Once you have developed solutions that describe engineering and/or administrative controls to eliminate or reduce injuries/illnesses, the next task is to convince or persuade management to make changes: that's the goal of the good recommendation. You may perceive corrective actions as immediate needs, but management may see them as planned events. Your challenge is to help them develop informed perceptions.
Most likely, management will understand the importance of taking corrective action and readily agree to your recommendations. However, if your management team doesn't quite understand the benefits derived from an aggressive proactive approach to workplace safety, the likelihood of success decreases. If that's the case where you work, the ability to present effective recommendations is all that more important. This module will help you learn how to present "an offer they can't refuse," by emphasizing the long-term bottom-line benefits of the solutions you are recommending.
It's important to write effective recommendations so that the decision-maker enough information to make a good decision. To speed up the process and to improve the approval rate, you must learn to anticipate the questions that the decision-maker will ask in order to sign off on the requested change. This being the case, the more pertinent information you can include in the presentation, the more likely the recommendation will be approved. Remember, the primary purpose of a recommendation is to persuade.
To develop effective recommendations, perform the following key steps:
Based on the work you did in the problem-solving phase, you should be able to write a clear statement of the problem. The decision-maker must be able to clearly understand exactly what the problem is. Be sure you describe:
Surface causes: Are the hazardous conditions and related unsafe behaviors that have directly or indirectly caused an accident. Hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors also represent the final outputs or effects of a safety management system (SMS) that may have somehow failed.
Root causes: Are the inadequate or missing system elements such as resources, programs, plans, policies, processes, procedures, rules that contribute to the hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors? These point to even deeper root causes in safety management system structure, design and development. Examples of problem statements:
Describe the history of previous hazards and system failures. A history of past hazards, behaviors, or accidents indicates an increased probability that a future accident may occur. An established trend is a strong indicator of SMS weaknesses. Of course, the lack of a previous similar condition, incident or accident does not mean it won't negatively impact the company in the future: It could be that you've just been lucky so far.
Note: To establish a valid trend, you'll need to analyze data from at least seven points in time: could be seven days, weeks, months, years. It all depends on the kind of data you are analyzing. For instance, if you are trying to establish a trend related to the number of strains and sprains, depending on how often those injuries occur, you might have to look at seven months or seven years.
Describe how past similar hazards affected direct (budgeted, insured) accident costs. Direct costs of accidents include workers compensation premiums and miscellaneous medical expenses. The employer will pay this (on average) over a number of years in increased workers compensation premiums. It's no different than car insurance...you have an accident, and it's your fault (compensable), your insurance goes up.
Describe how past similar hazards have affected indirect costs. Indirect costs are immediate costs that come right out of the corporate pocketbook. Indirect costs include additional training, replacement workers, lost production (closing the plant down), increased supervision, etc.
It's important to present options from which the decision-maker may choose. Options give the decision-maker greater control by allowing him or her to choose from a number of solutions rather than being stuck with a go/no-go decision. Ultimately, when options are given, the likelihood that something will get done increases. When giving options:
Describe the type of accident that might result from inaction. To help educate decision-makers it’s important to describe the type of accident that might result if corrective actions are not taken. The accident designations below are useful in describing the types of accidents that might result if hazards are not corrected. You can see a list of accident types in Course 702, Module 1.
Describe other natural consequences of management's decision. The natural consequences are those that occur automatically. Inaction might increase the cost of doing business (CODB) due to increased injuries or illness, and lower morale, productivity, quality, and profits. Management action will likely reduce the CODB because employees aren't getting hurt or sick, and morale, productivity, quality and profits remain high.
Describe the estimated insured and uninsured costs if corrective action not taken. According to the National Safety Council, the economic impact of these fatal and nonfatal unintentional injuries amounted to slightly less than $700 billion in 2009.
Describe the system consequences of inaction. System consequences usually originate outside the organization. Inaction might result in OSHA penalties, increased workers compensation, loss of contracts. Action is likely to result in lower penalties, workers compensation, and a higher probability of winning contracts.
Estimate the "return on investment" (ROI). Expressing the "cost" of taking corrective action and making system improvements is better expressed as an "investment" because it implies that the employer will realize a financial return if corrective actions are taken.
