Course 701 - Effective Safety Committee Operations

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Developing Effective Recommendations

Convincing Management

Make an offer they can't refuse

Once you have developed effective engineering and administrative controls, the challenge becomes convincing management to make changes. Management will most likely understand the importance of taking corrective action and readily agree with your ideas.

However, if management doesn't understand the benefits, success becomes less likely. Your ability to present effective recommendations becomes all that more important.

This module will help you learn how to put together "an offer they can't refuse" by emphasizing the corrective action's long-term bottom-line benefits.

Why Decision-makers Don't Respond Quickly

When recommendations are not acted upon, it is usually because the decision-maker does not have enough information to decide. To speed up the process and improve the approval rate, you must anticipate the questions decision-makers will ask. The more pertinent the information included in the presentation is, the higher the odds are for approval.

1. Why do decision-makers fail sometimes to act on safety committee recommendations?

a. They think it will cost too much
b. They're too busy to bother with safety
c. They don't really care about safety
d. They don't have enough information

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Six Key Questions

Let's review the scenario introduced in Module 6. We'll use this scenario to make some effective recommendations for corrective action. We want to make sure this accident never happens again. You'll do this by reviewing the accident scenario and answering six key questions.

With the information gained, you will conclude the investigation by writing a recommendation. Your job is to convince me (the decision-maker) that your ideas make sense... and I'm busy, so make it good!


Safety Committee
Unguarded rotating drum with nip points.

Bob was a new hire employee working as a clean-up person in the finish department of XYZ, Inc's particleboard plant.

On his first day of work, he received an initial classroom orientation on company policies from the personnel department.

He was also introduced to his new supervisor, who gave him a walk-around tour of the plant.

Since his supervisor didn't have time to fully brief Bob on his new job, he was then given some simple initial duties to accomplish.

He was busy cleaning up around the floor under the return belt of a conveyor connected to a large piece of machinery and noticed a jammed piece of wood. He removed a guard covering pinch points on the conveyor belt and reached in to remove the wood.

Bob's glove got caught in the return drum nip point, and he was drawn into the machinery. Bob's hand was severely injured and required surgery.

XYZ, Inc. has a mod rate of 1.5, which is worse than average for the industry. Unfortunately, this incident was not a total surprise to the company. Most of their OSHA 300 Log recordable accidents have resulted from injuries to employees within their first six months on the job.

Answer the following six questions to help develop and justify recommendations.

1. What exactly is the problem?

  • Surface causes. What are the specific hazardous conditions and unsafe work practices that caused the problem?
  • Root causes. What are system components - the inadequate design or implementation of safety management programs, policies, plans, processes, procedures, and general practices that allowed the conditions and behaviors to exist?

Continue on to the next section to answer the rest of the six questions.

2. Reaching into an unguarded conveyor belt would be described as _____ of the injury in an accident report.

a. an indirect cause
b. a root cause
c. an unsafe result
d. a surface cause

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Six Key Questions (Continued)

2. What is the history of the problem?

If you want to get approval, be sure to have answers to management's questions.

Have similar accidents occurred previously? If so, you should be able to claim that the probability for similar accidents is highly likely to certain. What are previous direct and indirect costs for similar accidents? How have similar accidents affected production and morale?

  • Describe how it has affected direct, budgeted or insured costs related to past injuries or illnesses.
  • How has it affected costs (indirect, unbudgeted or uninsured) related to loss of efficiency and employee morale?

3. What are the solutions that would correct the problem?

What are the specific engineering, administrative, and PPE controls that, when applied, will eliminate or at least reduce exposure to hazardous conditions? What are the specific system improvements needed to ensure a long-term fix?

The recommendation. For this scenario, assume the safety committee recommends developing a new safety training program for maintenance employees and supervisors. The program includes electrical safety, machine guarding safety, and the control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout) training. It will also include the training for an in-house trainer. The estimated investment for the recommendation is $10,000.

4. Who is the decision-maker?

Who is the decision-maker: the person who can approve, authorize, and act on the corrective measures? What are the possible objections that he/she might have? What are the arguments that will be most effective in overcoming objections?

3. Who should most appropriately receive your recommendations for corrective action?

a. The safety committee chairperson
b. The safety director
c. The decision-maker

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Six Key Questions (Continued)

Why employers do safety.

5. What motivates the decision-maker?

It's important to know what is motivating the decision-maker. Is the decision-maker involved in safety to fulfill one or more of the following imperatives?

  • Fulfill the legal obligation? You may need to emphasize possible penalties if corrections are not made. Common in a fear-driven culture.
  • Fulfill the financial obligation? You may want to emphasize the costs/benefits. Common in an achievement-driven culture.
  • Fulfill the social obligation? You may want to emphasize improved morale, public relations. Common in a humane corporate culture.

Employer motivation will determine the nature of the objections to the recommendations you submit. What are possible objections the decision-maker might raise? Whatever they might be, you must understand their motivations to be better prepared with responses that satisfy the decision-maker's needs.

  • List the possible decision-maker objections.
  • List the arguments that are most likely to be successful against those objections.
  • Review employer obligations under administrative law.

