'Making the Case': CD or Print?
- By Valerie Weadock
- Jan 01, 2003
A bruise, a cut, an eye, a finger, a little lost work . . . the costs of a
workplace injury can quickly add up. However, construction safety officers and
their supervisors daily weigh these costs against the costs of providing their
employees with the proper personal protective equipment. Perhaps surprisingly,
they often decide the costs outweigh the benefits.
While we may hate to admit it, you can put a price on safety--and at first
glance, it can appear high. The cost of equipping a large crew with the proper
apparel, head protection, eyewear, hearing protection, and other task-specific
safety equipment may look more expensive than worker's compensation payments,
slightly increased insurance premiums, and the lost time of one or two workers
on somewhat rare occasions. Besides, there's always that old equipment sitting
in the warehouse. Business is business and the bottom line is everything when it
comes to staying afloat, so the choice seems "painfully" obvious.
Or is it? The International Safety Equipment Association wants us to look
again. In its new "Making the Case for Safety Equipment Toolkit," ISEA gives
construction safety officers and other industry players a wealth of information
and ideas to help make the business case for PPE with their supervisors, equip
their workers properly, and reduce costs. Available in both CD and three-ring
binder formats, the kit is intended to help marketers and distributors of PPE
raise awareness about its applications and value and demonstrate its
cost-effectiveness. While the kit probably would help a struggling sales
representative, its real value is as a PPE resource for anyone, from insurers
and labor unions to supervisors and workers.
The CD is viewed through Adobe Acrobat Reader®, available free for download
at www.adobe.com, and is navigated by clicking through a simple menu or by
scrolling from page to page. After a brief introduction to ISEA and an overview
on the kit and its uses, the second of the CD's six sections explains the role
of PPE in workplace safety and gives users a general, step-by-step guide on
instituting a PPE safety program. This section includes a list of information
sources at associations, unions, government agencies, insurance companies, trade
publications, and trade shows involved with construction worker safety, complete
with contact information.
PPE needs and requirements vary greatly
depending on specific tasks performed and the hazards unique to every job site.
OSHA requires that employers conduct an in-depth evaluation of the equipment
needed to protect workers against the hazards at the workplace (29 CFR
Helping users comply and avoid costly purchase blunders, the kit's "PPE at
Work" section gives guidance on undertaking a job site audit, including a
checklist of questions to ask when identifying and assessing hazards and a PPE
selection guide to minimize them. Applicable to several industries, the 10-page
guide features in-depth information on the right PPE for various hazard
exposures and any applicable standards.
For users in the heavy construction industry, this section also features
clear, color photographs of workers wearing proper PPE for 14 tasks common to
the industry, including a list of the items pictured and brief explanations of
situations mandating specific equipment.
The kit's fifth section, probably intended to be the most helpful for
marketers, uses data and anecdotal information to demonstrate the monetary
benefits of PPE in the workplace. This section explains the direct and indirect
costs of a workplace injury, emphasizing the indirect with a list of "hidden"
costs the kit claims could represent up to 30 times the direct costs.
This section includes a worksheet and formula to calculate the damage even a
minor workplace injury could do to a company's bottom line in terms of revenue
the company must generate to recover the cost of the injury. While the formula
has the potential to provide a unique and probably effective perspective, it
requires that you calculate the indirect costs of the injury, many of which seem
extremely difficult to quantify. How exactly does one go about figuring the
precise cost of time lost by employees who stop to help? How do you measure the
cost of lost employee morale?
ISEA makes its best case for the use of PPE and
increases the kit's credibility in the next section, entitled "PPE
Testimonials." This section consists of trade journal articles on the importance
of safety equipment in preventing injuries and saving lives. The articles cover
nearly every type of PPE in depth, often including statistics on accidents, the
PPE that could have prevented them, and the price range for renting or
purchasing that equipment. The importance of employee PPE training, proper
fitting equipment, and use enforcement are thoroughly discussed.
Helpful and informative as this section is, CD users may find it confusing.
At least one of the publications features stories that are continued onto
another page, sometimes two or three screens later, leaving the potential for
not only the user, but also the story's meaning to become lost.
Actually, the binder format of the kit is more practical for the construction
industry, its target audience. It's more easily accessed, quicker to navigate,
and contains nearly the same material as can be found on the CD.
The ISEA Buyer's Guide
Both CD and binder kits include the ISEA
Buyer's Guide, a thorough listing of every category of safety products and
respective manufacturers. The guide also contains a directory of manufacturers,
including addresses, phone and fax numbers, and Web sites.
The price of the ISEA "Making the Case for Safety Equipment" binder toolkit,
which includes one CD and a copy of ISEA's new PPE cost-benefit brochure, starts
at $59.95. The CD sells separately, starting at $19.95 for one. More information
on the toolkit can be found in the "Partnership for Worker Protection" section
of ISEA's site, www.safetyequipment.org.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.