Why do some executives not consider safety an important priority?
Getting executives working together to enhance the organization’s safety processes starts at the very top with effective leadership. This leadership must exhibit the kind of attitudes and behaviors that foster a company health and safety culture and build effective programs. Sometimes, though, there seems to be a learning curve in companies that have been slow to adopt occupational health and safety plans from the beginning. With this learning curve comes some of the reasons why executives might not consider safety a priority.
They Don't Take the Time to Develop Leaders
One of the most obvious reasons that executives fail to prioritize safety is that leaders take time to develop, and some people are not able or willing to spend the time necessary to develop effective leadership skills (learn other success factors in Top 3 Reasons Health and Safety Programs Succeed). The reasons for this lack of qualifications are as varied as there are different kinds of people, but most of them relate to a lack of empathy for others. Business people who don't see the value of employees beyond profits for the company have missed out on some of the best and most gratifying aspects of being in business in the first place: helping others live better lives.
They Don't Understand the Benefits of Health and Safety Culture
Sometimes executives are slow to embrace health and safety culture because they are ignorant of the benefits of such culture (read about creating an effective culture in Implementing a Safety Culture: Speak Up For Safety). They might really care about their employees, but they are either uneducated or unfamiliar with the enormous benefits of developing such culture from the top down. In some cases, these executives are forced to develop certain measures for safety due to governmental regulations, but might not take the time to really study and understand the reasons for themselves.
"Safety? We've got someone who handles that for us down the hall here..." is the kind of statement that is a red flag for the uninformed. Some of these business executives don't stay in business very long, not because they couldn't function or operate at all, but because increasing competition from others (who took safety and health plans seriously and grew business and employee morale as a result) passed them by on the proverbial industrial highway.
They See Safety Programs as a Time Waster
Perhaps one of the most common reasons that executives don't make safety a priority is because they deem safety programs to be an intrusion rather than a complement to the responsibilities of the day. These executives might complain that safety and health programs take too much time, but don't realize the enormous losses that occur without safety programs in place. True, some safety programs can take up too much time when not conducted well, but targeted, streamlined, effective programs with brief but regular reinforcement can be developed. These programs eventually become second-nature, and so much a part of company culture that it would be hard to even imagine a day without them.
Safety should be an important priority for an entire company, from the executives to the laborers and everyone that sets foot in the facility or on the work site every day. With a collective commitment to executing safety programs and a thorough understanding of their benefits and components from executive leadership, companies will thrive in all facets of their business.
More Q&As from our experts
- What is the value of aligning your safety initiatives to your business goals?
- How can I motivate an organization to update its leadership beliefs?
- What should I track to take advantage of marginal gains in safety?