Companies Having More Workplace Safety Successes

January 28, 2004 ( - There has been a steadily dropping rate over the last few years of accidents and injuries and incidents resulting in lost employee time, a new report shows.

According to the Conference Board’s survey of US companies, the number of lost-time cases per 100 full-time employees in surveyed firms declined by an average of more than 40% from 1999 to 2002 and recorded incidents fell an average of more than 23%

The survey found that employers doing particularly well in keeping their workforce safe share a belief that that workplace accidents and injuries are unacceptable and costly. Further, the belief goes, business strongly benefits from workplace safety programs directly, through reduced costs, and indirectly, through improved morale and increased productivity.

“There are similar core principles in play at companies striving toward zero accidents and injuries, but there is no common template,” said Meredith Armstrong Whiting, a Senior Research Fellow at The Conference Board and co-author of the report. “Each company faces unique needs and opportunities inherent in the nature of its operations, workplaces, and corporate culture. But the move toward strengthening safety is now widespread.”

Some 84% of surveyed companies have adopted 23 best practice strategies listed in the survey. Certain themes stand out:

  • clear management visibility and leadership
  • ownership of safety and health by all employees
  • accountability at all levels of an organization
  • sharing of knowledge and information throughout the organization.

According to the poll, the most successful “stay safe” efforts involve the whole workforce. Within companies known for safety and health excellence, safety and health is a shared value. If this value, both to the business and to all employees, is not shared, any improvements in safety will very likely not be sustainable, the Conference Board report said.

Making safety a key part of daily operations – the most highly rated practice in the survey – has been adopted by 90% of the survey participants. The practice was given an effectiveness rating of eight or better by more than 75% of its users, and almost 30% gave it a rating of nine or 10, putting it in the “extremely effective” category.

Ratings for some of the more traditional programs, such as safety committees and training, were less positive, however. This may be because respondents are very familiar with these safety and health management tools, since companies have employed them for decades.

The biggest area still needing improvement is how best to step up employee involvement beyond safety committees, the survey found.

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