How to Build a Safety Budget (Webcast)
The following is a transcript of our webcast.
All right, let's kick this off. Welcome to today's webcast, how to build a safety budget. My name is Barret, I'm with Vivid Learning Systems, and before we get going, I want to first thank all of our current customers for joining us today. We truly appreciate your support, and it helps make events like this one possible. So, a big thank you for joining us.
Now, if you are not yet familiar with Vivid, what we do is help organizations deliver an online safety training experience that workers love. Check out learnatvivid.com for more info. Today, we're using the popular GoToWebinar application which many of you are likely familiar with. If you're not, please take a moment to get comfortable by clicking around and exploring the application. Pretty simple.
And for those of you experiencing any technical difficulties during the webcast, let us know and we'll try to troubleshoot you on the fly. I have two introductions today. First, Jill James, Vivid's Chief Safety Officer, and Resident Safety Evangelist, a former OSHA investigator. Jill is a passionate advocate for safety, the safety profession, and better training experiences.
And back with us is our friend. Dr. Todd Loushine, he's an associate professor with Department of Occupational Safety and health at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, helping to mold the next generation of safety professionals. Thanks again for being with us Dr. Todd. So, why we're here today folks is getting money for safety is hard.
People tell us this all the time. We know it to be true, yet money for worker safety is so important and that's because human beings are every organization's most precious resource. So we're exploring today this frustrating disconnect between the importance of human capital, and the lack of resources dedicated to protecting the workforce in your discipline, occupational Safety. The sad fact remains that what you do for a living remains undervalued for a lot of employers. And maybe that's why the safety profession can feel a bit isolating at times, but we want you to know that you're not alone out there. In fact, over 900 people registered for today's webcast. So the struggle is indeed real, and we are all in this together.
Now, let's cover some reasons you didn't get budget, just have a little fun here to get started. So if you've ever asked for a safety support and didn't get it, these are some excuses you might be familiar with. We don't have money. Yet, somehow the organizations continues buying things like new chairs or staples, it's just a miracle. Money for safety? You must be joking. That's right. It's all fun and games until a worker's comp claim gets filed and next, you have the classic put off, which becomes year over year, an unfunded request. The worst response you can hear is that safety is simply not a priority. That's chilling, but sure enough, it's something that does get stated. Okay folks, if you recognize any of those responses, raise your hand. Feel free to participate in the group chat today too. And now that we've dispensed with these quick cliches, Jill James, can you help us understand the real reasons why most budget requests fail?
Sure. Thanks Barret. Thanks for the nice set up and welcome everyone who's listening today, really appreciate you having you with us. So I think one of the hallmarks, I guess, or foundational pieces that we often forget as safety professionals, is that not everyone knows what we do, right? Or who understands our job? It's not something that you want to talk about at a cocktail party when people ask what you do for a living, but it's important that we set that stage for success for ourselves and the people with whom we are going to be doing budget requests for safety initiatives. And so, what I mean by that is being able to not assume that the person or persons with whom you're asking money know what your job is. Um, my favorite example of this is a CEO of a large corporation who came to me about a year ago and he said "Jill, had been reading about safety. And everything I read says safety starts at the top. I am the top, as the CEO, but I don't know what this means. What does this mean for me? I don't even really understand the practice of safety, though I employee safety professionals. So can you please explain to me what does a safety professional do and also how am I to measure them as a CEO? What sort of things would I be looking at?"
And so he and I spent some time and where I explained to him what I call the four pillars of safety, which I'll share with you in depth a little bit later here today. If you'd like to read about how that conversation went, I actually have a blog on that particular subject. So as a starting point for us today, remember to not assume people know what your job is. And Todd, I believe that you have some other foundational ideas to share as well.
Yes. Thanks Jill. Yeah, when you're trying to purchase land, what's the three principles? It's location, location, location. When it comes to safety, it's value, value, value. It's how does the person who is holding the budget or would approve the budget, what do they see as value to themselves and do they look good? How will it help the company, the company's bottom line or the company's brand itself? You know, there's a lot of different ways. There's both the extrinsic, which will be more of the dollar value, and then there's the intrinsic, which would be the brand or how it makes the manager look for saying yes or no to the particular budget. And so what it comes down to is sure we can do the numbers, and we should do the numbers and we're going to talk about that today, but you also have to think about how we're going to sell safety.
And what I mean by that is to persuade those who maybe don't understand what we do or why we should buy a piece of equipment or why should we buy this particular brand or qualification of PPE or equipment for the particular need. And so we gotta do our homework. There's a lot of work that goes into the study of what would be adequate or optimal, and we should be able to justify the value in that investment. I always practice my own work that I call safety as an attribute of work, so when I say safety improvement, I'm talking about a work improvement. I'm trying to improve the job and trying to improve the task, improve the equipment, the technology, the communication. There's so many different aspects to it and when we consider it that way, look at it more complex or from a distance.
