Why CEOs Should Be Familiar With Workplace Safety

Workplace safety is a concern for CEOs.

Signage is one part of workplace safety. Removal of issues and enforcement are others.

CEOs need to be familiar with workplace safety because safety issues can impact not only their company’s bottom line, but their brand reputation as well. Workplace safety has traditionally been an issue for managers to worry about, but that’s changing because workplace accidents can draw negative attention to companies. Here are some things CEOs should consider before deciding that workplace safety isn’t a priority for them.

The Cost of Non-Compliance

Most countries have a government agency responsible for ensuring workplace safety. In the US, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) is the key body that sets requirements and assesses safety risks. As part of its role, OSHA has the ability to levy fines against companies that are not compliant with safety regulations. In 2015, OSHA imposed millions of dollars in fines on companies in industries ranging from construction to retail. As CEO, your first concern is for the financial health of the company. Ignoring workplace safety can lead to costs that drive down profitability.

Damage to Your Reputation

24/7 news and social media make it hard to keep workplace accidents under wraps. A safety issue at one of your facilities can quickly become front page news or a trending hashtag on Twitter. This type of bad press can lead to boycotts of your products, lawsuits, and long-term brand damage. In 2012, a fire caused by negligence at a Bangladeshi clothing factory cost the lives of many workers. It was revealed, afterward, that many big name clothing brands had been using this factory and others to manufacture their clothes for US and European markets. The ensuing backlash led to these brands relocating their production and investing in additional safety inspections.

Brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Gap received bad press for several months due to the accidents, even though they were not the direct owners of the factories. CEOs should be wary of anything that could potentially be exploitative, could risk their brand, or could upset customers. Workplace accidents can become persistent public relations issues that draw negative attention to the brand and make customers rethink their brand preferences.

Remember that Workplace Safety is a Business Issue

Workplace safety is a business issue that needs attention from the CEO. Even apparently minor hazards, like slippery surfaces and poorly-lit staircases, can create a dangerous work environment, so every CEO needs to make sure these hazards are controlled for. Accidental falls and trips were the leading causes of non-fatal injuries just three years ago. This is why it’s important for everyone involved in a business to make workplace safety a priority. Failure to stay informed on these issues can have a long-term impact on a company’s operations and growth potential due to costs and bad press.
Of course, expecting a CEO to know all the details of workplace safety requirements is not practical, but they should be familiar with the basic requirements of their industry and the safety situation within their company.

About the Author:

Emma is a freelance writer from Boston, MA. She writes most often on education and business. Information used in this article on falls as the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in 2013 was provided by an attorney in Philadelphia. Find Emma on Twitter @EmmaSturgis2