Course 701 - Effective Safety Committee Operations

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Developing Effective Recommendations

Good Recommendation

Once you have developed engineering and administrative controls to eliminate or reduce injuries, the challenge becomes convincing management to make changes. Management will most likely understand the importance of taking corrective action and readily agree to your ideas. However, if management doesn't quite understand the benefits, success becomes less likely. Your ability to present effective recommendations becomes all that more important. This module will help you learn how to put together "an offer they can't refuse," by emphasizing the long-term bottom-line benefits of the corrective action you are recommending.

Why Decision-makers Don't Respond Quickly

When recommendations are not acted upon, it is usually because the decision-maker does not have enough information to make a judgment. To speed up the process and to improve the approval rate, you must learn to anticipate the questions the decision-maker will ask in order to sign off on the requested change. This being the case, the more pertinent information included in the presentation, the higher the odds are for approval.

1. Why do decision-makers fail sometimes to act on safety committee recommendations?

a. They don't really care about safety
b. They don't have enough information
c. They think it will cost too much
d. They are too busy to bother with safety

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Six Key Questions

Let's look again at the scenario introduced in Module 6. We're going to use this scenario to make some effective recommendations for corrective action. We want to make sure this accident never happens to Bob (or anyone else) again. You'll do this by reviewing the accident scenario and answering six key questions.

With the information gained, you will conclude the investigation by writing a recommendation. Your job is to convince me (your supervisor) that your ideas make sense... and I'm busy, so make it good!


Image of a return belt

Bob was a new hire employee working as a clean-up person in the finish department of XYZ, Inc.'s particle board plant. On his first day of work, he received an initial classroom orientation on company policies from the personnel department. He was also introduced to his new supervisor who gave him a walk-around tour of the plant. Since his supervisor was quite busy, and didn't have time to fully brief Bob on his new job, Bob was given some simple initial duties to accomplish.

He was busy cleaning up around the floor under the return belt of a conveyor connected to a large piece of machinery and noticed a jammed piece of wood. He removed a guard covering pinch points on the conveyor belt (hazardous condition - surface cause) and reached into the unguarded conveyor to remove the wood (unsafe behavior - surface cause).

Bob's glove got caught in the return drum nip point, and he was drawn into the machinery. Luckily, Bob was eventually able to pull himself out of the machinery before being injured.

XYZ, Inc. has a workers' compensation experience modification (MOD) rate of 1.5 (higher and worse than average). Unfortunately, this incident was not a total surprise to the company. Most of their OSHA 300 Log recordable accidents have been the result of injuries to employees within their first six months on the job.

Answer the following six questions to help develop and justify recommendations.

1. What exactly is the problem?

  • Surface causes. What are the specific hazardous conditions and unsafe work practices that caused the problem?
  • Root causes. What are system components - the inadequate design or implementation of safety management programs, policies, plans, processes, procedures and general practices that allowed the conditions and behaviors to exist?

2. Reaching into an unguarded conveyor belt would be described as _____ of the injury in an accident report.

a. an indirect cause
b. a root cause
c. an unsafe result
d. a surface cause

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Six Key Questions (Continued)

2. What is the history of the problem?

Have similar accidents occurred previously? If so, you should be able to claim that the probability for similar accidents is highly likely to certain. What are previous direct and indirect costs for similar accidents? How have similar accidents affected production and morale?

  • Describe how it has affected direct, budgeted or insured costs related to past injuries or illnesses.
  • How has it affected costs (indirect, unbudgeted or uninsured) related to loss of efficiency and employee morale?

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

What are the specific engineering, administrative and PPE controls that, when applied, will eliminate or at least reduce exposure to the hazardous conditions? What are the specific system improvements needed to ensure a long term fix?

4. Who is the decision-maker?

Who is the decision-maker: the person who can approve, authorize, and act on the corrective measures? What are the possible objections that he/she might have? What are the arguments that will be most effective in overcoming objections?

3. Who should most appropriately receive your recommendations for corrective action?

a. The safety committee chairperson
b. The safety director
c. The decision-maker

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Six Key Questions (Continued)

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5. Why is that person doing safety?

It's important to know what is motivating the decision-maker. Is the decision-maker doing safety to fulfill one or more of the following imperatives?