I think that gives us more opportunities. So how do we persuade. Well let's talk about some instances here. Like why do we invest in car maintenance? Some of you are probably thinking, "Well because you have to, otherwise it might break down." Yeah, exactly. Safety is kind of the same way. Why do we invest in safety? We don't want anything to break down. No, there's value in having assurance that this machine isn't going to fail or this person isn't going to get a lost time injury. Why do we buy insurance? Car insurance, we don't expect to get into an accident, but what if it happens? We can't control everything. And so it's there to provide assistance to us so that we don't completely get shut down if something bad happens. Why do we hire people like the neighborhood kid, shovel our driveway, mow our lawn?
Excuse me. Not that just because we like them because they're a good kid, but it saves us time. Our time has money attached to it, and if we can propose something or bring something in that saves us time, the worker time, management time, there is dollar value to be attached to that. So, what I want you to think about as we're speaking today is don't just focus on the extrinsic, the dollar value, because that is very important, and we should have that down. But we have to think about, I think the term is you don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle. We may have to figure out what is each manager's sizzle, so we can really sell safety to them. Jill.
Yeah, thank you for that. I'm guessing, for everyone who's listening today, we've likely all asked for money at some point, some kind of budget task. And I'm guessing that some of you may have had an experience like I did and like Todd has had where we actually got turned down, we did the ask and we got a no answer. And so if you've ever experienced that, we'd like to hear your story on that and personally, I'd like to hear your story if you want to reach out ever, to me, but I'd like to share with you the first time I asked and that I got turned down and then maybe we can work our way backwards from there about what lessons were learned. So at this point of my first ask for money, I was 13 years into my safety career. I had worked for OSHA as an investigator for the years prior to that where I didn't have a budget.
I didn't have to do an ask because I had a badge and frankly, a stick where I could compel people to do things and I could do my inspection. Todd and I both did this job as OSHA investigators and we'd go in, we would set the stage for what needs to be corrected, and we got to walk away. We didn't have to be the people on the receiving end trying to figure out budget. So here I am, private sector, first time. I was working for a large medical clinic system and working at the mother ship building, and one of my first observations and concerns was about a fall protection issue on the roof of the building where a couple of maintenance employees every once in awhile needed to go to the top to change out pieces on the air handling unit.
And I was concerned about working on that flat roof, they were exposed to a fall hazard when they were on the edge. So I wrote up a big proposal like I would have using my OSHA voice, citing the regulations and talking about how many employees were exposed to that hazard and how often they were exposed to it. And then I had done my research on coming up with a guard rail system that could be implemented on the roof that wouldn't damage the roof, but yet would provide protection. And I wrote all of this up and I sent it to the administrator of the clinic who turned me down flat and his response to me was, "I've looked around the landscape of this community, I don't see anybody else with guard rails on their roof. And by the way, you use way too many words. Could you give me your points in a sentence, maybe three bullet points?"
And then he asked me this question that I carry with me forever. And it was, "Are we behind the curve on that initiative, on the curve or ahead of it based on our peers and what other people are doing and practicing in our same discipline?" And he asked me that question for the time that I was employed there and worked there. He would constantly bring that up, this curve approach. And he said, "I want to be riding the curve. I want to be on it. I don't ever want to be ahead of it. I certainly don't want to be behind unless there's a good reason for that risk or it's one that I'm willing to accept." And so those were my lessons that I learned there. Don't approach things with the minutia, like I was talking about earlier. I was trying to educate him on the minutia of what needed to be done and I didn't present a smart business case in that scenario and got turned down absolutely flat.
And so though I was technically right in the way that I presented my information, it didn't equal money to me. I didn't get a yes out of that because I did it wrong, because I had no useful tools at my disposal on how to present it in a way that spoke to that decision maker. And I learned about what I now call the curve approach, which is something that I've added to my bag of knowledge, if you will, or my toolbox moving ahead. Now, Todd, I'm sure that you have experienced and hear about some maybe safety don'ts when it comes to doing budget requests. So, maybe you could share some of those not to do practices.
Right. And I have to agree with Jill. Like she had said when we're at OSHA, we'd flash a badge and make people cry that, that the way we got things done and it was during my ...
I didn't try to make people cry though.
It just happened that way. It was great.
It is really fun flashing a badge and making people cry, I gotta tell you. But anyway, I digress. I actually spent a year out in industry as a product manager and so I had to sell air filtration equipment and I found really early it didn't matter if my numbers were right. I couldn't get people to agree to it. And so what I learned is, like Jill had said, and like I had stated earlier, you gotta find a different way to reach people to show the value. And what I learned is, I walked out on the plant with either the plant manager or whoever was holding the purse strings for that company, and I'd say, "You see the air here,? You see the discoloring and the dirt and the grime that's on your walls.? Is this going to help you sell your product to customers? Do you feel pride when you bring your customers in and see your operation?"
