The European Process Safety Centre (EPSC) has cited an international study on the impact which economic recession has made on safety performance, focusing particularly on the human causes of accidents. The study reveals that there is a direct link between economic downturn and occupational health and safety performance.
Three points are relevant to the ‘problem’ in the chemical and process industries:
1. Difficult market conditions can lead to reduced investment in ‘prevention’ measures or an unwillingness among employees to demand safety spending. This may result in greater risk in the period of recovery.
2. A ‘stressful’ working environment where employers and employees are more concerned with ‘having a job’ potentially leading to greater rates of accidents with human causes.
3. During recession, lower levels of activity can lead to lower rates of accident, so during a recovery and return to high levels of activity an increase in risk should be expected and compensated for.
Failure in the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases cannot be excused on the basis of economic restrictions. Successful and effective prevention is often a result of strong management commitment and effective social dialogue at enterprise level.
Positive change can be introduced without major financial commitment, and the initial investment, for example, in safety training and protective equipment is recouped when prevention strategies begin to pay off, as less work-related accidents are expected to result in lower production costs, reduced absenteeism, leading to higher motivation and productivity.
Examples of incentives requiring low capital investment resulting in ‘high gains’ and ‘quick wins’ include:
1. Simplified ‘health check’ of current protection systems
2. Simplified behaviour based safety programmes
3. Simplified auditing and inspection programmes
4. Simplified communication and observation reporting systems
5. Rapid gap analysis of effectiveness of policies and procedures
If you wish to examine you own organisations process safety management systems and culture and require practical solutions to maintain a safe plant during the current economic downturn please contact Pilz for an executive summary of our consulting service. We would be happy to discuss how we can assist in any way.
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