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Financial Decision Makers' Views On Safety What SH&E Professionals Should Know

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IN 2006, A TOTAL OF 5,840 FATAL occupational injuries occurred in private industry in the U.S. (BLS, 2008). In addition, 4.1 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported, which means that 4.4 nonfatal occupational injuries or illnesses were reported for every 100 full-time-equivalent workers in the U.S. Rosenman, Kalush, Reilly, et al. (2006) have suggested that these statistics are a cause for employer concern, especially in light of a recent study which indicated that the BLS's system for recording work-related injuries and illnesses under-counts the total number of injuries associated with chronic or acute conditions. Most SH&E professionals are very much aware of these statistics and endeavor to reduce the numbers of occupational fatalities, injuries and illnesses. Often, however, there are limits as to what SH&E professionals can do to positively impact occupa-tional safety. For example, practitioners may not be in a position to ultimately determine what and how company resources are allocated to safety interven-tions. They may often have to find ways to convince higher-level managers—who set priorities and control the budget—of the need to fund occupational safety efforts, and of the critical role their support can play in their com-pany's occupational safety. Research has supported the concept that a positive asso-ciation exists between top management support and im-proved workplace safety and health outcomes (Cohen, 1977; Griffiths, 1985; Marsh, Davies, Phillips, et al., 1998). Griffiths (1985) found that top manage-ment commitment to safety and health was associated with reduced lost-time injuries in the industrial gas industry. Sawacha, Naoum and Fong (1999) found that top manage-ments' attitudes toward safety played a significant role in safe-ty performance. Despite these findings, re-search to assess the safety pri-orities and safety concerns of top-level executives/managers (such as corporate financial Yueng-Hsiang Huang, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist at Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety (LMRIS) in Hopkinton, MA. She holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Portland State University. She is a member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, American Psychological Association, Society for Occupational Health Psychology, the ASSE Foundation Research Committee and the editorial board of Accident Analysis and Prevention.
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36 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY APRIL 2009 www.asse.org
Business of Safety
Business of Safety
Financial Decision
Makers’ Views
on Safety
What SH&E professionals should know
By Yueng-Hsiang Huang, Tom B. Leamon, Theodore K. Courtney, Sarah DeArmond,
Peter Y. Chen and Michael F. Blair
IN 2006, A TOTAL OF 5,840 FATAL occupational
injuries occurred in private industry in the U.S. (BLS,
2008). In addition, 4.1 million nonfatal workplace
injuries and illnesses were reported, which means
that 4.4 nonfatal occupational injuries or illnesses
were reported for every 100 full-time-equivalent
workers in the U.S. Rosenman, Kalush, Reilly, et al.
(2006) have suggested that these statistics are a cause
for employer concern, especially in light of a recent
study which indicated that the BLS’s system for
recording work-related injuries and illnesses under-
counts the total number of injuries associated with
chronic or acute conditions.
Most SH&E professionals are very much aware of
these statistics and endeavor to reduce the numbers
of occupational fatalities, injuries and illnesses.
Often, however, there are limits as to what SH&E
professionals can do to positively impact occupa-
tional safety. For example, practitioners may not be
in a position to ultimately determine what and how
company resources are allocated to safety interven-
tions. They may often have to find ways to convince
higher-level managers—who
set priorities and control the
budget—of the need to fund
occupational safety efforts,
and of the critical role their
support can play in their com-
pany’s occupational safety.
Research has supported
the concept that a positive asso-
ciation exists between top
management support and im-
proved workplace safety and
health outcomes (Cohen, 1977;
Griffiths, 1985; Marsh, Davies,
Phillips, et al., 1998). Griffiths
(1985) found that top manage-
ment commitment to safety and
health was associated with
reduced lost-time injuries in
the industrial gas industry.
Sawacha, Naoum and Fong
(1999) found that top manage-
ments’ attitudes toward safety
played a significant role in safe-
ty performance.