That's what sold the equipment, not the PDLs and the air quality and stuff like that. It was something else and you've got to find out what that is when you're selling safety to management. Now on the screen now, some budget don'ts. This comes from reviewing the case studies from a lot of my students. And so they have to do a cost benefit with their case studies and so if anybody here is familiar with HW Heinrich, he had all these principles that he came up with in the early 1900s. Unfortunately they don't fit today's business environments. They really don't. And so don't rest on your laurels that you can use his ratios, his pyramid, his iceberg. It doesn't fit. We need to really measure what we have or use any sort of valid resources that are out there right now.
Preventing an OSHA citation may be a good thing, may be easy to find, but can you really justify it? Look at OSHA's budget. They maybe can go to visit each company once every 100 years. Now there may be companies that fall under a national emphasis program and so they may get inspected a little bit more frequently and then maybe the citation maybe is a way to justify it, but for the most part it's not a great way to do it. And for some companies it's just not enough. As far as preventing a non occurrence, maybe you haven't had an accident due to what you're trying to correct. Well, make sure it's a justifiable argument that you can look up either case studies, and there's so many out there whether using the Naish website or looking on the Bureau of Labor statistics to show the rate of incidents or on the OSHA website they publish things as well.
The chemical safety board, we have so many great resources where there's case studies that may be similar to the type of work environment that you have and you're trying to correct a wrong that led to a disaster or an accident somewhere else and make sure it is a valid representation. Make sure your resources are good, don't just go on Google and say, "How much does a hand injury cost", because the top hits are going to be law firms and they sued somebody and got this much money because of a hand injury. Well, that's not realistic. It's not commonplace. And so make sure you're using the proper resources. Padding estimates with indirect costs, I don't like when my students do that. I try to tell them not to. Let's keep it to the numbers that are conservative, the direct ones, and then provide more than one option.
So, we've got the hazard control hierarchy. We'd like to eliminate exposure. Limit exposure, I won't happen again. Anything less than that, there may still be some exposures and there may be a chance still that someone could get hurt, and maybe we're only trying to control severity. So, think of it that way, try to provide options. And one trick that I've used in the past is maybe there's an expensive option. Well, I present that first. They're like, "No way." And then the second option, which is a viable and very good option is 1/10 of the cost and maybe that's an easier pill to swallow than the bigger one. Last, well maybe not last, but next, I also have my students comment on what are the workers think of it because whatever you're doing is probably gonna alter their work in some way, shape or form.
What do they think of it? Is it going to work? Are they gonna be able to use it or are they going to sabotage it or put it away when you walk away? So I always have my students, in their cost benefit, I want them to tell me what the workers thought of the idea. Maybe it came from the workers, that's even better. Gotta include the workers in your solutions and should be presented. Finally, don't have a myopic view of safety. Jill had commented how "Well, we just flash a badge and people do it, right?" No, there's more work to be done. Gotta do your homework. Gotta know the numbers. Gotta know what influences management, whoever is, again, holding the purse strings to buy in, to see the value, to understand how it's going to improve things, because if we just go by the numbers some people, that's all they need, but let's really sell it. Let's really show the value. Maybe both extrinsic and intrinsic.
Yeah. These are good points and I think it's time to maybe talk about some of the successes that we've had as well with the goal of really thinking about how you could maybe take some of the things that Todd and I developed as best practices and capture them as your own and use them and add them to your tool kit as it were, so that you don't have to have the steep learning curve that we had particularly coming out from a regulatory agency, and then having that big hard stop of this isn't how it works in the real world. So as we continue to share ideas and tips with you today, we don't have a perfect formula for this. We're sharing our best practices and you might have some really great ideas that have been success points for you as well that you'd like to share with everyone in the group chat.
But I would say that one of the other primary things to be thinking about is where you can collaborate, meaning with whom can you collaborate in your own organization to help you push initiatives through that you have and or do a request with you. Who can you partner with who also has some skin in the proverbial game of what it is that you're asking for. Or maybe they have budget authority that you may not have because the fact is, many of us in safety don't actually have a budget to work with at all. And also remember that though your heart is in the right place and you're doing everything right, you're using a great business case, sometimes you're still gonna get turned down. And sometimes it might have more to do with the culture of the organization where you work, then it has to do with the great professionalism with which you approached a particular ask or a topic, which might be in greater indicator that it's time to move on from an organization, as sad as that sometimes it is.
So I would like to share with you one success story now that got me ... this was about year 17 into my now 23 year career of one of those asks where I was successful. Though I had some before that, but this is one story that took a lot of different elements into account. So I was in a job where I was absolutely drowning as a safety professional and I'm guessing that some of you may be in some of those drowning situations now. And in fact, as I go along with this story, maybe think in your own minds about an initiative that you're trying to get a budget for right now and see as I go through the steps and stages that I use, maybe what pieces could you take and apply to your own situation that you are thinking about today. So here I am in this job, I'm drowning, meaning it was a company I'd worked for, they had hired their first safety professional and it was me. In a 65 year history of the company, they'd never had anyone do safety before to any kind of extent.
