Why Speaking in Terms of Accidents is a Mistake

Does this scene seem familiar to you? You start presenting your safety improvement programs to the management team. And as you’ve always done, you mention the reason for implementing it is to reduce the risk of accidents. After the presentation, you expected to get their approval however the management team push back on your safety programs. They said it’s unnecessary or it can wait.

What went wrong? Well, it’s because you’re speaking in terms of accidents. Let’s talk about why this is a mistake.

It Only Works in the Beginning

Safety is often the last department brought into the company. And usually, companies bring in safety professionals because OSHA comes knocking at their door or their insurance companies are threatening to drop them due to a large number of accidents.

So, the mindset of the management team is that safety is only needed for compliance and reducing accidents. And this part is true, it is part of our job to make sure that the company is compliant and that the workers are safe. However, this is where the problem is rooted.

You see, the company will only fully support you in the beginning because they want to reduce accidents in order to meet industry standards. But once you’ve done that, they’ll no longer see the value in doing more. They’ll only see it as an unnecessary expense to the company.

It Doesn’t Highlight the True Value of Safety

So, if the company that you’re in is already meeting industry standards and you’ll continue to propose safety improvements with the reason of accident reduction, it won’t work. You’ll just get rejected because speaking in terms of accidents doesn’t show them the true value of safety. That it’s more than just reducing accidents and compliance.

Now, in order to resolve this blockade to your safety programs, you’ll need to show the true value of safety. How? Speak in the management team’s terms. Let them know that you support their goals such as improving profit margins and continuous company growth.

To do this, you’ll need to show them that safety does improve profit margins. And safety does so by continuously improving the work processes inside the company. In fact, safe work processes are the most efficient ones. You’ll just need to let them see that.

Take Action

In summary, speaking in terms of accidents is a mistake because it only works in the beginning and doesn’t highlight the true value of safety. And to continuously get the management team’s support, you’ll need to influence them to see things your way. And that safety, does improve profit margins.

Effective Safety Programs Are About More Than Accident Reduction

Safety Brye: [00:00:00] The reason most organizations have a person in charge of safety is either due to a compliance issue or a high accident rate, and although that's what started the position, once safety is added, there's so much more impact that we have, but it's up to us to communicate that. So over this next series, I've been talking about selling safety.

So let's continue that conversation. Let's get to it.

Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year safety Professional after spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again. I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you.

At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support, and

[00:01:00] employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, You're in the right place.

Let's get to it.

Hello. Hello. Hello, my safety friends. How are you doing today? I wanna talk about the one thing that not enough of us are talking about. This is kind of gonna blend in with the last episode as well. Not that you have to listen to them in order, but, anyway, we're talking about selling safety and making sure that we are using the right language when we are selling safety.

So I'm sure that you understand that at the core of your job, it is to keep the company compliant with the laws and regulations and rules and to stop accidents from happening. However,

[00:02:00] once you've done that, right, like once you've come into the workplace and did all the low hanging fruit stuff, meaning that you put your policies and procedures in place and you have a basics going and you're matching the industry norms for accidents.

It's going to get harder and harder to justify safety improvements. This is usually the point. When you start getting pushback from employees or from managers, like, do we really need to be doing that? I don't see that company doing it that way. And is it really worth the cost? And this is also where your frustration starts to grow.

So at this point, this is when you need to start changing your messaging. So in the very beginning, it's really easy to talk about the impact that safety has on accident rates. And regulatory fines that don't happen. Right? It's very easy

[00:03:00] when you're going from a super high accident rate to industry standard and saying, you know, look at all of this that we've done in our safety program, and we need to do it because look how bad that we are.

Right? That is when we are typically brought in, is when they are super bad. Like it's not until, you know, OSHA is knocking on their door or it's not until their insurance company is threatening. You either hire a safety person or we're dropping you that we are brought in. So at that point, those numbers are very easy to measure.

