The Cost of Doing Nothing

As health and safety professionals, we tend to be doers.  We want to help organizations and their employees work safely, maximize productivity and well-being.   For this, there is a cost to the organization, whether it be for services, equipment, subscriptions, etc.  If we have accomplished what we set out to do, the organization can reap a hefty ROI in lowered claims cost (occupational and non-occupational), increased productivity, lower absenteeism and presenteeism, reduction in turn over, and many other costs associated with employees.

It seems pretty straight forward, yet sometimes we find organizations push back on investing in these type of programs. Even if we are able to personalize the results for an employer they may be hesitant about what they will uncover and worry that costs will escalate in additional equipment and a spike in claims as employees are made more aware and encouraged to report issues, the earlier the better.  They may have put an effort into purchasing equipment that is not being utilized or is not providing the solution it was intended for and may think ROI is an elusive statistic they can’t seem to achieve.  Sometimes they do nothing, keep things the way they are and go on about their daily business because doing nothing costs nothing.

But doing nothing means nothing changes, injuries stay the same or get worse increasing worker compensation costs. Productivity does not improve because employees may be in discomfort and working inefficiently, turn-over rates may increase and the overall employee experience may be rather ho hum.  And even worse, organizations may have no idea of why these costs increase or even any tracking methods in place to measure important items such as productivity, employee engagement, claims costs, etc.

Fortunately, there are several tools and lots of data out there that employers can use to measure and track their progress. Many professional societies such as PSHEFS and employer’s insurance carriers and brokers can help organizations get a baseline of things to track and provide tools and resources to help develop a plan.

During a recent meeting with Rick Goggins, Ergonomist at Washington State Labor and Industries, he provided these tips on good starting points for organizations.

  • Get a handle on purchasing. Make sure that solutions you are investing in are reviewed by someone who knows what they are doing and has an overall picture of the company’s direction so that, especially large purchases are not just being bought on a department credit card and put into use without proper review and training.
  • Stop spending on bad solutions. Enlist the help of a safety and health professional to assist you in reviewing solutions that will be effective and can help with implementation.
  • Provide training to employees on how to use their equipment, reporting processes for any issues they may be having and set an expectation on processes to follow. Show employees that the organization cares about their health and well-being and they are an important part of the team’s efforts.
  • Doing nothing will gain nothing. Productivity of workers who are in discomfort is significantly impacted. Since the payback, especially in office settings, mostly comes from increased productivity, finding out who those people are in your organization and providing solutions can have a big impact on worker production.  Even gaining increased productivity in 2 workers out of 100 still has a positive impact on costs and productivity.
  • There are many other positive impacts that can be tracked as well.Employee engagement and experience, recruitment and retention are all programs employers are putting a lot of effort into these days.  They are also positively impacted by effective health and safety programs.