By Mari-Len De Guzman
In these tough economic times it is understandably very difficult to stay positive in the midst of widespread layoffs, home foreclosures and bankruptcy reports. It’s also very easy to lose sight of what’s most important, as families try harder to make ends meet and businesses struggle to stay afloat in this financial tsunami.
If the results of a recent COS Reader Panel survey are any indication, the doom and gloom, fortunately has had very little effect on Canadian organizations’ safety programs, so far. Despite cost-cutting measures, safety remains an important priority among many companies, as evidenced by a large percentage of our survey respondents saying that safety budgets have generally remained at a status quo despite this recession.
But that half-filled glass is terribly in danger of looking half-empty. If this downturn continues to wreak economic havoc and claim more victims, companies could start to lose sight of the future – one that promises an end to this recession – and start making cutbacks that can have lasting repercussions.
A survey saying everything is fine on the safety management side of things is great, but workplace safety leaders must continue to be the advocates and keep the company focused on the prevention big picture. This recession will eventually pass, but companies cannot put safety programs on hold while they wait out the recession. It just doesn’t make moral and economical sense.
It doesn’t make sense morally because the risks to worker safety do not go away in an economic recession or growth. It doesn’t make economic sense, either, because OHS enforcers and prosecutors don’t just let companies off the hook during economic hardships. In fact, the Ministry of Labour would likely be paying even more attention to ensure that companies are not making undue concessions to their OHS programs and policies and putting workers at risk to cut costs.
In these hard times it is tough to stay on course, but we have to. We can’t dwell on the past or mull over our present situation. Rather, let’s stay focused on the future and move forward with our goal of injury prevention and worker protection. In these tough times, our most effective resource will come from our own conviction. Creative and positive thinking can help put things into perspective.
A good friend of mine, Andrew Ballenthin, recently started a very simple but inspiring initiative that aims to beat the recession blues, by encouraging people (through the power of social networking) to tell their good news stories. It’s allowing people and businesses, through a blog that Andrew started a couple of months ago (http://communitymarketing.typepad.com/), to tell their own good news and how they’re turning this recession into an opportunity. These good news stories are reaching over one million online professionals globally and are helping to spread positive vibes in the midst of negative outlooks.
Not a bad idea and not exactly a new concept to the safety community, either. Isn’t that what OHS thought leaders have been advocating as sound OHS policy? Effective safety management involves a positive working environment that encourages people to share ideas and look ahead to a future with no more injuries.
Turning a near-miss incident into an opportunity for risk management and to prevent future mishap, is like acknowledging this recession as an opportunity to let us plan and implement better economic policies for the future.
Mari-Len De Guzman is the former editor of Canadian Occupational Safety magazine and www.cos-mag.com.