They didn't have any safety training programs, nothing in writing, no training per se that was happening outside of some YouTube videos that were going on. And I had the additional task of maintaining and managing all the workers' compensation claims for 1500 employees that represented 11 different companies across five states. And if you're nodding your heads and thinking that sounds like me, I know I wasn't alone in that and there are many of us in the safety practice that are tasked with these same sort of challenges with multiple locations, multiple people, and maybe the first person ever to tackle it.
And so there I was looking at, "Oh my gosh, how am I going to ever get any headway here when all I'm doing is fighting fires every single day?" And so I really took a look at the landscape of my job responsibilities and then using that OSHA Lens as well, as where are we not even on the curve, thinking about that curve approach and we're behind the curve in so many areas. How could I get us moved up on that curve and what pieces of that work could I essentially offload so I could tackle some of those other items to get us into minimal compliance, which after I looked at the landscape of what my responsibilities were, I decided that training needed to be the thing that I could offload, meaning I needed to find a solution where I wasn't the one responsible for writing training curriculum and trying to deploy it across all these business units that employed everything from PHD level scientists to laborers.
There wasn't a way for me to get all of that done. And so I decided that I needed to find an online safety training solution and needed to pitch that and propose it. And so that's what I began to do. And the strategy that I used was first, who can help me get budget for that, and so again, I was working for the primary administrative company that owned all of these other companies and I knew that I could go to the individual business units and some of the operations managers had authority to spend up to a certain dollar amount, but what I was proposing for a comprehensive solution really wouldn't fit with that. And so I needed to go to the administrative arm of the company, which meant I needed to do a pitch to the management team of which there were about 20 people that would make decisions on behalf of the entire unit.
And so I needed to fund my request and I needed to fund it through them. And I was reporting to an HR manager at the time. And I said, "Listen, this is what I've decided I need for success so that I can work on other things to get us more on the curve with basic safety compliance, and I'm gonna need to make a pitch to management and I've been researching solutions. I think I found one, could you have my back in this particular ask?, and he said "Yes." I happened to have a great relationship with him and he said, "Yes, go ahead, and I'll try to set you up for success if at all possible." So I needed to do my homework with that, meaning I needed to find out what made these decision makers tick. I had already done my homework and found the solution that I wanted and I knew how it would work and I knew that it would work best for our organization, but I needed to do my homework in how was I going to present this in a manner that they could understand it, meaning the decision makers.
And so I came up with presentation options and one of them was to stay at that 30,000 foot level but then dip occasionally into explaining why they needed the solution that they had. And so I started with trying to connect to that business objective, meaning are we behind the curve and how did I explain the behind the curve, which I'll go into in just a second here and then know my audience, know what kind of questions they were going to ask. There was one person in my group who always asked numbers questions and always wanted to know financial implications and what things would zero in on, right down to the cost per employee. And so I collaborated in that case with a business analyst that I happen to work with through our accounting department who was able to slice out various ways my financial ask could be asked by this particular individual who was the banking CEO of the organization.
He always asks the numbers questions, so I had that business analysts at the ready for me the day that I asked so that when those questions came, he could answer because he had already looked at the data and the numbers and explain it to that decision maker in a way that made sense to them. And so to set the stage with this group, I needed to explain what safety was because again, first year, first person, 65 year history of the company and I needed to set that landscape. And so the landscape I use is something called the four pillars of safety. This is basic safety 101. And so I explained that the first responsibility for an employer is to have written safety programs in place. The policies, procedures, SLPs that explain how it is that we do safety and then I dip down just a little tiny bit for a punctuation point on what would that look like.
And so I gave an example of respiratory protection program, a written program that has to be in place and some of the elements that are included in that with medical monitoring and fit testing and those kind of things, to let them know that these things have to be written and in place and compliant with the laws. And then I moved on to explaining that there are regulations in the state with where we worked and the states where we had employees that say we had to do training on particular topics, so their law was broken into shall. Shall do training on topics, and then I showed them a big list of all the different topics that needed to do training on, and then I highlighted just one topic and gave a short vignette, dipped again for a punctuation point below that 30,000 foot view of what that training meant to be compliant and what the elements would be in that a YouTube video does not equal compliant training from the lens of someone who's done her career and in compliance sort of work.
And then the next element of having a safety program is correcting and identifying hazards. So how can you do safety audits? How can you teach other supervisors or managers to kind of have your lens, your view as the safety professional to be able to find hazards in their work environment. Whether it's inspecting fire extinguishers or knowing what machine guarding is or how to do it and how can we do that? So our job is to correct hazards as we find them and use appropriate abatement measures and then the last, or what I call the gold standard of safety programs as to enforce those safe work behaviors and affirm safe work behaviors when we see them in place and that it's not just the job of the safety person, but it's the education process that happens with the safety professional to the supervisors, to the managers to be able to know what you know, to be able to make that magic piece happen.
