Guest opinion: Practicing safety preemptively to protect employees

Would you consider safety to be your company’s number one priority? Many companies care about safety, but only when they have to. It is not present in their mission or vision statements nor is it woven into the everyday fiber of the organization. Looking past safety policies and binders of training material on dusty shelves often reveals that companies are not nearly as safe as they appear on paper. As the former head of OSHA, I know this common mistake is a reactionary occurrence that can greatly risk the health and safety of employees, as well as cost employers significant sums.

Far beyond ensuring employees are checking off mandatory trainings, a company with a strong safety culture is one that seeks out potential risks and goes the distance to prevent them from happening. While this can seem like a daunting task for a start-up or small to mid-sized business, the Florida Chamber Safety Council stands in solidarity that safety is worth investing in and serves as a voice for all businesses, large and small, across the state. Setting the national standard, the Florida Chamber Safety Council offers a variety of trainings, webinars, and other resources to move the needle on the safety, health and sustainability of all Florida employers and employees.

One way to do this is to adopt new risk-based systems to preemptively assess hazards and liability, rather than handling incidents reactively. This can be a significant strategy that companies utilize to protect employees and maintain profitability, and therefore competitiveness. This is the future of safety in Florida—protecting employees from injury or fatality well before the opportunity for the incident even arises.

Workers’ Comp insurance alone is not enough to protect your business. The data shows that the true cost of injury to an employee is five times your workers’ compensation costs. To help get ahead of this drain on your company’s profitability, prioritize and persistently enforce a safety culture within your company and facilitate a sense of individual accountability for personal safety on and off the job. This, paired with using new technologies or systems or partnering with other businesses to predict potential points of risk and taking steps accordingly, is the best and most effective method to keep employees out of harm’s way and to safeguard your business and assets.

Safety is not something that can be accomplished or completed, rather it is an ongoing process that requires constant prioritization and enforcement. The Florida Chamber Safety Council stands for advancing and promoting a culture of safety, health and sustainability, to ensure Florida’s businesses remain competitive and further propel Florida forward towards becoming the safest, healthiest and most sustainable state in America.

Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., a member of the Florida Chamber Safety Council, is former Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA and a partner at Fisher & Phillips, LLP, a nation-wide labor and employment law firm.

*Originally published in the News-Times.

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