As I’ve said before in the pages of this newsletter, safety isn’t so much a profession as it is a passion. If you don’t feel it in your bones, you shouldn’t be doing it.
But I’m also realistic. I realize that in this day and age, the safety professional has to be able to talk about money to get the message across. In the corporate world, it’s all about the bottom line. In fact, safety does play a key role in financial performance and corporate profitability. So making the business case is part of your job. I just urge you all not to get so caught up in the numbers that you lose sight of the human side. Here’s a little story to remind you of your ultimate mission.
The Accident (Incident)
Keep in mind that when I work for major corporations, they usually make me sign a consultant’s confidentiality contract. It means that I’m not allowed to tell secrets outside of school. For that reason, I’m afraid I can’t fill in all of the details about the accident I’m about to describe. I hope you’ll understand.
The accident took place down South. A worker was inspecting something on the machine she was operating. She got her hand caught in the machine and was pulled into the machine and crushed to death. It was absolutely awful.
The Economic Cost
The cost of the workmen’s compensation claim was approximately $116,000. The life insurance payment was $25,000. But those were just the direct costs.
For the week after the accident, the plant was able to operate at only 20 percent of capacity. Among other things, workers were absent so they could attend the victim’s funeral.
But it was much worse than that. After the accident, workers refused to work with the machine or any other machine remotely like it. Production and productivity declined dramatically. Morale hit rock bottom. And it stayed that way for months. The company’s financial performance suffered accordingly.
The Human Cost
But the economic factors were only part of the costs of the accident. The victim was just 21-years-old. She was a single mother of a boy of 18 months. The client tells me that the boy was just as cute as a button. He remembers meeting the boy, who was sitting on his aunt’s lap.
He looked up at my client with a confused look on his face. “Mister,” he asked. “Can you tell me when my mommy is coming home?”
Yes, the economic losses that a company suffers after an accident often get underestimated. After all, the accounting books only show the direct and not the indirect costs.
But the human losses are the ones to which no accountant can do justice. The only way to fully feel the impact of such losses is to look into the confused and mournful eyes of the little boys and girls who only want to know when their mommy or daddy is coming home.