How Can You Maintain Cost-Effective Safety?

workers discussing safety

In times of resource constraint it can be difficult to work out where to put limited financial and human resources to get the biggest bang for buck (pardon the pun) in safety.

A lot of the safety initiatives that companies put in place rely more on faith and a vain hope that all the initiatives or measures implemented will achieve the safety goal we are chasing.

Thankfully, there has been some scientific research into the cost-effectiveness of various elements of safety programs by Matthew Hallowell (University of Colorado) and John Gambatese ((Oregon State University).

To find out what worked and what didn’t the researchers analysed the relative contributions of a number of safety initiatives, with some programs and initiatives that safety managers and companies hold dear not generating much safety at all.

In order of importance for their effects on safety, their results are outlined below:

1.Upper Management Support. This involves the explicit consideration of safety as a primary goal of the business. This commitment can be demonstrated by upper management participating actively in regular safety meetings, serving on safety committees and providing financial and human resources for safety equipment and initiatives.

2. Sub-Contractor Selection and Management. This requires the consideration of safety performance during the selection process. Contractors with a demonstrable ability to perform work safely should be considering during the selection process.

3. Worker Involvement in Safety Evaluation. This includes such things as performing Job Hazard Analysis (JHA), Tool Box Talks, Safety Inspections. For this to work, it should be driven by the workforce (bottom-up) not management (top-down).

4. Job Hazard Analysis. This encompasses the review of activities associated with work and identifying potential hazard exposures that may lead to injury.

5. Training and Regular Safety Meetings. These aim to establish and communicate work-specific safety goals, plans and policies before the start of the work project.

6. Frequent Work Site Inspections. These help identify uncontrolled hazard exposures to workers or violations of safety standards and regulations and unsafe behaviour of workers.

7. Safety Manager On-Site. The primary role of the safety manager is to perform, direct and monitor the implementation of safety initiatives and to serve as a subject matter expert (SME) for workers.

8. Substance Abuse Programs. This targets the identification and prevention of substance abuse. Testing is a critical component of this initiatives. Consequences of failure should necessarily vary between industries.


9. Safety Committees. These should be made up of supervisors, practitioners, workers, contractor representatives, owner representatives and safety consultants with the sole purpose of addressing the safety of work performed.


10. Safety Orientation/Induction. This is the site/business specific orientation and training of all new workers and contractors.


11. Written Safety Plan. This serves as the foundation for an effective safety program and must include documentation of work-specific safety goals/objectives and methods of achieving success.


12. Record-Keeping and Incident/Accident Analysis. This involves documenting and reporting the specifics of incidents and accidents. It should also include the analysis of accident data to reveal trends or weak-points.


13. Emergency Response Planning. This may be required by business owners, insurers and regulators and involves the creation of a plan in case of a serious accident or incident. Planning for emergencies can make the difference between an accident and a catastrophic event.


The results indicate that the most cost-effective safety initiatives/elements are upper management support and commitment and sub-contractor selection and management. The least-cost effective elements are the employment of a full-time safety manager and record keeping.

The research also highlights that the most effective safety initiatives have considerable worker involvement and employ the bottom-up approach to safety, which is consistent with research into high-performing and resilient teams and business’.

This information is presented to enable business’ to direct limited financial and human resources strategically, based on the best safety outcomes for the resource commitment.

If you would like to know more or would like our assistance in the areas mentioned check us out at Alternately, call us on 1300 990 336 or email us at [email protected]

author avatar
Brendan Day Chief Executive Officer
Brendan Day, based in Sydney, is a WHS and Emergency Management expert with a rich background in emergency services, including significant experience as a military firefighter, emergency responder, and emergency response manager. His career spans across both public and private sector roles, where he has developed and implemented comprehensive WHS management and Emergency Management systems. As the CEO and Principle Trainer at Intrinsic Safety, Brendan combines his military discipline with modern safety practices, offering advanced training in workplace health, fire safety, confined spaces, height safety and first aid. His qualifications, including a Diploma of Work Health and Safety, reflect his commitment to safety excellence and continuous improvement in emergency response management and safety practices.
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