Let's say the investment needed to correct a hazardous condition is $4,000. Let's also assume that the potential direct and indirect accident costs to the company may total $36,000 if the employer takes no action. You can calculate the ROI by dividing the $36,000 in accident costs by the $4,000 investment to get the ratio of 9/1. To determine the ROI as a percentage, multiply that result by 100 to arrive at an ROI of 900%.
(COST ÷ INVESTMENT) X 100 = % ROI
($36,000 ÷ $4,000) X 100 = 900% ROI
Estimate the payback period. Management may also want to know how quickly the investment will pay for itself: what the "payback period" is. Just divide $36,000 by 12 months and you come up with $3,000 per month in potential accident costs. Since the investment is $4,000, the investment will be paid back in a little more than five weeks. After that, we may assume that the corrective actions and improvements are actually saving the company a substantial amount of money. Now that's talking the bottom line!
INVESTMENT ÷ (COST ÷ MONTHS) = # MONTHS
$4,000 ÷ ($36,000 ÷ 12 MONTHS) = 1.33 MONTHS
It's important that decision-makers understand the risk, or the possibility that an accident will occur, if action isn't taken to correct the hazard. Why is it important to determine the risk? The higher the risk, the stronger your argument needs to be.
Let’s take a look at the "Risk Equation" below that you can use to determine risk:
Risk Equation Variables
Risk Equation Example
Open this Risk Worksheet to follow along.
Let’s say you conduct a risk assessment for a task lifting heavy boxes. Two untrained older employees lift 80-pound boxes at least 10 times a day. They have to individually carry the boxes 50 ft to a loading dock. Using the Risk Worksheet, we can determine a risk score for the task that will help convince management to provide material handling devices or at least training on effective lifting techniques.
6. Determine motivation.
What motivates employers?
Throughout the recommendation, think about what objections and motivations the decision-maker might have. Be sure to include counter-arguments to objections by addressing the three "imperatives" below where they most logically apply.
As discussed in OSHAcademy Course 700, employers are motivated to approve your recommendation primarily to meet one of the following safety obligations:
The Legal Imperative: This describes the employer's legal duty to comply with occupational safety and health standards. When this is the primary motivation, safety is considered just another cost of doing business (CODB) that may drain the corporate budget. Unfortunately, the employer will do only what is required by law...probably not much more. The employer's primary goals are to:
The Fiscal Imperative: The employer is obligated to corporate stakeholders to operate the business in a financially prudent manner. In the private sector, this means "operating at a profit." In the public sector, this means "operating within budget."
If your employer is "doing safety" primarily to meet legal requirements, and nothing more, to overcome objections you'll need to emphasize the legal benefits. Research indicates most employers are motivated primarily by the need to fulfill their fiscal responsibilities, so don't be surprised if management requires a cost/benefit analysis. If the employer makes a commitment to safety primarily to fulfill the social imperative, management is likely to approve your recommendation no matter what the investment might be. Just remember, you need to understand what motivates the decision-maker to increase your chances of getting your recommendations approved. You need to know which "buttons" to push.
When management understands the importance of taking corrective action and making safety program improvements, and acts on recommendations consistently, it sends a very positive message about leadership to the workforce. It tells workers the employer cares for and values every employee! When this message is clearly sent, employees are far more likely to put out the extra effort for the company which benefits everyone.
When management ignores or does not set out to correct hazards in the work place, a negative message is sent to the workforce: a message that infers a lack of care and value for employees. Through word and deed, management convinces workers that corporate profits take priority over employee welfare. Managers communicate that they are willing to take an acceptable level of risk as though the employee were more a "unit of labor" than a valuable human resource. A strong recommendation doesn't have to be complicated.
Right now, you might be rather intimidated by all this, but take heart; an effective recommendation doesn't have to meet all of the criteria above, and it doesn't have to be a massive document. For instance, click on the link for an example of an
Writing effective recommendations gets easier as you gain experience. It's the job of the person making the recommendation to "educate up" so that management understands the importance of making the right decision. Just remember, if you know what motivates your manager and you push the right buttons, you'll get results you want.