  • Fulfill the legal obligation? You may need to emphasize possible penalties if corrections are not made. Common in a fear-driven culture.
  • Fulfill the financial obligation? You may want to emphasize the costs/benefits. Common in an achievement-driven culture.
  • Fulfill the social obligation? You may want to emphasize improved morale, public relations. Common in a humane corporate culture.

Employer motivation will determine the nature of the objections to the recommendations you submit. What are possible objections the decision-maker might raise? Whatever they might be, it's important you understand their motivations so that you are better prepared with responses that satisfy the decision-maker's needs.

  • List the possible decision-maker objections.
  • List the arguments that are most likely to be successful against those objections.
  • As a last resort: Review employer obligations under administrative law.

4. Which employer safety obligation emphasizes the costs and benefits of safety?

a. The legal obligation
b. The financial obligation
c. The social obligation
d. The employee obligation

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Six Key Questions (Continued)

6. What will be the cost/benefits of corrective actions and system improvements?

  • What are the costs that might result if/when OSHA inspects? Answer this question to address the legal obligation your employer has.
  • What is the estimated investment required to take corrective action, and how does that contrast with the possible costs if corrective actions are not taken? Answer this question to address the fiscal obligation your employer has.
  • What is the "message" sent to the workforce and the community as a result of action or inaction? Answer this question to address the social obligation your employer has.

It's important to have the answers to all of these questions ready for the decision maker.

The maintenance supervisor may be able to help you estimate the investment required for recommended corrective actions.

Below are some additional ideas for you to consider.

  • These options must also eliminate or reduce the hazards and the exposures.
  • Briefly list low/high cost solutions that eliminate the problem now/soon.
  • Briefly list low/high cost solutions that reduce the problem now/soon.
  • Briefly list the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.

5. When recommending corrective actions, why is it important to answer the question, "What are the costs that might result if/when OSHA inspects?"

a. Helps to educate the employer on enforcement
b. Gives decision maker control over the corrective action
c. To inform the employer about the social imperatives
d. It helps the employer to understand the legal consequences of inaction

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Estimating Direct and Indirect Costs

Safety committees should promote the idea that future accident costs will equal the savings realized if management invests in safety by approving the recommendation.

To help estimate direct and indirect cost savings, you can use OSHA's Safety Pays software. This is an excellent software tool that determines direct and indirect accident costs. It also calculates the business volume required to cover those costs. The data is based on 52,000 lost-time claims submitted to a major workers compensation insurance carrier.

Ratio Between Direct and Indirect Costs

The indirect costs for accidents will usually be higher than the direct costs. Generally this ratio will be 4:1 or higher. See the equation below that shows how the ratio is determined.

Let's say an employee injured his hand (requiring surgery) while working around the machinery in our scenario. If the indirect (uninsured) accident cost totals $160,000 and the direct (insured) cost is $40,000, the ratio of indirect to direct costs will be 4:1. This ratio just happens to be the most common or "average" ratio between indirect and direct accident costs in the USA.

6. What should safety committees use to estimate the savings realized if management approves the recommendation?

a. estimated future accident costs
b. past accident history
c. indirect accident costs
d. direct accident costs

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Ratio Between Total Accident Costs to Direct Costs

This ratio is a little more dramatic than contrasting the indirect costs with direct costs. It helps emphasize the fact that direct costs are actually just the tip of the iceberg. See the equation below that shows how the ratio is determined.

In this case, if the indirect (uninsured) cost totals $160,000 and the direct (insured) cost is $40,000, the ratio of total costs to direct costs will be $200,000/$40,000 = 5:1. What will XYZ have to earn in sales to pay back this lost money? If XYZ has a 5% profit margin, they'll have to earn 20 times the total accident cost, or $4 million in sales!

7. Because direct costs are "just the tip of the iceberg," total costs for accidents will be _____ the direct costs.

a. less than
b. greater than
c. the same as
d. can be less or greater than

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Return on the Investment (ROI)

To determine ROI, it's necessary to compare the amount of the requested investment in corrective actions against the expected direct and indirect accident costs if a future accident occurs. To estimate the ROI, use the equation below.

Let's say our investment to train all employees on lockout/tagout procedures, machine guarding and PPE while working around machinery will be $20,000. If our total accident cost is $200,000, our ROI will be 10 times the investment or 1000%! Now that's a return.

8. To determine the Return on Investment in a safety recommendation, calculate the ratio between total accident costs and the _____.

a. estimated training costs
b. total investment
c. direct accident costs
d. indirect accident costs

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.

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