Safety Guarding 101

Moving Beyond Compliance


Jason Kerkhof

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August 9, 2023

So, your company checks all the boxes when it comes to compliance. You put up the OSHA posters, you have a thorough safety training program for new employees, and you routinely perform and document all the mandatory inspections required by state and federal OSHA.

Overall, this is great! You have a few minor incidents here and there, but nothing that is catastrophic. At the same time, you know that doing the minimum is not enough. OSHA standards are the minimum requirements, if you were to translate that over to a grade you would have to give your company a ‘C’, passable, but not the best that you could do.

It all comes down to you and your company. Do you simply want a passing grade, or do you want to excel and move past just compliance, and emphasize safety?


Just Being Compliant is a Grade ‘C’ When it Comes to Safety

There is no doubt that meeting OSHA standards is a very important aspect of any business, and a company is doing well to meet all requirements. But, as decided above, you are still just passing overall safety with a ‘C’ grading. While there is no fear when OSHA inspectors come around, but you still have the occasional incident, that could have been worse. From these incidents you know that you’re losing money on high premiums and some out-of-pocket costs because preventable accidents continue to happen.

As a safety professional, you know how the high premiums are a direct reflection of the minor incidents that keep happening, as well as the other costs associated with those accidents. So, the next question is how do we get our safety grade from a ‘C’ to a ‘B’, and eventually an ‘A’.


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What Does it Take to Get an ‘A’

Before you can jump into beefing up your safety protocols, you first need to figure out what’s missing from your current practice. What is included in your compliance-focused program and what do you need to add to your safety program to boost your grade?

In order to go from compliance to safety there are a couple keys pieces that will help you stand out from the average. You will need employee engagement, as well as a focus on leading indicator data at a minimum.

Employee Engagement

When you are focusing simply on compliance you likely aren’t having conversations with the employees that are in the trenches doing the work, instead you simply let them know the rules that need to be followed. In order to move towards safety, you need to bring employees into the conversation as they are the ones the rules are there to protect.

Their input and insights will be the missing piece that will allow you to push towards that ‘A’.

Leading Indicator Data

Leading indicators can prevent accidents and allows for analysis that shows which areas of your organization have the potential for a high number of incidents.

If you’re missing the employee engagement and data, your company and employees are at risk. You will likely be able to manage some incidents, but you won’t have the tools or insights to prevent them. Without these two your program will be predominantly reactive, instead of preventing and mitigating accidents.


Steps to Get That ‘A’ and the Benefits

Being compliant is already a feat in itself, but it also requires effort from all levels of staff. It proves to be a challenge for many companies to routinely meet OSHA standards, much less consider exceeding them. With all of that said, why should you attempt to exceed being complaint and move towards safety?

The most obvious benefit is the cost saving, safety puts money back into the company to be reinvested.

People are the backbone of any company; you need to protect them to continue moving forward. Wanting to take steps to move beyond compliance sends a message to all employees (and customers) that the organization as a whole is committed to safety. True safety improves morale and in turn boosts productivity.

Additionally, settling for just compliance costs the company more money in the long run. If you aren’t actively looking for ways to improve safety you will constantly have extra money going out. Whether that is in the form of hiring more skilled workers, or those minor accidents that aren’t life threatening but still cost company time whether through shut downs or staff shortages and time off. Industry leaders are more now than ever looking for partners that value safety.

In the end it all comes down to the fact that companies that choose safety is more likely to grow its market share compared to organizations that put it on the backburner.

A smaller benefit that companies see is a boost in company culture. When employees are engaged in safety management, it encourages open dialogue, teamwork, and a greater sense of ownership in the work and company. Your staff are now empowered to be proactive and seek out solutions to problems before they happen. The trickle-down effect is great, and something that shouldn’t be overlooked.


An ‘A’ is Worth the Investment

Compliance is something that is mandatory, and although it costs money, it does also prevent your organization from possible fines, some accidents, and a bad reputation as an employer and company as a whole. While compliance is something that is mandated and is well worth the effort, it still only earns your organization a ‘C’ when it comes to overall safety.

There is no doubt that changing the way your company manages safety is going to be difficult. It is also not something that can be taken on by a single person, you need company-wide participation and buy in.

In the end, safety benefits everyone in the organization. Today is the day to start working towards an ‘A’ in safety, you won’t just get a good report card, you will save money and lives simultaneously. And there isn’t anything better than that for an organization.