I recently had the opportunity to head to beautiful Banff for the Enform Petroleum Safety Conference 2015. It was an interesting experience to be at a safety conference when oil prices are low and their recovery seems uncertain at the moment. The show attendance was down by about 50% according to what I heard.
So what does this 50% figure really mean?
Have 50% of companies decided to close their doors because oil prices are low? – NO.
Have 50% of companies decided that safety promotion is an excess expense during budget tightening? – PROBABLY.
Is safety and safety spending a luxury in a slow economy? I hope not, but I fear for the worst. I understand that expenses need to be cut. Companies cannot function the same when their revenues are down by 20%, 30% or even more in some cases.
One of the first things I have seen cut since the economy has slipped are what some would need “unnecessary” safety services.
- Audiometric Screening (which is mandated, by the way)
- Custom Hearing Protection (OK, I can understand this a bit, but really, the cost of custom protection is actually cheaper than disposable plugs over the long run)
- Reasonable Cause Testing (why test someone, when they are possibly going to fail and then be another financial burden on the company)
- Pre-employment screening that is not mandated by site owners or contractors
Unfortunately for workers, the mighty dollar is winning against the individual and collective safety of workers.
I applaud the 50% of companies who are still realizing that safety has to continue when the work is slow, and I urge the other 50% to realize that a slight savings now may end up in: increased WCB claims, incidents, near-misses or even death.
Placing resources on protecting humans is absolutely necessary. There are many other areas where costs can typically be cut with little overall affect. I would be happy to provide some useful suggestions: Downgrade the quality of paper in your printer, or only print documents when absolutely necessary, take clients out for coffee instead of dinner, reduce overtime hours – or implement only having pre-approved overtime, advertise on places like kijiji or your company website instead of pricey job boards, slightly decrease CEO bonuses… the possibilities are endless.
Safety is not a novelty, it is not a superfluous expense and it is not a luxury – it is literally a life and death challenge that we face on a daily basis.
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