Reducing the cost of safety measures

Economically speaking, you can view safety in many ways. I believe we’re starting to turn the corner in this way of thinking. As with many areas of the business, there’s usually still a request to help reduce the cost of safety.

Personally, I’ve been asked to reduce safety costs at a couple of different companies now. In my experience, the best way to make an immediate impact is to look at the items you have direct control over.

In this post, I won’t cover well-known areas of safety cost reduction, such as lowering incident rates.

Instead, I’ll discuss some of the cost-cutting measures I’ve looked into, the top improvements you can make to lower costs, and the most efficient ways to implement them.

Outsourcing areas of the operation

If you need to cut safety costs, start by looking at where you’re currently spending your money. For each expense, ask yourself how necessary it is to the success of your operation.

I’ve come across many businesses that have spent a good deal of money outsourcing tasks. Outsourcing can be a good choice for tasks that take a long time or a lot of resources to complete. But it can be rather expensive, especially for daily tasks that you can complete internally.

There are some businesses that outsource everything from permit compliance reporting to monthly training topics. And all that outsourcing adds up quickly.

For each area you outsource, you need to take a hard look at what you’re getting for your investment. The goal is to find areas where you can do the work in-house instead.

Some areas you could potentially internalize include:

Safety training: Can you produce compliant virtual training options if someone can’t go in person?

Environmental permit compliance: Can you collect your own samples, review site compliance, perform audits, etc.?

Environmental reporting: Would it cost less to hire an employee to handle your environmental reports?

Industrial hygiene tasks: Would renting or purchasing the equipment need to perform these tasks be less expensive than outsourcing?

Cost of consumables

One major area where I’ve been able to reduce the cost of safety significantly is with PPE or other consumable products.

I’m not saying to restrict employees from getting proper protection at all. In fact, I’m talking about doing the opposite. I’ve been able to get employees upgraded PPE while saving the company money at the same time.

How do you do this?

You start by seeing how much you’re spending on each item.

Shop like you’re spending your own money.

At one company I worked for, we had free flowing bins of safety glasses. Employees could come in and get them whenever they wanted without accountability. Yes, they were a cheaper style, but the usage was high. It was hard to see how many pairs of safety glasses each employee was going through, but I knew how much we were spending.

After conducting random employee surveys, I realized that the average worker was using 3 pairs a week! I upgraded their safety glasses to a nicer pair and placed an accountability system of one pair per month from the company PPE vending machine.

If a worker needed an additional pair, they could go to a supervisor. This accomplished a couple of different things.

  1. Employees took better care of the safety glasses because they were viewed as nicer.
  2. Employees had to go to a supervisor if they forgot them or damaged them.
  3. If glasses were damaged at work, we could deep dive into how that happened and mitigate the issue.

You can take any item you regularly purchase and investigate similar cost reduction tactics to increase morale while decreasing cost.

Free template!

Use this equipment inventory template to record all the supplies you have so you don’t overspend in any category.

Vendor services

The last area I will cover, and possibly one of the easiest ways you can reduce costs is to revisit your vendor contracts. Some vendors will come out for no charge and do a PPE assessment to help save you money. Sounds ironic, but they will do it to get your business.

For example, the company Magid Glove claims to have helped a manufacturing company cut glove spend in half by involving employee input to reduce from six glove styles to just one.

They’re not the only vendor that provides services at no cost which can help reduce your expenses quickly. And all the while, you’re improving morale by getting workers involved in the process.

Additionally, if you’re not purchasing your PPE in bulk, check your vendor’s rates to see what savings you can get from them in the bulk market.

Just to recap, the areas we covered to reduce the cost of safety include: outsourcing expenses, improving your use and purchase of consumables, and reviewing your vendors to find good deals and opportunities.

While you should always strive to reduce incident rates, you must assess all areas of your safety program to minimize waste. Tackling these areas of spend will definitely help you towards reducing your budget without sacrificing on quality of care for your workers.

Jason Hathcoat

Jason is a seasoned EHS professional with more than 17 years of experience working in health and safety. He currently works as an EHS manager for a large global HVAC company.