Over the last few years, I’ve led dozens of safety leadership workshops and discussions, and one of my first questions is always, “Does getting safety right first help the business overall?” Most people readily agree safety is a good business practice, but what they mean by that and the degree to which they truly understand the connection between safety and business success is often highly variable.
An Exemplary Leader
We recently began a project where the CEO truly exemplifies a deep understanding of why “getting safety right first” is morally, operationally, and fiscally, important to his organization. In our first project planning call, he said, “My entire leadership team came to the consensus that partnering with you to move forward on improving our safety systems is critical.” He gave three reasons, which I can paraphrase here. He said:
- It is simply the right thing to do for our people. I don’t want one parent to be worried about their child working for our company. They should feel proud and comfortable their family members come to work here every day. We don’t want one more SIF (serious injury or fatal) event. It is simply horrific.
- It helps us with our customers. Nothing good comes from a SIF event. A commitment to safety is about enhancing our reputation as a preferred supplier. We have to protect our reputation.
- It helps us financially. Our insurance deductible is $500,000 – if we eliminate one SIF event, this project more than pays for itself. None of us want to go home at the end of the day with a SIF event and know we could have done more and didn’t because we didn’t want to spend the money to make our workplace safer.
The more we get to know this leader and his team, the more certain I am they would have moved forward improving safety based on the first bullet above. Based on their moral compass, they believe the well-being of their employees is the right thing to do, and they understand when a business protects the safety and health of their team members, the entire organization sees other tangible efforts that creates a more successful company overall.
What is the Connection?
The connection between safety and business performance is that safety improvement creates the conditions necessary for organizational success. It just so happens that safety is the perfect platform to accomplish this. When the organization engages workers in meaningful safety actions, the safety culture is enhanced and that benefits the business overall. Dealing with safety issues provides opportunities to interact and build skills that might not otherwise occur within an organization. Again and again, improving safety provides ideal opportunities to cultivate and practice leadership. All of these things contribute to a workplace culture characterized by mutual trust and respect, teamwork and commitment, and a focus on safety which in turn corresponds to excellence in safety and performance overall – often transforming other business metrics in addition to improving safety.
Your Leadership Strategy
Whether you are a person who feels a fiduciary responsibility to make sound financial and business decisions, a person who feels a moral obligation to protect lives at any cost, or a person who wants both, you will benefit from a strategy that understands the full scope of how safety creates the conditions for business success.
Learn more about how to create this kind of environment and what else is important by reading our book 7 Insights into Safety Leadership.