I think I shared the story with you where I came into a company with $3 million a year in claims, and I got it down to a hundred thousand dollars. Very, very easy to show my impact. But once you get it down to well below the industry standard, like I worked at a place where we got the injury rate down to a 1.12, you know when it's that low where you have 500 employees and only one is getting injured for

[00:04:00] every, you know, hundreds, that would be like five injuries a year. It gets really, really hard to justify the need for your safety improvements. They tend to look at your accident rates as being so low that they're acceptable, and then they start looking at the risks that they're making as being acceptable risks. And then they even may say to you, well, what does, you know, what do other companies in our industry do?

You know? What do other companies in our industry, what are their rates? What are their costs and what practices do they do? We just wanna match what they do. And what you're doing right now is obviously good enough because you've gotten us to the industry average. But the problem is that you and I, because of our positions and our ambition, I would say, we wanna get to a zero incident rate, and we want to stay there as long as we

[00:05:00] possibly can because we see those five injuries a year as being, those are five people that got hurt, whose lives were changed in some way, shape, or form that shouldn't have. That it was preventable. So our goal is to get to that zero incident rate, but in order to do that, you can't keep talking about accidents and injuries because they already think that the risk is acceptable.

So you wanna change how they see that risk to match yours. That is where you have to become the safety influencer. You wanna change their mind. That average is not good enough. You wanna make them see that a risk is still there and a catastrophic event can still happen. You know, I'm a really big advocate for the Voluntary Protection Program with OSHA because I worked in it for so long, and VPP sites are notorious for

[00:06:00] having super, super low injury rates, but that doesn't mean that they don't have fatalities every now and then. They do because accidents can happen. That's why our work is so important that we can't just settle for the average. But the problem is, is that we see risk way different than the people on our team. The people on our team see risk, you know, they're just looking at it as compared to all their other goals.

And you can spend all day long trying to change their view of risk to match your view of risk, and you probably should, right? I'm not saying that you shouldn't be trying to change their view of risk, and there's ways you can do that by sharing stories. By sharing examples, by constantly pointing things out to them.

But changing that behavior is hard because it's ingrained in us from the time that we were in school and we were

[00:07:00] raised with our parents, and it's ingrained through our experiences. So it takes a long time to change somebody's risk level as to what they will or will not do. So this is why I am constantly preaching that you need to start talking in terms of value, in terms of efficiency, in terms of returns on investment.

And you need to step into the role of being a leadership expert, one who is in a very unique position. Cuz here's the thing about safety. If you think about all the other departments, like you have your warehouse manager, let's say. Let's say you're in a distribution facility. You have a warehouse manager.

They know the warehouse, they know logistics, they know their boxes. Say you have a production area and you know they know how to make the widgets and they know how to bring in supplies. Let's say you have a transportation

[00:08:00] area. They know the trucks, they know routes, they know the, you know how to get the product off the truck and have it delivered.

If you are in construction or you are in any other field, those leaders know their area. Safety is in the unique position that we need to know all the areas within a company. We are like that head executive that is overseeing everything because you need to understand every single task so that way you can mitigate the risks of those tasks using your JHAs or your JSAs, right?

So we are in the unique position where we know all of these tasks throughout the company, cross departments and everything, and we can see how they all work together. So as a leader in the organization, when decisions are being made, we can see how it's going to affect all

[00:09:00] the other departments, and the goal is to create effective, efficient, and safe work practices. So as you are a leader in the organization and as they're talking about goals and things that they're doing, you have to keep in mind that, your goal is to create effective, efficient, and safe work practices because the safe way of doing things is almost always the best way of doing things. It is the most efficient for the company, meaning that they are going to be the most productive, they're going to make the most widgets, right?

It is going to be the most effective, meaning they're getting the highest quality product out there when they're doing it the safe way, and definitely it is the safe practice as well. So you need to step into that role of the leader who knows that entire organization, and you know how all the different tasks and all the different

[00:10:00] procedures play against each other, and any problems that they may create or any solutions that would be help them reach their goals.

