Putting a price tag on safety training for an employee is easy enough. Take factors such as course costs, production costs due to downtime by the employee attending the training and other incidentals and one can arrive at a dollars and cents amount. The hallowed obsession of managers, supervisors and HR departments with regard to return on investment (ROI) is a whole other matter. ROI is cost-benefit analysis at its most fraught and most uncertain: how does one properly assess and establish the benefits (returns) to be gained from safety training against the costs to the company thereof? How does one measure the mostly intangible (i.e. ‘benefits from better safety’) against the tangible (i.e. costs)? Is there true ROI in safety training?
No one can justifiably argue that safety training should not be provided due to cost concerns. However, to what extent and what particular safety training should be provided is indeed contentious – and problematic from an ROI perspective. There are few safety managers or other line managers that have the luxury of not having to fight for their department’s training budget. The message from top management is often clear: ‘yes, we take safety seriously, but does it have to cost so much? And how much of it do you really need?’ Often, safety training can be a tough sell.
The good news is that there is overwhelming evidence that safety training is not only intrinsically valuable within any company, it can prove its worth strictly in terms of ROI criteria. The National Safety Council (NSC) cites a slew of examples of ROI triumphs relating to having safety management systems in place in its May 2014 article ‘The ROI of Safety’. For example, the real cost of a fatality alone is astounding: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that a fatal injury carries an average cost of $991,027 (with this average including only hospital costs). The NSC puts the average cost to society of a fatality as high as $1.42 million. The NSC estimates that indirect costs can be up to 17 times higher than the direct costs of a fatality in the construction industry. Would those statistics alone not be reason enough to invest heavily in safety training? And what safety management system can be a success without valid training to back it?