And so set the landscape with this particular audience and then focus right back on that training piece. And then, with using that curve approach, was able to give a letter grade to our company, kind of where we are. Are we behind the curve or is it a C, is it a C plus or whatever kind of vernacular might work for you. I used that grading approach and that wasn't to show that I wasn't being effective in my job. So don't be afraid of giving yourself a grade as an organization. It's not necessarily your performance, but how are we as an organization and kind of plot where your company is maybe on those four elements, those four pillars to show where you are and how far you are behind and when you use those little punctuation points of what the details are for just one thing so they can get a grasp of the fact that it is pretty overwhelming and it can't be all done by one person, most of the time, that you need help and that this is going to be a wise business decision so that we can get on the curve or ahead of it if that's their professional goal.
And so set those those items in place and then explain the solution. So, what would be the way to get that company on the curve, which was this online training scenario. I didn't even show them what the platform looked like. I just told them that I found a solution, gave them the cost point, they asked the very specific questions of how much is this per person and I had that information at the ready and by the end of that presentation I got a yes, which was pretty amazing. My HR manager had set me up for failure actually. He said, "Jill, there's rarely a time that this group gets together to approve any kind of budget where they say yes the first time out, so don't be disappointed if they say no to you today." And I was able to get a yes out of that group, which was really fun and a great win and the system did work and we did implement it. And so Todd, bet you have some stories as well to share with the group today.
Yes. Thanks Jill. That was some real powerful stuff you just talked about it. There's so much more to this than just, "Hey, this is how much it costs and this is what you could save." A couple of stories that I had gone through to get some budgets. One was, and I forget what the project was, I apologize because it was more of the experience than anything, but my supervisor told me that the manager we needed to go to, to get some money would only support projects that she came up with that were her own and so I said, "Hey, let me try this." And so I put together a presentation. I told a story because it really comes down to the manager relating to it and understanding it and I basically went through this whole presentation and talked about what we had done and what we had found and really led it up to what needs to be done, but I didn't say anything. I said "What do you think?"
And she said "Wow, we should really do this", and I'm like "Yes, that's exactly what we should do." And she goes "Great. How much money do you need?" So basically, without me saying, this is what we need, I said "What do you think", and she automatically said exactly what it would be. So, that's one trick I've used. Another trick was I was doing ergonomics for the offices and unfortunately what had happened is they were selecting office chairs and office equipment based on color. color coordinate, that makes it safe right? And when I was going in to do the adjustments for people, it worked for people who are within sort of the 50th percentile from an anthropometric approach, but very few people in the office met that. So I had to get creative and I went to him and said, "You know, these chairs, I can't adjust them to suit the body types that I'm working with here."
And they're like "Well, we already spent all the money. The money's been spent." So what I did is I took it upon myself. I brought in my own tools and I went down into the basement and I found the land of discarded chairs. And I started taking them apart. And I rebuilt some office chairs that would actually suit the people that needed them and brought it up and adjusted it to them. And they were happy. They thought it was great, you know. "Oh wow, my back doesn't hurt, my shoulders don't hurt, my neck doesn't hurt at the end of the day." But then the supervisors came around and they're like "That chair doesn't match the colors, our feng shui."
And so, I explained to them, "These chairs have different seat pan depths and widths and the adjustability of height is based on certain criteria and they only suit certain heights and dimensions of people." And then they finally understood it. And because we were within a certain timeframe of ordering the equipment, we contacted the vendor and we were able to trade some of the chairs back in order to get the ones we needed. So it still met the color scheme that they had wanted, but then the adjustability with their for us. And we had some additional options to adjust for people. And so, sort of a net zero there, but for the most part we got it accomplished because I was able to demonstrate. So I didn't have to tell a story, I demonstrated it and then they understood it. Next slide, Jill.
Sure. Thanks Todd. Your story about the office chairs makes me think about another success that I had. It was actually a pretty easy one to do with ergonomics. So those of you who maybe don't have a budget, but you know, as Ted pointed out, you're already spending money in the corporation for something else. And office equipment is one of those places that most organizations are already spending money on, meaning they may or may not have a budget on it, but they know they're spending money on it. And so back to that medical clinic I was working at. Same thing, there were all kinds of office chairs that weren't meant to be Ergonomic, didn't fit the worker. They just looked nice. And I was doing all these ergonomic assessments with employees, but the chairs that people were using weren't even adjustable.
And so I went to the CFO and I said, so what's your budget for these chairs that we routinely run through? How much money are you spending? And he's like "You know, I don't know. We don't really have a fixed budget on that." And I said "Well, would you like one?" And he's like "Well yeah, that'd be great." And I said "Can you give me a dollar amount to work with? And then I will find chairs that suit the ergonomic adjustment features that need to be available for different sizes of workers." And he was in love with that idea. He's like "Yeah, fixed costs, this is excellent. Can you work within this dollar number?" And so I was able to connect with a vendor who was able to bring me various types of office chairs and I set them in a particular conference room, and I conducted polling for about two days with an actual ballot box where I invited employees to come in and vote for their favorite chairs.
