7 Ways to Save on Safety (Part 1 of 3)

In this economic climate, saving money is of utmost importance. However, when it comes to safety

  • How do you economize without sacrificing your employee's wellbeing?
  • How can you develop and maintain a great culture of safety while still focusing on the bottom line?

This is a tightrope walk that every safety professional has to manage - even in a good economy. Many of the ways that you can save money are focused on long term goals, rather than short term savings. Short fixes may help meet this month's budget, but will leave you facing the same issues next month, next year, etc... A combination of short and long term solutions should leave you moving in the right direction today, while helping you obtain future goals within budgetary constraints. Here are a few ideas that should point you in the right direction:

1. Keep a Close Eye on the Lifetime Cost of Your Safety Solution

In addition to the purchase price you need to consider the following costs

  • maintenance how much time do I need to spend taking care of this product?
  • training how much training time is required to use this product?
  • usage how much time does it take the worker to use this solution (e.g. setup, teardown)?
  • productivity how is the workers efficiency effected by the solution?

 

Option A Inexpensive Harness and Anchor Point. ($)

Purchase the least expensive fix for a fall protection hazard: This usually means an inexpensive penetrating anchor point, a low end harness, and a simple lanyard. You may, depending on your scenario, be able to spend only a couple hundred dollars "fixing" the solution.

However, what is the "lifetime cost"?

  • First of all, that penetrating anchor point will need to be installed (time).
  • It will also need to be maintained to ensure that leaks don't form at the penetrations (time).
  • The lanyard that you purchased may be suitable for that anchor point, but it is a fixed length that will restrict its usability on other/future scenarios - leaving you in a position to have to purchase other solutions in the future (time and money).
  • Lastly, that "cheap" harness that you purchased may be OSHA or ANSI compliant, but does it allow the worker to move efficiently? Because there is no elasticity to the harness, the worker may be uncomfortable, have a limited range of motion, and perhaps even wear the harness too loosely - potentially causing injuries that could have been avoided.

In total, you saved money on the initial purchase, but will have these additional costs:

Cost:

  • Required daily inspections,
  • workers working slowly,
  • required maintenance,
  • limited re-usability,
  • training and retraining,
  • greatest risk of injury, and
  • high insurance costs.
  • There is also a management cost - keeping log books up to date, documenting training, verifying proper use, etc...
  • Lastly, these products do not last forever - most have a maximum lifespan of 5 years or until they fail a daily inspection - whichever comes first. Less expensive products typically wear faster than their higher quality counterparts.

Option B Non Penetrating Anchor Point and a High End Harness ($$)

Purchase a "better" fix for a fall protection hazard. This time, you purchase a non-invasive anchor point (one that does not penetrate the roof, steel, or concrete - and can be reused), a rope-grab lifeline (an adjustable lifeline that can keep you from reaching the roofs edge), and a comfortable, midlevel harness. This option, depending on your scenario, may be only slightly to significantly more expensive.

However, what is the "lifetime cost"?

  • First of all, your anchor point will not need to be maintained - only inspected.
  • Your lifeline will give workers tremendous flexibility on the distance they want to be able to move from the anchor point. This will provide flexibility for use in many different scenarios, as well as allowing workers to limit their ability to reach the fall hazard - thus preventing them from ever taking a tumble in the first place.
  • The harness will allow for increased comfort and motion. This will translate into a faster worker who has a better range of motion, and will wear the harness tighter (which is safer) - not to mention he/she will be more content complying to your safety standards.

In total, you spent more money, but reduced "lifetime costs".

Cost:

  • daily inspections,
  • training,
  • moderate insurance costs,
  • and moderate working speed for employees.
  • You will also still have the same management responsibilities as the cheaper solution, but will hopefully not need to spend as much time verifying proper use and encouraging workers to wear equipment properly.

Savings:

  • Workers will work faster,
  • increased flexibility with other/future sites,
  • lower risk of injury, and lower insurance costs.
  • Also, workers will be happier and more interested in the safety culture that you are trying to build.

Option C Install a Passive Guardrail Solution ($$$)

Purchase the "best" fix for a fall protection hazard. This time, you purchase a railing system (non-penetrating if possible). Out of pocket costs will probably be highest with this option, but lifetime costs will be lowest. This is by far the safest solution for most scenarios and will take the least amount of thought and energy once installed. This option eliminates the need for daily inspections, training, and worker interaction. Simply put, a worker will not need to think about the fall hazard at all. Let's look at the cost vs. savings for this option:

Cost:

  • If you purchase a lower end railing (one that is not galvanized or penetrates the surface), you will have some maintenance costs.
  • No matter what type of railing you purchase, You will also need to inspect the railing yearly.

Savings:

  • Workers in this scenario will work fastest and be unencumbered.
  • Almost no management responsibilities, training, or maintenance (again, if you purchased a good railing).
  • Your insurance costs will be lowest and you will have the lowest potential for injury.
  • Workers will appreciate not needing to navigate fall hazards - because the hazards will already be prevented.
  • There are also ways to save on the initial purchase - we will cover that later.

Summary

Hopefully, what I have been able to communicate is that increased initial cost can translate into longer term value to your company and your workers alike.  As we continue this series I will explore even more ways you can navigate the safety vs. cost tightrope. 

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