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Budgeting for the Safety Miser

Budgeting is easily one of the worst tasks we safety professionals have to do. Without the assistance of a crystal ball or a Ouija board, we are trying to forecast the future needs and crises of our staff from a safety point of view.

We want our budget to be realistic, manageable, and taken seriously by our corporate managers while accomplishing needed goals. Every year, we look at what we accomplished and feel great (for a moment); then we look at all the things we wanted to get done but never could finish.

Time and money are always stretched to the breaking point. Add to that upper managers who read "bits" of news and try to manage our program without the training, knowledge, or awareness of what our employees need, and we may find it all frustrating and overwhelming.

I admit it, I'm a budget miser who is horrible at developing realistic needs analysis. I always hold funds to the last minute, expecting some dire happening or equipment break that needs immediate assistance. I try to obtain at least one meaningful piece of equipment or diagnostic monitoring every year and keep my resources up to date. The costs of a new safety program (or refreshing an older, established one) can be staggering: You have to section it off for several years in order to obtain the items you need.

Here's my advice:

Look closely at your injury logs from the previous years and ask whether your program goals are measuring up. How realistic is the safety awareness at your supervisory levels? Do employees understand the basics of your safety program and whom to call on for assistance?

Consider these areas as you estimate and submit your budget:

• Equipment and items. From critical program equipment needs such as confined space and air monitoring to simple items such as anti-fatigue mats or a better shoe cover, consider both original costs and replacement costs for items. Keep what you know about employee acceptance in mind as you do this.

• Training. This may be live training, video/DVD instruction, or Web-based courses. Try them before you buy. Don't forget the time to account for the training, either logging or database management. It all costs time as well as money. Include awareness items and Web site management in this area.

• PPE/PPA. Consider new and emerging hazards, as well as the old standbys of your industry. Are you covered in the event of a huge emergency, such as an earthquake, hurricane, or flood?

• Don't forget one important budget item: YOUR professional development! All too often, we safety professionals fail to recharge our personal batteries by attending advanced training sessions and examining what is new on the market. We must attend training and conferences in order to lead effectively; otherwise, how can we be effective as resource people and as calm, knowledgeable leaders in emergency situations? Keep up to date with a good personal set of resources, including books and magazines that will challenge you and keep you on task.

Being realistic and cost effective in your wants and needs for the program will add credibility to your efforts at the C-suite management level. The last things any safety professional wants to be known for are hysteria and wasteful spending.

This article originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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