4. Which employer safety obligation emphasizes the costs and benefits of safety?

a. The legal obligation
b. The financial obligation
c. The social obligation
d. The employee obligation

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Six Key Questions (Continued)

6. What will be the cost/benefits of corrective actions and system improvements?

Good managers weigh the risk against the benefits.
  • What are the costs that might result if/when OSHA inspects? Answer this question to address the legal obligation your employer has.
  • What is the estimated investment required to take corrective action, and how does that contrast with the possible costs if corrective actions are not taken? Answer this question to address the fiscal obligation your employer has.
  • What are the "messages" sent to the workforce and the community due to action or inaction? Answer this question to address the social obligation your employer has.

It's important to have the answers to all of these questions ready for the decision-maker.

The maintenance supervisor may be able to help you estimate the investment required for recommended corrective actions.

Below are some additional ideas for you to consider.

  • These options must also eliminate or reduce the hazards and exposures.
  • Try to include at least three (real world) but only one or two for this exercise.
  • Briefly list low/high-cost solutions that eliminate the problem now/soon.
  • Briefly list low/high-cost solutions that reduce the problem now/soon.
  • Briefly list the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.

5. When recommending corrective actions, why is it important to answer the question, "What are the costs that might result if/when OSHA inspects?"

a. Helps to educate the employer on enforcement
b. Gives decision-maker control over the corrective action
c. To inform the employer about the social imperatives
d. It helps the employer to understand the legal consequences of inaction

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Estimating Total Accident Costs

Safety committees should promote the idea that substantial savings in estimated future accident costs may be realized if management approves the recommendation. To do that, you would cite cost estimates for the accident cited in the report and use that total as a baseline estimate for future savings if a similar accident occurs. You should include two categories of accident costs in the recommendation: insured-direct costs and uninsured-indirect costs.

  1. Insured-direct costs: These costs are usually covered by insurance premiums. They represent just the "tip of the iceberg."
  2. Uninsured-indirect costs: These are the underlying costs the employer pays for, usually "out of pocket," for consequences not covered by insured-direct costs. They represent the part of the iceberg under water that you don't see, and like the iceberg, the cost are always greater.

Click on the button to see a list of examples of direct and indirect costs.

Direct costs are usually insured and include:

Accident Costs

Direct-insured costs include:

  • injured worker's wages during injury;
  • workers' compensation payments;
  • medical treatment expenses, and
  • costs for insured legal services.

Uninsured-indirect costs include:

  • wages paid to injured workers for absences not covered by workers' compensation;
  • cost of wages related to time lost through work stoppage associated with the worker injury;
  • overtime costs necessitated by the injury;
  • administrative time spent by supervisors, safety personnel, and clerical workers after an injury;
  • training/retraining costs for a replacement workers;
  • lost productivity related to work rescheduling, new employee learning curves, and accommodation of injured employees;
  • damaged equipment and materials clean-up, repair, and replacement;
  • costs of accident investigations
  • OSHA fines and any associated legal action;
  • employer-paid medical, third-party liability, and legal costs;
  • worker pain and suffering; and
  • loss of reputation and goodwill from bad publicity.

Remember our scenario? Let's get a rough estimate of the total accident costs associated with Bob's hand injury (fracture requiring surgery) while working around the machinery. Suppose the uninsured-indirect accident cost totals around $40,000, and the insured-direct (insured) cost is about $60,000. The total cost will be estimated at $100,000 which will, ultimately, be paid by the employer.

So, now the question is, how much will the employer save in the future by investing now? We'll answer that question in the next section.

6. What can safety committees use to best emphasize the savings the company may realize if they approve a recommendation?

a. Total cost-savings estimates for future accidents
b. Increased workers' compensation premiums
c. Higher experience modification rates
d. Loss of production estimates

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Return on the Investment (ROI)

So, how much will the employer save in the future by approving your recommendation now? To answer that question we need to determine the return on the investment (ROI). The ROI answers the question, "If the investment prevents a future accident, how much money will we ultimately save in terms of additional sales that we would otherwise have to generate to cover the total costs of the accident?

To determine ROI, you will usually be given a simple formula. You'll be told that for every dollar invested in safety, you'll save between $2 and $6 in the future. That's probably true, but it is a simplistic response that does not accurately tell the employer what the real savings are: To do that, you need to know how hard the company works to pay for the costs of accidents. The biggest factor in determining ROI is your company's profit margin (at least in the private sector). That's why we include the company's profit margin in our formula for determining ROI. Let's look at the step-by-step process for determining ROI.

Reference the graphic below. To determine the ROI in terms of business volume (sales), it's necessary to:

  1. Estimate the total additional sales required to cover the accident costs: If the company in our scenario has a 10% profit margin, it must commit a staggering 10X the future total accident costs ($100,000), or $1 million in additional sales to cover the total accident costs.
  2. Estimate the savings in additional sales if the recommendation is approved: Subtract the amount of the recommended investment ($10,000) from the total additional sales ($1 million) required to cover a future similar accident to determine total savings in business volume ($990,000).
  3. Estimate the return on investment (ROI): A recommended investment of $10,000 and a savings of $990,000 in additional sales will give you an ROI as a percentage of ($990,000/$10,000) x 100 = 9,900%

7. To determine how much money a company will ultimately save by investing in safety improvements, you would estimate the _____.

a. direct accident costs (DAC)
b. return on investment (ROI)
c. indirect accident costs (IAC)
d. long-term cost of doing business (CODB)

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.


Making Recommendations - CSB

Check out this interesting video safety message discussing the role that the CSB recommendations program plays in ensuring that the Board's accident investigations have a lasting impact on industrial safety. The principles will apply to your recommendations as well.

Next Module

Updated 4/19/2022
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