Why are we not doing better safety monitoring?
The story of the persistance of workplace safety incidents in Europe
Executives are struggling: the global economic recovery is slow, workforces across Europe are aging, commodity prices are rising and the seemingly diametrically opposed pressures of increasing output and reducing overhead make it difficult to meet the bottom line. Among these grand challenges, safety can get overlooked. This is largely because the cost of an unsafe working environment does not manifest until an incident or accident; the direct benefits of investing in safety are rarely tangible. When this is viewed in light of the persistently high rate of injuries and fatal accidents in workplaces across Europe – 5,720 people die in the European Union as a consequence of work-related accidents every year1– it is clear that the cost is very significant, both directly and indirectly. This begs the question: Where are we going wrong?
To provide some clarity on this issue, senior leaders and managers of 300 leading companies were surveyed to detail their perception of workplace safety and their implementation strategy. Interestingly, it was found that the problem lies not in the lack of attention to safety, nor even a lack of will to improve safety.
Indeed, the importance of safety and its integral relevance to stronger business performance is well understood overall and reflected in a general lack of complacency, but there are gaps in implementation, likely since safety is mostly motivated by concern over image and considered a function of compliance. This outlook translates into an aversion of accountability for safety and the absence of clear frameworks for implementing safety in workplaces throughout Europe. Such weaknesses have the potential to infect the safety management system, decreasing overall efficacy and manifesting in a consistently high frequency of incidents or accidents.