Despite these findings, re-
search to assess the safety pri-
orities and safety concerns of
top-level executives/managers
(such as corporate financial
Yueng-Hsiang Huang, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist at Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety
(LMRIS) in Hopkinton, MA. She holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Portland
State University. She is a member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, American
Psychological Association, Society for Occupational Health Psychology, the ASSE Foundation
Research Committee and the editorial board of Accident Analysis and Prevention.
Tom B. Leamon, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of occupational safety at Harvard University and has directed
major ergonomics and safety organizations in the glass, coal mining and insurance industries. He holds a Ph.D. in
Industrial Engineering from the Institute of Technology, Cranfield. Leamon has published widely and is a Fellow
of the Ergonomics Society, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Institute of Electrical Engineers.
Theodore K. Courtney, M.S., CSP, is director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology at LMRIS and an instructor
on injury, safety and ergonomics at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Recipient of the 2003 William
Floyd Medal and the 2006 NORA Partnering Award for his work in occupational injury research, he holds a B.S.
in Human Factors from Georgia Tech and an M.S. in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University
of Michigan. Courtney is a member of the editorial boards for Professional Safety and the Journal of
Environmental and Occupational Hygiene. He is a member of ASSE’s Greater Boston Chapter.
Sarah DeArmond, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of human resources management at the University of
Wisconsin, Oshkosh. She holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Colorado State University.
DeArmond was named the 2005 ASSE Foundation-Liberty Mutual Safety Research Fellow. She is a member of
the Society for Occupational Health Psychology, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Academy
of Management and American Psychological Association.
Peter Y. Chen, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Colorado State University and heads the occupational
health psychology training program in the Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center funded by
NIOSH. He holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of South Florida.
Michael F. Blair, M.M.S., is a technical consultant within the National Market Loss Prevention Department
at Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. During his career, he has led the Workplace Safety and Occupational
Disability Management group and conducted research at LMRIS. He holds an M.M.S. in Manufacturing
Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and a B.S. in Industrial Technology from the
University of Lowell. He is a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
036_042_F2Huang_0409:Layout 1 3/11/2009 12:19 PM Page 36
www.asse.org APRIL 2009 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY 37
Topic 2: Perceived Financial Impact of Safety
Three questions were included to obtain insight
into the respondents’ perceptions of the financial
impact of occupational safety. These questions asked
about the ratio of direct costs (such as payments to
medical providers and the injured employees) ver-
sus indirect costs (such as lost productivity and
worker replacement costs) and what is the biggest
cause of indirect costs (Q4), the ratio of dollars spent
improving workplace safety versus dollars returned
(Q5) and the impact of workplace accidents on com-
pany financial performance (Q6).
Topic 3: Issues Regarding Safety Programs
Three open-ended questions were developed to
explore participants’ perceptions of issues related to
safety programs. These questions asked participants
what they perceived as the top benefitsof safety pro-
grams (Q7), the best single modification to improve
safety within their companies (Q8) and whether
they thought that safety engineers were necessary in
their companies (Q9).
Survey Results
Telephone surveys were conducted with 231 cor-
porate financial decision makers. This number rep-
resented about 20% of the total completed contacts.
The average survey lasted 12 minutes. Among the
respondents, 81% were male. In terms of job title,
49% were chief financial officers, 15% were con-
trollers, 10% were vice presidents and 8% were
directors of finance.
Using company information provided by the
respondent, each company’s major industry sector
was identified. In accordance with the 2002 NAICS
codes and titles, about 23% of the respondents were
in manufacturing, 13% were in healthcare and social
assistance, 10% were in the finance and insurance
industry, 8% were in construction and 8% were in
wholesale trade. Detailed demographic information
about the sample is shown in the sidebar on p. 38.
Topic 1: Perceived Leading Safety Priorities,
Concerns & Losses
The top safety priorities for future resource allo-
cation and efforts named by the corporate financial
decision makers in this sample were overexertion,
repetitive motion and bodily reaction injuries. Table
1 (p. 39) presents the ratings on safety priorities for
resource allocation for various injury causes.
When asked about the leading cause of workers’
compensation losses (Table 2, p. 40), the most com-
mon response was overexertion (34.4%), followed by
repetitive motion (13.5%) and bodily reaction
(11.6%).A few participants (2.3%) reported that they
had not had any losses/claims for some time.
