Getting the Budget for Safety Training and EHS Initiatives

Putting money in the safety box

The cost of safety training can seem huge. There’s the price tag on the training. There’s the loss of productivity for the amount of time workers spend in safety training sessions. And there’s often a fair amount of indirect administrative expenses, including the time it takes safety folks to prepare and deliver the training. All told, the sizeable price tag on safety training can make it easy for decision-makers to delay implementing new training programs due to financial considerations.

And that’s bad news for safety managers who want to try a new training provider or are among the growing number of EHS professionals interested in rolling out a human error reduction program. There are several ways to demonstrate the value of adopting a new approach. From pointing out that injuries are more expensive than they initially look on paper to building a consensus among organizational leadership, here is how to get approval for your next safety initiative.

What-if scenarios and the cost of doing nothing

There is a strong moral argument to be made for doing what it takes to save lives and keep workers healthy (not to mention the fact that some safety training is mandated by law). However, some stakeholders need an extra nudge in order to agree to purchase and schedule safety training and, in many cases, the most compelling case is to present the financial benefit of such investment.

Compare the cost of waiting to the cost of proceeding. Provide what-if scenarios that will resonate with company leadership. If someone is injured, not only is it a sad day for safety at a worksite, but it will negatively affect your finances, production, quality, teamwork, morale, etc. Cite known examples of problems that occurred in the past with temp worker performance or how long it took a new worker to get up to speed.

As this guide on safety conferences points out, a single serious injury could cost a business upwards of $100,000. OSHA has a $afety Pays calculator that estimates the cost of different types of workplace injuries. It quickly makes clear that the medical and other compensation costs of injuries are quite large. And when you add indirect costs of lost-time injuries the financial ramifications are staggering.

The next time you have to present how much money and downtime it will take to facilitate safety training, also provide numbers on how much it will cost if training is delayed or, worse, not conducted at all. If all members of management understand that there is a cost to doing nothing, they’ll be more likely to decide to invest in more safety training.

Prioritize initiatives and learning outcomes

Find the leverage points or step changes in performance so people can see the value of the new initiative. If a new program you implemented was evidently successful, you will have more chance of securing funding for another one. Or, if you haven’t implemented any such programs yet, cite successes in similar companies. People are competitive. If a competitor (or even a partner) achieves better results by implementing certain safety programs, stakeholders will be more willing to consider similar paths.

Look for the next big improvement opportunity. If you’ve done a fair bit in creating safe, compliant conditions and haven’t done much with improving safe behaviors, that would be a great new opportunity for growth.

This might mean searching for a  training program that can improve safety awareness and workers’ ability to make safer decisions in real time. But it’s worth the effort—higher-ups at your company are more likely to be impressed with training that has crossover benefits and offers new learning outcomes. After all, getting people excited about doing the same old thing again will always be more difficult than getting them excited about something different.

Highlight the relevance

Ensure safety training goals are aligned with company objectives and employees’ agendas and help make the connection by painting a picture for the people you need approval from. Everyone knows that investing in safety pays dividends through cost savings. They also know protecting people is the right thing to do morally. But they may not recognize that safety is the key to unlocking performance improvements. Give stakeholders simple but impactful examples of what it would look like if people were more focused, motivated, and made fewer mistakes.

Be prepared to strike when the iron is hot

Safety professionals certainly aren’t the stereotypical “ambulance chasers”, but they should be aware of Bloomberg’s CRIC Cycle. In short, safety folks need to plan ahead before a crisis or injury occurs and should be ready to respond with an action plan for improvement after a major incident happens. This is typically how most businesses operate: a crisis provides an urgency to make improvements, and after improvements are made complacency sets in until the next crisis arises.

Asking for a budget when there doesn’t seem to be a problem is both the best and the worst of times to get approval. It’s the best time to do something proactively to prevent the next incident, but the worst time to get people’s attention and budget. You’ll need to make two convincing cases during these times—why the initiative is important and why now is the time, not after the next crisis. If your pleas fall on deaf ears then don’t throw out your plans, and be sure to shelve them within reach so that you’re prepared for when the next issue arises.

Build support

Get more people involved to help solve the problem. Few (if any) corporate decisions are made unilaterally. Most businesses rely heavily on the leadership group to weigh the pros and cons of major financial decisions—and that includes deciding whether to purchase a new safety program. In part, this is to distribute the responsibility for decision-making across a diverse group of people. It also allows companies to ensure that any decisions will have a positive effect on multiple areas of the business.

When it comes to requesting money for safety training, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who in your organization will benefit from this training?
  • Who is good at making the business case for new initiatives?
  • Who is good at finding solutions to logistical problems?
  • How will this safety initiative further the company’s goals?

Figure out what’s in it for each stakeholder in your company, from production managers to sales leaders. Talk to them. Build support. Make sure they understand how fewer injuries mean smoother operations and a better product. Get them on board with the training so that when the CEO asks whether the initiative is worth it, they’ll have your back.

Close the loop for future credibility

Often, safety pros will fight for budget, get it, do the training and think their job is done. Then, when it comes to the next safety initiative, they’re faced with the same uphill battle to get budget again.

Avoid starting from zero with each budget request by closing the loop on every single safety-related purchase.  Present measurable results and quantifiable ROI to management with the goal of communicating results from each initiative in order to build credibility and trust. That way when the next safety improvement comes around, upper management will be more inclined to listen.

This can be a long process, as it can take months (or even years) to see a decrease in injuries as a result of an investment in safety. While you’re waiting for safety data to roll in, take a look at other areas that may have potentially benefited. Is there better PPE compliance? More near-miss reports submitted? Are there any anecdotal stories from workers about the training preventing an incident? Some safety initiatives, such as human error reduction training, can even improve productivity and quality—so cast a wide net when looking to let company leadership know how effective the training was.

Securing a budget for a new safety endeavor can be challenging. If you’ve already got a training provider or safety consultant selected then ask them for resources and advice. Chances are they’ve faced this type of challenge before with other clients. And if you’re still considering what your next initiative should be, look for a safety program that can provide support in getting financial buy-in and that checks off a number of the boxes above. Because addressing these budget-related issues can be the difference between status quo and taking the next big step in safety training.