And in order to step into this role, you need to start focusing on their goals. And how your work, how you creating effective, efficient, and safe work practices helps them reach their goal. So instead of saying, Hey, you have to do this because you know there's a risk that someone's gonna get hurt. Instead you could say, we should do it this way because you have a goal of reducing the margins by 0.5% this year.

And by changing this work practice, we're gonna decrease costs of turnover and maintenance on the equipment, and it'll help you reach that goal of 0.5. Or let's say that they have a goal of increasing productivity and you could say, Hey, you know, we have this goal of reaching of, uh, increasing productivity by

[00:11:00] 2%. I have an idea to design standard operating procedures that actually will cut time and it will increase safety. And then we can install an observation program that ensures that they follow those operating procedures to effectively hit the time cut that we were wanting for productivity. So you as a leader can walk in and do these things because you are in that unique perspective where you see everything and how it all plays together.

You're not just focused on one little part. But everything that you do needs to help them reach their goals. So yeah, you can say, Hey, we need to do this because it's gonna reduce the chance of an injury, which could cost us $50,000. And in their mind, what they're gonna be thinking is, what's the risk of that injury happening?

[00:12:00] Instead of looking at it like, well, doing it this way is actually gonna increase our productivity as well. So start talking in their terms. And stop talking about your accidents, claims, and insurance costs, because they're not gonna pay attention to it as much. I'm not saying you don't talk about it at all, but I just talk about it as icing on the cake instead of the real cake of the matter is we need to increase productivity.

Let me show you how doing this safely can help you increase productivity. And guess what? As a bonus, we're going to not have. One out of our 10 accidents that we had last year. You know, that type of thing. Because if you are only talking in terms of accidents, claims, and insurance costs, they're not gonna pay attention. They're not gonna include you in the bigger conversations. And the

[00:13:00] only time that they will be knocking on your door is when those numbers start to creep up. When all of a sudden you were at industry average and now you're a bit higher, let's get the safety guy on it. What's going on? Instead of it being, we wanna change our standard operating procedure or our work practices to increase efficiency, let's get the safety guy in here because they kind of know everything that's going on in the organization and the impact it's gonna have.

You need to start inserting yourself in those conversations. You need to start supporting them when they need it and start saying, look, I know you have this goal and I can help you with that. The work I do will help you reach that goal. And when you start supporting them in that way, they will in turn support you when you have stuff to do as well because they start seeing the value that you provide to that organization.

[00:14:00] That is how you sell safety, my friends. It is talking about the value that you're providing to the organization in terms of being a profit center, but also helping them reach their goals and being a true member of the team instead of being that person that was hired as an afterthought because our insurance company was gonna drop us.

So take that opportunity, even if that is why you were hired, and turn it on its head and go, Hey, you hired me for this, but look at everything that safety can do for you. So I hope you get it. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say in this series about selling safety. If you like this stuff, make sure that you subscribe to the podcast.

And while you were doing that, if you could leave a review, don't just hit the little star thing, gimme some feedback in there. Let me know. Are you liking what you hear? What do you wanna hear more of?

[00:15:00] Would love to share your reviews here on the podcast. But that's what I got for you today, my safety friend, and I will chat with you soon.

Bye for now.

Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock. Then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support and employee participation throughout your processes.

Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellow safety scholars over at Safety Management Academy. Just go to thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started. That's

[00:16:00] thesafetygeek.com/sma and I will see you in our next Students only live session.

Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • How To Show The True Value Of Safety Management
  • Safety Is More Than Reducing Accidents And Claim Costs
  • Step Into The Role Of A Leadership Expert
  • How To Become A Safety Influencer And Get Management Support

Links Mentioned:


I hope you understand what I’m trying to say in this series about selling safety. If you like this stuff, make sure that you subscribe to The Safety Geek podcast.

And while you’re doing that, you can leave a review and feedback about this topic. I’ll love to hear and share your reviews here on the podcast.

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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