For the single greatest workplace safety concern
for their company in the coming 12 months (Table 3,
p. 41), the most frequently reported were: 1) overex-
ertion (20.3%); 2) repetitive motion (14.6%); 3) high-
way accidents (12.7%); 4) falling on the same level
(9.9%); and 5) bodily reaction (5.7%).
decision makers) has been limited. For SH&E profes-
sionals, it can be anticipated that knowing something
about top management’s priorities and concerns
would help to improve communication with these
individuals.
This article is part of a larger study (DeArmond,
Huang & Chen, 2007; Huang, Leamon, Courtney, et
al., 2007) that attempted to address this issue by
exploring corporate financial decision makers’ per-
ceptions of safety issues. The purpose of this article
is to highlight results that identified corporate finan-
cial decision makers’ perceived leading safety prior-
ities, concerns and losses; their perceived financial
impact of safety; and issues regarding safety pro-
grams in order to help SH&E professionals commu-
nicate more effectively with decision makers. The
goal is to provide information that may help shape
communications between SH&E professionals and
financial managers.
The Survey
Participants & Procedure
This study focused on medium- to large-sized com-
panies (100 employees or more), anticipating that they
were more likely to have an individual dedicated to
corporate finance. Survey questions were developed
by the project team with additional contributionsfrom
research scientists, SH&E professionals and market
research professionals. A pilot study was conducted
with 11 financial decision makers to test the question-
naire and identify potential methods for increasing the
response rate (Huang, et al., 2007). The questions have
content validity as they were developed, verified and
tested by various subject-matter experts.
Nine core questions were formulated to assess
financial decision makers’ perceptions toward work-
place safety issues. A survey research/consulting
firm was hired to conduct the telephone interviews
using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing
lab. Experienced telephone interviewers contacted
the most senior executive or manager responsible for
making decisions about property and casualty risk
management or insurance-related services for their
organizations (e.g., CFO, director of finance).
Survey Topics
Topic 1: Perceived Leading Safety Priorities,
Concerns & Losses
Three questions were developed to explore finan-
cial decision makers’ perceptions of the leading safe-
ty priorities, concerns and losses. Participants were
asked about their companies’ safety priorities for
resource allocation for the upcoming year (Q1), lead-
ing cause of workers’ compensation losses (Q2) and
single greatest workplace safety concern (Q3).
The list of possible response options for a compa-
ny’s safety priorities (Q1) for the upcoming year
were generated using data from the 2005 Liberty
Mutual Workplace Safety Index (Liberty Mutual,
2007), which provides information about the most
costly occupational injury events on an annual basis,
and the event or exposure leading to injury or illness
categories used by BLS (2004).
Abstract: Top-level
managers determine
high-level budgets,
resource allocation and
corporate priorities
about safety-related
issues, yet little research
has been done regard-
ing what they consider
to be important. Often,
SH&E professionals must
try to convince decision
makers to support safety
programs without
knowing much about
the thought processes
behind their decisions.
This study involved a
survey that explored
how 231 senior financial
executives or managers
for U.S.-based compa-
nies with 100 or more
employees perceive
important workplace
safety issues. This article
highlights some results
of that study.
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38 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY APRIL 2009 www.asse.org
create a safer and cleaner environment, removal of
hazards and additional personnel present at all
times to monitor safety.
Twenty-seven percent of the respondents believed
safety engineers were needed in their organizations.
A greater percentage of respondents from the larger
companies saw a need for safety engineers—50% of
participants from companies with 1,000 employees
and more agreed, while 22.3% of those from compa-
nies with 100 to 999 employees agreed.
Discussion
Data on financial decision makers’ perceived lead-
ing safety priorities, concerns and losses for their
companies were collected in this study. Participants
reported areas of safety priorities for organizational
resources and efforts in the next 12 months that were
consistent with their responses on their companies’
past workers’ compensation losses.
