It is too early to know how it happened, why it happened, or what caused it. However, what we do know, as of this posting, is that 14 bodies have been recovered, 60 people are unaccounted for, 200 people have been injured, and 50 homes have been destroyed in the fire and explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas.
What we also know as the U.S. Department of Labor reported in 2011, nearly 6,000
people died from workplace accidents, with over 50, 000 workers injured, costing American business an estimated 155 billion dollars. Workplace safety is more than just a Texas issue–it is an American issue. Wherever we work, at a factory, a call center or a fast food restaurant, there is much we can do to ensure our safety.
Julie and Don Rosenthal own an auto body shop in Maryland. After a rash of workplace accidents which included:
- 20 technicians being injured in various mishaps
- A delivery driver hurt in a crash and,
- An expensive, totally unexpected, workers compensation claim from an accounts receivable clerk suffering from carpal tunnel.
This stream of mayhem was a severe disruption to the business. Julie and Don’s insurance rates when up as the productivity of the workers and product quality went down. Customer satisfaction declined and predictable so did revenue.
Something had to change quickly, or the business that Julie and Don spent a lifetime building would close its doors and its 120 employees would be out of work. The Rosenthal’s enlisted the help of a workplace safety consultant to rethink and reinvent the company’s approach to all aspects of its operations with employee safety at the forefront. A decade later the Rosenthal’s reinvention has produced remarkable results:
- A 90% reduction in workplace accidents
- A return to 100% customer satisfaction
- 10 consecutive years of increasing profits
So how did they do it? The Rosenthal’s formula for success was simple–implementation of the following 5 steps to improve workplace safety:
- A focus on workplace safety driven from the top down
- Development of a workplace safety philosophy to eliminate fraud while fueling a safety culture
- An employee and employer partnership and communication plan designed to keep everyone safe
- A proactive discovery of potential workplace safety issues
- A commitment to consistent improvement using metrics to measure success
The unfortunate events in Texas remind us again that safety in the workplace can’t be taken for granted. The procedure not followed, the short cut taken, the regulation skirted, can lead to injury or, even death. The West tragedy demands our increased vigilance regarding safety…. because workplace safety is more than a Texas-sized issue, it is an American issue…..because every American worker deserves a safe workplace.
Marben Bland is a speaker and writer with a commitment to a safe work environment. To comment about this post write Marben at: email@example.com