They were all things that I selected that I knew would meet the criteria that I was looking for, for adjustability, and then we bought the top three vote getters and every time someone needed a new chair, I was able to work with them and say "Okay, these are our three choices that we have, which do you prefer?" And so it got back to that piece that Todd was talking about earlier about consulting the employee as well for a win. And so in that particular case that there already was money being spent, we just focused it and focused the efforts and it turned out to be a win on the safety side. So, the hard path, this particular slide, on getting on the curve or ahead of the curve is really the application of the easy button. And what does easy button mean for our practice?
It means that we're doing the hard work, but we're setting up the people who were holding the purse strings up for success by making their decision an easy one to have. And so we're looking at that 30,000 foot view of what it is that we're looking for, how much does it cost and, as Todd's been explaining, what are the benefits to the organization from various different ways. And Todd, I think you have something to share about what you call the 80, 20 rule as well.
Well yeah, I mean when people see the 80 20, they're probably thinking "Oh, why is he bringing up Pareto? No, I'm not bringing up the pareto ratio here. This is something that was shared with me in graduate school and I just keep seeing it up come up again and again, that 80 percent of the time, effort, and resource when you're going to propose a budget or request should go into the preparation. Now that may seem excessive, but I gotta tell you, you really need to think this thing through. Have the numbers, understand it, talk to the workers, talk to the supervisors, talk to the vendors, get everything in order, and then plan your story. Plan your approach, plan your strategy. In the past, what has this manager said yes to? What are they key on?
How do you make them relate to it? How do you really sell the sizzle? That's what so important. So, we've been talking about, we've been giving them, I think, some really great ideas, things that have worked for us, but there's such a wide range of things that people relate to and can see the value in. And one thing I want to point out here as well is that no, there are probably some of you out there that have a manager who they just say no to everything and they're really difficult to work with. You really need to start maybe developing a relationship with them before you hit them with "I need this money." So there may actually be some prep work that goes into building somebody up to the point where you increase your chance of success when you're asking for a safety investments. Jill.
Right. So we're asking for that safety, not safety capital, social capital is really important, and I think Todd, you wanted to share with the audience the ROI Calculation and talk a little bit about that as well.
Oh, right. So this is something that I teach my students along with everything else we've been talking about here today, that when we're gonna really get down the numbers, one particular, I don't know if you want to call it a statistic or a number, is the return on investment, the ROI. When you do your homework, you need to assess all the potential costs and that is the requested investment. What's it going to cost? Is there a one time purchase of the equipment? Is there a maintenance fee? Is there an installation fee? Is there a training allotment for it? There's a lot of things that can go into how much it's gonna cost, and you wanna be as accurate as possible. It needs to be able to be referenced, so a realistic thing, but then there are the benefits. What negative things are we going to avoid?
Are we gonna avoid an injury? Are we gonna avoid a disaster? Are we gonna avoid OSHA showing up with a big stick and making us cry? What are we going to avoid? What would increase the cost of business or decrease our productivity or possibly affect our brand. Maybe there's some customers that don't wanna work with us because of a disaster. These are all things we need to take into account depending on the situation, whatever project we're working on. But then the return on investment is basically stated as the potential benefits. So, you know, the savings if you will, minus the cost, which is the investment, divided by the cost, multiplied by 100 percent. And if you think of it that way, maybe in the first year we won't be able to achieve a positive benefit or positive return on investment.
So let's extend it out. That's what I tell my students. We start with a year and if it's gonna take more than a year. So you have to extend out the benefits per year, what is it? But then if the costs tend to go down because there's more of an initial investment, when are they going to see a return? And what I mean by that, is when are they going to see their original investment return, plus when are we going to start seeing some profit on that original investment and that's what the ROI really is.
Great. Thanks Todd. And for those of you listening, the formula that Todd just cited, Barret will be including that in some materials that he'll be emailing you after the event as well. So if you have never had an actual budget for safety, which I'm guessing if we had to raise of hands that probably most people listening don't have an actual safety budget because it is rare in our practice, though some of you may have one. If you had the opportunity to build a safety budget, what would go in that and Todd and I did some brainstorming when we were pulling this together about all of the different things that go into safety and we've got them on the screen here. This isn't comprehensive, but it's certainly a pretty good view of the vast areas of things that are considered safety and what would go into a safety budget.
So if you happen to have an opportunity to start building a safety budget, if you're lucky enough for that, these are some of the ideas that might get you started on what you put in line items that you'd be looking for, and it also gives you a place if you don't have a safety budget when you're explaining what that safety job includes and what we would spend money on in safety when you're talking to your decision making people. These would be one of those things that you could show the people with whom you report to or a management structure and then be able to use some of these as punctuation points to dip into the "Oh my gosh, I never even thought about this. This is part of safety." And so I'm just wanting to be able to share that with you.
And maybe post event, this might be a slide that you'll be interested in looking at. So, one of the other challenges that we have as safety professionals is we have so many things that we're trying to accomplish. How on earth do we set a priority when we think that everything is a priority, with safety because as safety professionals, we know what can go wrong if we're not paying attention and we're not giving people the information or the equipment that they need for success. We are the greatest worse case scenario people on the planet. So how do we choose between safety and safety when we really want to do everything, but it might not be a good business practice or we can't do it all in one day. And when I say not a good business practice, meaning you can't get it all done at once because maybe there's just no budget for everything you wanna do, and so how can you prioritize those items and still essentially live with yourself as a safety professional?
