OSHA announces new fines against businesses for workplace safety and health violations on an almost daily basis. The penalties are substantial, often hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the announcements diminish the names of the companies being punished. More importantly, the citations indicate conditions in the workplace that put employees in danger.
At this moment, there are debates taking place online about whether OSHA and other regulatory bodies should be focused on fining companies into compliance, or instead, be focused on offering incentives for voluntary compliance. We’ll leave that argument to others.
Independent of OSHA, independent of fines or incentives, we believe there are substantial benefits for companies and safety managers that take a proactive approach towards environmental health & safety (EH&S) compliance.
1) It’s the right thing to do. Employees should not have to take unreasonable risks in pursuit of their livelihood
2) The systems and processes that make for a safe work environment also lead to well-trained and efficient employees
3) Demonstrating a commitment to EH&S compliance encourages employees to take pride and ownership of their work environment
4) Demonstrating a commitment to EH&S compliance signals to customers the superior nature of your products and services
5) Excellent safety records and conditions can attract and retain the best employees
6) Excellent safety records can become positive storylines for your marketing department
7) As the person in charge of environmental health and safety, creating and maintaining a safe work environment can bolster job security and provide justification for increased compensation
8) In addition to aiding compliance, modern EH&S solutions are often easier and less expensive than maintaining the status quo
To illustrate this last point, let’s use MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheets or Safety Data Sheets) as an example. Today, a company’s entire MSDS library can be maintained and managed online; a safety manager can add, remove, or update MSDSs in multiple locations from any computer connected to the Internet.
Need an MSDS immediately for a shipment sitting on the docks? Easy. Instantly update MSDSs for 10 different work stations in three different buildings? No problem.
Better yet, paper-based systems can cost more than $25 per MSDS to manage annually and OSHA studies show that only around 70% of a company’s hazardous chemical inventory has accurate MSDSs available. An online system could reduce costs by 75% and help increase compliance to 100%.
By managing your MSDSs online, you actually reduce the cost per MSDS and create a safer, more compliant work environment – it’s a win/win. Similar arguments can be made for upgrading your injury and illness recordkeeping and workplace safety training.
Safety compliance should be about more than avoiding fines or chasing incentives. On balance, the benefits outweigh the costs. Who knows, you may even sleep better at night.