses spend about $170 billion a year on costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses, and shell out another $1 billion a week directly to injured employees or their medical providers.

Fact is, injury and illness are never worthy tradeoffs in good times, let alone tough ones.

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