The three most commonly named areas for both
were overexertion, repetitive motion and bodily
reaction. This may demonstrate that these decision
makers tend to allocate financial resources to areas
associated with what they understand to be sources
of major losses.
When the participants were asked to name their
single greatest workplace concern, after citing
overexertion and repetitive motion, highway acci-
dents and falling on the same level were mentioned
more often than bodily reaction. It may be under-
standable that these financial executives are con-
cerned about highway accidents yet do not consider
them a top priority for resources because many fac-
tors that affect highway safety are not directly con-
trollable by their company.
It is curious that falling on the same level ranked
higher in the question about their single greatest
concern than it did in their top priorities for future
resources. Perhaps these respondents recognize this
as a great concern yet might not understand the
actual losses from falls. According to the Liberty
Mutual (2007) Workplace Safety Index, falls on the
same level was the second-leading cause of work-
place injury in 2005, the same year the survey data
Topic 2: Perceived Financial Impact of Safety
The average estimated ratio of direct costs to indi-
rect costs associated with occupational injuries was
$2.12 with a standard deviation (SD) of 1.9. This
means that for every dollar spent on direct costs,
participants believed about $2.12 would be spent on
indirect costs. The median ratio was $2:$1 (Figure 1,
p. 42). The biggest causes of indirect costs partici-
pants mentioned were: 1) workplace disruption,
downtime, loss of productivity (41.4%); 2) worker
replacement, training new employees (23.2%); and
3) workers’ compensation, increased insurance pre-
miums, attorney fees (16.7%).
Participants perceived that, on average, for every
dollar spent improving workplace safety, about
$4.41 (SD = 12.0) would be returned. The median
was $2 (Figure 2, p. 42). For the question, “How
would you characterize the impact of workplace
accidents on your company’s financial performance,
using a scale of: 1 = below average impact, 2 = aver-
age impact; 3 = above average impact; 4 = well
above average impact; 5 = one of the highest
impact?”, 43% of the respondents reported below
average impact and 57% reported average and
above (a score of 2 to 5).Among all participants, only
10.8% reported that workplace accidents have well
above average or one of the highest impacts on their
company compared to other factors.
Topic 3: Issues Regarding Safety Programs
The top benefits of an effective workplace safety
program were perceived to be: 1) increased produc-
tivity (42.5%); 2) reduced costs (28.3%); 3) greater
retention of employees (7.1%); and 4) better employ-
ee/company morale and greater job satisfaction
among employees (5.8%).
The most preferred occupational safety interven-
tion reported by participants centered around intro-
ducing more/better safety-focused training and
programs (26.6%). No other intervention reported
was named by more than 8% of the respondents.
Among these interventions, in descending order,
were safer/better/updated equipment and work-
space, more safety management, more enforcement
of policies and procedures, improvements made to
Descriptive Information of Respondents & Their Companies
Job Title
Job Title
49.1% Chief financial officer
15.2% Controller
9.6% Vice president
8.3% Director of finance
3.5% Chief operating officer
3.0% Risk manager
11.4% Other (e.g., treasurer, finance manager)
Industry Type
23.4% Manufacturing
12.6% Healthcare and social assistance
9.5% Finance and insurance
7.8% Construction
7.8% Wholesale trade
7.4% Educational services
6.9% Retail trade
5.2% Hospitality
19.4% Other (4.3% or less each)
Number of Employees
43.7% 100 to 245 employees
25.5% 250 to 499 employees
13.4% 500 to 999 employees
4.8% 1,000 to 1,999 employees
12.6% 2,000 or more employees
Approximate Annual Revenue
10.4% Less than $10 million
19.7% $10 to $24.9 million
37.3% $25 to $74.9 million
15.5% $75 to $199.9 million
10.9% $200 to $499.9 million
3.1% $500 to $999.9 million
3.1% $1 billion or more
Gender
81.4% Male
18.6% Female
036_042_F2Huang_0409:Layout 1 3/11/2009 12:19 PM Page 38
www.asse.org APRIL 2009 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY 39
itive impact on a company’s financial perform-
ance. Of these executives, 61% believed that their
companies received a return on investment of $3 or
more for each $1 they invested in workplace safety.
