Worker and workplace safety has improved significantly over the last century. Today most workplaces are very safe or perceived to be. However, what is safety? If we are evaluating the rate of workplace injury then we have truly and substantially improved. If the emotional well-being and out of workplace injuries are evaluated things are a little different from the talking points. The question is, when money is god, who cares about the safety or comfort of the worker? Does the emotional well-being of the employee matter?
The wall street mantra of greed is good as taken over the world. The latest talking point is that of developing a culture of safety. The platitudes are plentiful and melodic but what does it mean? I suggest that very few people actually understand what that means. The problem is that the people who know better have decided that profit is more important than employee well-being. We have become slaves to profits, while the creators of profit, the worker, is reduced to an item on the ledger. She is a liability and treated as such. The boss only requires she completes her tasks while using as few resources as possible. So, what does a culture of safety look and feel like?
I propose that employee satisfaction and workplace safety should be co-equal goals. However the current system is concerned more with reducing expense to the organization without concern for the individual. In such a system the employee who accomplishes her tasks without complaint is valued above all others. The safety measures adopted are usually those that increase her load and decrease the cost to the employer. In order for the system to be maximally safe she needs to be considered to be more than a fixture in the system. Her ability to work in comfort and with minimal distraction improves both safety and productivity.
I further suggest that neither can be achieved without the other. We can achieve a culture of safety and maximize productivity by empowering her to report safety concerns without risk to her employment. Her concerns should be objectively evaluated. She should be well rested and in a comfortable environment. Some methods to attain those goals are universal and include daily nap-time, secure childcare, incentives for improved lifestyle choices, access to quality health care and recreation. The typical response is that, that kind of system will be too expensive to create and will be abused. That argument is only valid if her well-being is of no concern.
The current excess of labor allows the employee to be treated as a commodity without intrinsic value. Employers who treat their employees with respect and consideration will retain loyal hardworking productive employees. Treating employees like sentient beings provides excellent rewards. The value of productive and loyal employees should not be underestimated.