Right? So how can you present things in a triage fashion, and coming up with what you need to tackle first, second and third, knowing that even if you got a big bag of money delivered to you overnight, you still wouldn't be able to implement everything overnight and build Rome in a day. And so let's take a look at just a made up list of some priorities and then how might we look at those and gather information on all of them and make some decisions priority-wise, knowing that they're all things that are important and all things that are good, but how would we triage a list that looks like this? And I'll make up some scenarios for you as we go along. And then, as you're prioritizing things that you want to accomplish with safety, know your personal lines in the sand. And when I say that, I mean as a professional, you know about specific items in your head, in your workplace that you don't want to happen on your watch.
Something that is so important to you, or you know the risk is so high that you can't do a negotiation on something. This is where you stand your ground and you stand firm. So know what those are going into budgeting and going into triaging how you might approach something when you're doing an ask for budget. So let's look at this list. So let's say you are needing safety glasses, maybe your company doesn't have them or maybe only have one kind. So how would you justify and what would you look for to try to determine where on the priority list you put safety glasses? Well, I would look at injuries. I would look at the types of injuries that you're having now. Maybe you're having a lot of cases of things in eyes, but maybe the cost of treatment is washing out something with an eye, you're not having loss to it.
I know that sounds really harsh, that anything in someone's eye is terrible, but maybe the frequency is high, but the severity of what's occurring to your employees is low. That was one scenario that I was faced with in one of my jobs. Happened to have a lot of eye cases, but they weren't very serious. Okay. So we'll take that accounting of what the reality was and we're just going to shelve that and we're going to look at these other items that we need to compare and contrast and decide how we're going to prioritize things. And so another topic that I was challenged with was a ventilation system where employees were using a power washer to do sanitation work inside of a building and the power washer was fueled by gasoline and it was building carbon monoxide up in this particular area and areas across the company very, very quickly and I had seven people in an emergency room one night who were overcome by carbon monoxide, and when I looked at the history of the company before I got there, this happened to be a recurring theme where employees were being overexposed to carbon monoxide. And this, I'll let you know, was one of my lines in the sand.
This was something that I wasn't going to let continue because people's lives were on the line immediately, dangerous to life and health, and so I had some statistics. I had the history on that and then I did some research on how could we make this better, how could we engineer using engineering practices around this particular one and figured out a budget for that and what it would take. And then ergonomic improvement, same kind of thing, through one of the companies that I worked for having to have a lot of musculoskeletal injuries and so really broke those musculoskeletal injuries down by location, by job type and looked at the highest cost getters that we're spending money on trying to take care of people after they had gotten a musculoskeletal injury.
And then prioritize within that list of these are our biggest injury getters, here's where we're hurting the most people, the most severely, and then came up with what would those abatement measures look like to improve that work for those individuals and, how much would that cost. Fall protection. We could use that same scenario I gave at the beginning, and how much would that guardrail system cost versus maybe doing some training and administrative controls on that. How could we manage around that one? What would the cost be? First Aid and CPR certification and training. Is it something that's really needed at your organization or is it a nice to have? I know that one seems like a hard one to resurrect with your heart, right? But the fact is that if you're within a 911 call and your response time for your type of industry is in close proximity, as OSHA dictates, then you don't have to have people who have certifications, but if you're in a remote area than you do, and so you mitigate around that.
So I looked at that list and then I prioritize how would I triaged this from the top to the bottom and where would I ask for money on that? So in my particular case, this is what my triage ended up looking like, and the ventilation system was the first thing that I went after. That was my top priority and then I went down from there based on the savings that could be had and the maximum amount of people that I could help from having something serious happened to them. And so I looked at that ventilation system and thought "Okay, so that's an operations cost, it's a capital improvement cost. I'm going to go to my operations manager for that business unit", who I had built social capital with, which is what Todd and I were talking about earlier and said, "Can you get this in your budget and these are your employees who are exposed to this. Can you work on that?"
And the answer was yes, and we were able to make that happen through their capital improvement budget and leveraging and using the social capital that I had built with hat particular ops manager. Same thing was true with ergonomic improvements. While I wasn't able to do all 10 things I had on my list, we were able to tackle two at the very top of the list and again, work through capital budgeting with the operations manager who had the ability to approve up to a certain dollar amount of funding to make some changes on and then went down from there, where we're looking at maybe employee expenses with the safety glasses might be in the same budget where the office chairs are coming out of, and it really looked for where are those pools of money that we needed and move the priorities on from there.
And some of you may argue with the prioritization that I use, that's what I used, but again, the invitation is for you to be thinking about how can I triage these things in my work environment knowing that I can't ask for everything tomorrow and how can I build the best business case for it. And that's what I had to share on that. Todd, if you had some other items that you'd like to share and tag onto that, before we move into some questions, some final thoughts, that'd be great.