ASSE (2002) has concluded that a direct, positive
correlation exists between investment in SH&E and
its subsequent return on investment. OSHA (2007)
asserts from its own evidence that companies imple-
menting effective safety and health programs can
reduce injury and illness rates by 20% or more—and
generate a return of $4 to $6 for every $1 invested.
OSHAreported that employers investing in work-
place safety and health can expect to reduce fatalities,
injuries and illnesses. This will result in cost savings
in various areas, such as lowering workers’ compen-
sation costs and medical expenses, avoiding OSHA
penalties, and reducing costs to train replacement
employees and conduct accident investigations. In
addition, employers often find that changes made to
improve workplace safety and health can produce
significant improvements in their organization’s pro-
ductivity and financial performance.
The information from the current study presents
a good starting point for SH&E professionals to
approach their company financial decision makers to
find out how they perceive company safety costs and
priorities. After identifying their company’s actual
direct and indirect injury costs, the returns on safety
investment and the impact of workplace accidents on
the company’s financial performance, SH&E profes-
sionals can compare the actual figures with their
managers’ perceptions and see how those compare
with the survey data. Practitioners can then deter-
were collected. Knowing this, SH&E professionals
can explore whether their own financial executives
perceptions on losses and concerns coincide with
data from other sources (e.g., OSHA/OSHA record-
ables, workers’ compensation data, medical records,
company safety records). Are their financial man-
agers’ perceptions consistent with company reality?
The results of this study demonstrate that the par-
ticipants recognized that there are indirect costs in
addition to the direct costs associated with occupa-
tional injuries and that these costs can be substan-
tially larger than the direct costs. Further, it is clear
that the participants believed that the money spent
improving workplace safety would have significant
returns. The average perceived return on safety
investments was $4.41 (SD = 12.0). This might sug-
gest that corporate financial decision makers might
encourage or be receptive to safety improvement
interventions. Conversely, it is possible that it could
suggest that these decision makers have an expecta-
tion of return on investment if they choose to direct
resources toward a given issue. Nonetheless, the
majority thought that workplace accidents had only
an average impact on company financial perform-
ance compared to other factors.
Although research in this area is very limited, the
findings of the current study are similar to those
found in other sources. For example, in terms of
management views on investment in workplace
safety and health, one survey project (Liberty
Mutual, 2001), which collected data from American
business executives, reported that 95% of business
executives believed that workplace safety has a pos-
Top Safety Priorities for Resource Allocation
Ranking of priorities for resource allocation NM SD
1) Overexertion from lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or 227 3.31 1.29
throwing an object
2) Repetitive motion (e.g., injuries due to repeated stress or strain) 228 3.18 1.16
3) Bodily reaction (e.g., injuries due to bending, climbing, slipping or 229 3.16 1.23
tripping without falling)
4) Exposure to harmful substances or environment 223 2.63 1.46
5) Falling on the same level 228 2.62 1.31
6) Highway accidents 218 2.37 1.44
7) Being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects 217 2.34 1.42
8) Being struck by an object (e.g., a tool falling on a worker from above) 224 2.27 1.38
9) Workplace violence 227 2.26 1.30
10) Falling from heights 223 2.22 1.26
11) Striking against an object (e.g., employee walking into a door frame) 229 2.20 1.19
12) Contact with high/low temperature 214 1.94 1.17
Note. Number of respondents answering out of 231 participants (N), means (M) and standard deviation (SD) of 5-point
Likert scale responses to Q1 regarding the top safety priorities for resource allocation. Respondents were asked to rate their
choices with a scale ranging from 1 as below average to 5 as one of the highest.
Table 1
Table 1
These results
give SH&E
professionals
a good starting
point from
which to
approach
financial
decision
makers to find
out how they
perceive safety
costs and
priorities.
036_042_F2Huang_0409:Layout 1 3/11/2009 12:19 PM Page 39
40 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY APRIL 2009 www.asse.org
nize the importance
of safety training
and programs, it is
also important that
they understand the
importance of other
safety interventions.
