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January 23, 2009 7:22 AM CST

ASSE South Carolina Chapter Warns Against Safety Cuts

Reducing or ignoring workplace safety during downturns could be costly


The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) South Carolina Chapter cautions employers against cutting back on workplace safety in time of economic difficulty and encourages employers to explore creative ways of generating temporary and long-term savings in safety and training expenses, while still ensuring that the safety needs of employees and safety regulations are met.

During economic down-turns, employers seeking to cut expenses may target variable operating costs such as travel, training and safety. According to the ASSE South Carolina Chapter, although some safety expenses can be delayed or deferred, some safety expenses are critical.

President-Elect of the ASSE South Carolina Chapter Laura Comstock said, “Some safety related purchases and testing can be deferred, but other purchases, such as those for employee personal protective equipment like hardhats, safety glasses and respirators, are critical to operations.”

She notes that it is especially important for companies to show support for their employee safety during challenging economic times. Employee morale may be low and employees may be carrying additional workloads, such as working additional hours or doing unfamiliar tasks due to cutbacks, making them more prone to injury and accidents.

ASSE President Warren K. Brown, CSP, ARM, CSHM, also recently spoke to occupational safety and health students from Oklahoma State University and the surrounding area to reiterate the fact that investing in safety pays and contributes positively not only to a great working environment, but to a business’ bottom line. He noted that businesses spend about $170 billion a year on costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses and pay almost $1 billion every week to injured employees and their medical providers. In addition, a recent Goldman Sachs study in Australia showed valuation links between workplace safety and health factors and investment performance. It found that companies who did not adequately manage workplace safety issues underperformed those that did and that workplace safety and health factors have potentially greater effectiveness at identifying underperforming stocks, Brown noted.

Comstock, who holds Masters Degrees in occupational safety and business, added, “In order to remain viable long-term, a company must maintain a solid safety program and strong safety performance even through difficult times. The most successful companies in the long term also have the strongest safety performance.”

ASSE Region VI Vice President Jim Morris agrees. “Money cut from safety programs now could have an enormous cost later; this can be from fines, employee morale, or worst of all, employee injury or even death,” Morris said. “There are better and smarter ways to protect the bottom line. Good safety is good business.”

The chapter also offers tips on how employees can take measures to help companies save money on safety expenses by: properly using, cleaning and caring for protective equipment such as hardhats and respirators; reusing gloves whenever possible for as long as possible; keeping track of safety glasses and reusable hearing protection; and by following safe working procedures and practices to prevent injuries, related downtime and expenses such as costly fines.

Comstock also reminds employers, “When considering training reductions, some safety related training is driven by regulation, is time sensitive and cannot be delayed. Safety training related savings can be generated by streamlining and implementing some simple solutions.”

She notes that some simple solutions include using online or electronic safety training services, rather than face-to-face classroom safety training, even if employees and employers prefer classroom settings.“Even if a company doesn’t have a high tech system, having employees view a simple presentation may meet the company’s need for safety training,” said Comstock. “Employers that have safety and training professionals on staff can save on costs related to training by conducting training on-shift and at the jobsite to prevent overtime or taking employees off the job for extended periods.”

About the Author

The ASSE South Carolina Chapter, founded in 1955, is located in the Midlands and Pee Dee areas of South Carolina and currently has 127 members. The chapter meets on the first Monday of the month at the Training Center of C. R. Jackson, Inc. in Columbia, SC. The chapter provides professional development opportunities on a variety of workplace safety topics throughout the year. To learn more about the ASSE South Carolina chapter visit


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