Effective Safety Recommendations

It’s been several weeks and still no action on your safety recommendations and because it appears you’re being ignored, you’re upset and impatient.

You naturally think management doesn’t care about safety.  “What’s the use,” you say, “they just don’t care about safety because they never act on my safety recommendations.”  Well, there may be good reason for the apparent lack of management concern and action. They lack the knowledge needed to act.

When safety recommendations are not acted upon, it’s usually not because management lacks concern for safety, it’s because they do not have enough useful information to make a judgment about making an investment in safety. This lack of knowledge greatly increases the odds that managers will not act on the recommendation.

Remember, basic psychology tells us that our outward actions are based on our inward thoughts and feelings.  The key to effective recommendations is to give management the information needed to shape those thoughts and feelings.

Before you develop safety recommendations, meet with managers and ask them what basic information that’s important so they can make effective decisions.  They’ll let you know and they’ll appreciate the fact you’re interested in knowing what’s important to them.

Knowing what managers consider important will improve the chances managers will approve  your recommendations,  and you’ll be able to:

  • anticipate the information they need and provide that information
  • anticipate the questions they’ll ask and provide the answers

The information they want and the questions they ask  are clues about what motivates them.

The more pertinent the information in your recommendation, the greater the odds for approval.

So, what are the key elements needed to up your approval rate? Answer these five key questions:

1. What exactly is the problem?

  • List the easy-to-see conditions and behaviors on the surface: Hazardous condition, procedure, or practice.
  • Dig up the root causes in the system: Inadequate or missing safety policies, programs,  processes, procedures, practices, and/or rules.

2. What is the history of the problem?

  • Is this a new problem or a problem that seems to repeat?
  • How has it affected direct costs?  These are the budgeted or insured costs related to past injuries or illnesses.
  • How has it affected indirect costs? These are the unbudgeted or uninsured costs related to loss of efficiency and/or productivity and employee morale.

3. What are the solutions that can correct the problem?

List these solutions to address the hazards and exposures:

  • low cost solutions that reduce the problem now or soon
  • high cost solutions that reduce the problem now or soon

4. Who is the decision maker?

  • Who is the person at the top that can approve and act on the recommendation?
  • What are possible objections the decision maker might raise? You’ll need to know what motivates the decision-maker to invest in safety: is it to meet OSHA requirements, save money, to be a responsible leader, or is it a combination of all three motivations?
  • What arguments are most likely to be successful against those objections?

5. What will be the consequences?

Discuss how the company suffers or benefits depending on the action taken. Remember, there are always consequences to our actions.  The company can never escape consequences.

Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to show how the company will suffer and benefit legally, financially, and socially as a result of the action taken.

  • Estimate direct/indirect costs of corrective action.
  • Review employer obligations under administrative law.
  • Address probability and severity.
  • Estimate insured and uninsured costs if corrective action not taken.
  • Discuss the “message” sent to the workforce as a result of the action or inaction.

By following these five steps, I’m sure you’ll see more success in getting those safety recommendations improved.  And, you’ll experience more credibility as a safety professional.

For more on this topic, you can audit OSHAcademy’s course 700 Introduction to Safety Management or course 712 Safety Supervision and Leadership for free.