Research has shown
the limited effective-
ness of education
and safety interven-
tions to increase
awareness in reduc-
ing various inci-
dences of unsafe
behavior (Connelly,
Conaglen, Parson-
son, et al., 1998).
In addition,
Amick, Robertson,
DeRango, et al.
(2003) found that
training alone did
not reduce muscu-
loskeletal symptoms
among office work-
ers, but average pain
levels were reduced
when training was provided in conjunction with sup-
plying adjustable office furniture and equipment.
Training works better when coupled with a well-
designed workplace and a high level of manage-
ment commitment. Training is only one of several
important organizational responses to safety con-
cerns. Examples of others are good housekeeping,
active safety auditing, active participation of work-
ers in safety programs and decision making, and the
application of engineering safety controls (Hunt &
Habeck, 1993; Shannon, Walters, Lewchuck, et al.,
1996; Shannon, Mayr & Haines, 1997). SH&E profes-
sionals need to explore whether their financial deci-
sion makers recognize the importance of these other
factors documented in the literature and identify
ways to bring these factors to their attention.
Results showed that about one-quarter of the
financial decision makers surveyed recognized the
need for safety engineers. It was also found that
decision makers from larger companies were more
likely to identify this need. The application of engi-
neering safety controls is recognized within the
SH&E profession as fundamental to ensuring occu-
pational safety. Therefore, it is important for SH&E
professionals to ensure that their financial managers
are fully informed about the importance of safety
engineers’ roles within an organization.
Overall, the findings of this study showed that
the financial decision makers of U.S. companies sur-
veyed recognized the importance of occupational
safety and the need for and benefits of occupational
safety interventions. While their reported percep-
tions of safety may not necessarily be the same as
those of the SH&E professional’s own company,
mine whether these areas are consistent
or whether discrepancies exist that need to
be addressed.
Since financial decision makers usually
focus on the financial impact of decisions,
providing actual financial evidence of the
impact of safety investment for their com-
panies can aid SH&E professionals in their
efforts to find ways to improve top-level
managers’ perceptions of the importance
of workplace safety. It has been shown that
safety professionals need to understand an
organization’s financial losses in order to
help senior management understand the
financial benefit the safety department
provides (Behm, Veltri & Kleinsorge, 2004;
LaBelle, 2000). To work more effectively
with other financial and operations man-
agement personnel, SH&E professionals
would benefit from becoming more famil-
iar with the common language of business
(Adams, 2002).
In terms of the best safety interventions,
the modification respondents mentioned
most often was to have more/better safety-focused
training. Corporate financial decision makers might
believe that training-related changes in workers
would have the greatest impact on safety or they
may think that safety training is less costly—and,
therefore, better—than other modifications. This may
also indicate that financial decision makers would
more readily support intervention proposals related
to safety training.
While it is good that these decision makers recog-
Responses Regarding Top Cause of WC Losses
Rank Frequency Percent Valid percent
1) Overexertion 74 32.0 34.4
2) Repetitive motion 29 12.6 13.5
3) Bodily reaction 25 10.8 11.6
4) Falling on the same level 19 8.2 8.8
5) Highway accidents 11 4.8 5.1
6) Falling from heights 6 2.6 2.8
7) Being struck by an object 5 2.2 2.3
8) Being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects 5 2.2 2.3
9) Carelessness, not paying attention 5 2.2 2.3
10) Cuts, abrasions, lacerations 5 2.2 2.3
11) Back injuries 4 1.7 1.9
12) Exposure to harmful substances or environment 2 0.9 0.9
13) Employees not adhering to safety regulations/policies 2 0.9 0.9
14) Bites, scratches 2 0.9 0.9
15) Contact with high/low temperature 1 0.4 0.5
16) We have not had any losses/claims for a while 5 2.2 2.3
17) Fraudulent claims 4 1.7 1.9
18) Other (e.g., knee injury, cumulative trauma disorder) 11 4.8 5.1
Number of responses to item 215 93.1 100.0
Number of no response 16 6.9
Total participants 231 100.0
Table 2
Table 2
While it is good
that these decision
makers recognize
the importance of
safety training
and programs, it
is also important
that they
understand the
importance of
other safety
interventions.