Sure. I think I've got like just two things to add and that is, with what the triage, now that's a very good way to do it, but another thing to think about is that success predicates success and there's a whole volume of research that says that if you could demonstrate to a manager the success of the investment, it tends to get a little bit easier to get the next one. And so if you can choose the project that you feel has the highest rate of return or the most likelihood of being successful, even though it may be a little bit smaller, go for it. Go for that one. Show that it's a good investment. Next is, oh it totally slipped my mind is ... we better go to Q and A, it totally slipped my mind.
That happens when you get this age.
Thank you. And so hopefully today you've all taken maybe a few items to add to your tool kit as it were for requesting budget, and hopefully some of this made sense for many of you that are listening. And of course, Todd and I are always welcome to take your questions, whether it's through this venue or sending us an email. You can go to learnatvivid.com,and there's a way to contact me and to get information or questions to Todd as well. So Barret, do we have any questions that we can answer in the time that we have remaining?
Oh, I actually thought of my other point. Could I say it real quick?
And this was an important point is that as an engineer I was always trained to document everything I do. Even when I present to management, I think this might be an issue. I never did this, but like when the space shuttle blew up, how do they know it was going to occur? They looked at the engineer's notes. So I was taught to always document. And that's part of what we're talking about all today. Document everything you have. You present it to management in the best way you can. They still say no, keep your notes because if something was to happen and there was to be some sort of criminal or civil investigation, you did everything you possibly could to prevent what had occurred and you should protect yourself. That's just a common professional thing. Document everything you do and keep it. Keep it just to protect yourself in the future. Hopefully it never happens and you don't want to point the fingers, but you did everything you could and maybe there's another company that would appreciate you more than the one you have. I just want to throw that out there at the end.
Yeah. Right. So documenting is absolutely. Keep that. And if you're ever in a position where you can make the ask again, your homework is already done.
We're at any questions for us?
Yes. And we'll have to go kind of rapid fire here as we near the end of the hour. The first question, how do we budget for multiple locations?
Right? That's a good question, and I guess I'd lean back into what I had stated earlier for multiple locations is to start with those operations managers, particularly if it's capital improvement projects or something that can be related to that and go to each one of them because oftentimes they have the ability to approve up to a certain dollar amount. And so if you can work within their budget and work in their particular area, the what's in it for them in their work environment is going to be an easier sell than maybe starting at the top sometimes.
Okay. Thank you. How many safety people do we need to have, staffing for our organization? How many safety professionals would you hire? How would we even know?
Yeah. Todd and I like to answer this one. There is actually a formula and we blogged about this and it can share the formula with you through the blog. I'm sure Barret can share, but just know that there is one and it's a common question. Todd, what would you like to add about how many do you need?
Well, sure, if you are the sole person or you and another person and you just don't have enough hours in the day to get done what you need to do. There is a possible in between option and that is bringing in a safety intern. A student who is pursuing a degree in safety or a related field. They're always looking for opportunities to gain experience, but it's a very low risk, high reward situation. They get anywhere from 15 to $16 an hour, you have over the summer and you give them tasks and once they really get to learn it, they can do a lot of maybe the more tedious things, the more time consuming, to release you to do other things as well. My students who go out, they do things like update the haz com program because they're acquiring the new SDSs. Maybe they're reviewing the lockout tagout standards and updating them.
There's a lot of things that take more time that you could have somebody else do, because you don't have enough hours in your day. And maybe at the end of the summer, at the end of the internship, you can show look, we barely paid this ... I don't want to say that, but we've only had to invest this much and look what we got out of it. So I need another person full time. And so I just know that there are some companies around where I teach that have used that option to justify hiring another person.
It's advice that I've given many times myself as well. And so if you are seeking out an intern, and know that not every college across the country has a safety degree program, there are few in places, in pockets across the country and if you're searching for where those are, you can certainly reach out to Todd or I and we can hopefully connect you to a university that's in your area. Barret, anything else or do we need to say goodbye? And thank you.
Unfortunately it is time to say both goodbye and thank you. Folks, that's it for us. A brief rundown of what we're sending you posted that to thank you for your participation and help you accomplish your safety goals going forward. We have a safety engagement survey, which helps you measure attitudes influencing your safety culture, and then makes the case for investment in your safety program. We have, excuse me, how many safety pros do you need to hire, which is a simple calculation to determine appropriate safety staffing levels for your operation, as discussed previously. Our training technology timeline. If you're wanting an old school safety program, you can use this infographic to prove it to your decision makers.
Essentially it's an illustration of the curve that Jill referenced during the broadcast today. And worker's comp math made easy. These are calculations that can help you prioritize your safety budget and bring meaningful metrics to management to further your argument for investment or reinvestment in your safety program. Folks, check your inboxes today for that email coming your way soon. Will include also a link to a recording of this webcast. A big thanks again to Dr. Todd for joining us our special guest. Jill, it is always a pleasure. You two make this so much fun.This concludes our webcast folks. Please stay safe out there. Thank you.