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name=CMInternet/Document/ShowDoc&c=Document.
Marsh, T., Davies, R., Phillips, R.A., et al. (1998). The role of
management commitment in determining the success of a behav-
knowing how financial executives in general per-
ceive safety priorities, concerns and other safety
issues creates an opportunity for expanding and
enriching the dialogue between SH&E professionals
and their financial decision makers.
Conclusion
Financial executives who were surveyed said that
the top benefits of an effective workplace safety pro-
gram were predominately financial in nature (e.g.,
increased productivity, reduced costs). This finding
should act as a reminder to SH&E professionals
about the perspective from which financial decision
makers view safety programs. Awareness of this per-
spective may help practitioners to better communi-
cate with their own organizations’ financial decision
makers. However, it also identifies an important
challenge for SH&E professionals—the need to com-
municate all of the important benefits of effective
safety programs to financial decision makers.
References
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Behm, M., Veltri, A. & Kleinsorge, I. (2004, Apr.). The cost of
Responses About Top Workplace Safety Concern
Rank Frequency Percent Valid percent
1) Overexertion 43 18.6 20.3
2) Repetitive motion 31 13.4 14.6
3) Highway accidents 27 11.7 12.7
4) Falling on the same level 21 9.1 9.9
5) Bodily reaction 12 5.2 5.7
6) Being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects 11 4.8 5.2
7) Exposure to harmful substances or environment 9 3.9 4.2
8) Falling from heights 8 3.5 3.8
9) Employee carelessness or lack of focus 7 3.0 3.3
10) Flu, disease, viruses, bacteria, infection 5 2.2 2.4
11) Creating a safe work environment 4 1.7 1.9
12) Cuts, abrasions, lacerations from needles, knives
or sharp object 4 1.7 1.9
13) Striking against an object 3 1.3 1.4
14) Workplace violence 3 1.3 1.4
15) Safety education and training 3 1.3 1.4
16) Being struck by an object 2 0.9 0.9
17) Contact with high voltage/electricity 2 0.9 0.9
18) Contact with high/low temperature 1 0.4 0.5
19) All concerns are equally important 2 0.9 0.9
20) No concerns 3 1.3 1.4
21) Other 11 4.8 5.2
Number of responses to item 212 91.8 100.0
Number of no response 19 8.2
Total participants 231 100.0
Table 3
Table 3
036_042_F2Huang_0409:Layout 1 3/11/2009 12:19 PM Page 41
42 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY APRIL 2009 www.asse.org
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19.9%
27.3%
21.1%
15.5%
5.0%
8.1%
0.6% 0.6% 1.2% 0.6%
0.0%
5.0%
10.0%
15.0%
20.0%
25.0%
30.0%
Percent of parcipants
Perceived indirect cost per dollar of direct cost (dollar)
Figure 1
Figure 1
Perceived Ratio of Direct Cost vs. Indirect Cost
Note. The average estimation of the ratio of direct cost versus indirect cost was $2.12 (SD = 1.9); the arrow indicates the
median score (the 50th percentile) ($2).
The 50th percentile
12.8%
26.7%
25.0%
14.0%
3.5%
8.7%
5.2%
0.6% 0.6% 0.6% 1.2% 1.2%
0.0%
5.0%
10.0%
15.0%
20.0%
25.0%
30.0%
Percent of parcipants
Perceived indirect cost per dollar of direct cost (dollar)
Figure 2
Figure 2
Perceived Dollar Return on Each Dollar
Spent Improving Workplace Safety
Note. The average perceived return on safety investment was $4.41 (SD = 12.0). The arrow indicates the median score (the
50th percentile) ($2).
The 50th percentile
Study
participants
recognized
that there are
indirect costs
in addition
to the direct
costs associ-
ated with
occupational
injuries and
that these
costs can be
substantially
larger than the
direct costs.
036_042_F2Huang_0409:Layout 1 3/11/2009 12:19 PM Page 42
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Financial management concepts: Mak-ing the bottom-line case for safety
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