Safety makes good business sense

How business owners can improve safety and the bottom line

June 8, 2004
By: Charlie McCarthy

Editor's Note: Charlie McCarthy is a member of the FMA/CNA Safety Committee, an organization devoted to improving safety in the metal manufacturing environment.

As a businessperson performing your normal responsibilities, you think about many things during your average workday. The demands relating to your operations are tremendous. Production, facility maintenance, and work force concerns are only a few items that confront you on a daily basis. How much attention is given to safety? Is safety a top priority? If not, it must be! Good safety practices—important factors in controlling your costs and improving your bottom line—should be routine.

Safe, Optimally Productive Equipment

Production, the key ingredient that drives your business, requires the right equipment. Is your equipment up-to-date? Does it meet your needs? Is it efficient? Does it maximize your production potential?

Equipment must be given special attention to ensure that it is safe to operate. Do you test your machinery to verify that it is running properly? Are proper safeguards in place to prevent injuries?

Machine operators must be adequately trained, not only in using the machine, but also in verifying that safety features are operating properly. Operators, supervisors, and managers must inspect machines to make sure safeguards are in place and unobstructed.

Appropriate, regular maintenance goes hand in hand with inspection to ensure machine safety. Operators, supervisors, and managers all are responsible for seeing that machinery is maintained in suitable working order. Performing recommended maintenance emphasizes the importance of safety and provides optimally performing equipment that helps prevent injuries, achieve production goals, and increase profitability.

A Safe Work Environment—Inside and Out

When you arrive at work, take a few moments to look around your company's grounds. Are they clean, orderly, and illuminated? Do they present a good image?

Is the grass cut? Is snow removed? Are there any wet surfaces? Are the sidewalks even and clear of debris? Is the parking area pothole-free and well-marked? Are there any stairs, and if so, are they too steep? Are secure handrails in place?

Grounds conditions cannot be taken for granted or ignored. Hazards could lead to a serious fall and huge penalties if the company is sued and found liable. It makes good business sense to pay attention to the details and protect your business.

Once inside, take another look around and ask the following questions: Does the facility's interior present a first-class image? Does the customer feel welcome and comfortable? Are the premises neat, clean, and well-organized?

Pay attention to the floors and carpeting. Are they in good, hazard-free condition? Is there anything about them that might cause visitors and employees to fall?

The shop should be orderly and clean. Machinery and equipment should be in good working condition with proper safety measures and procedures in place.

Avoiding Fire-related Costs

As a business owner, your livelihood depends on staying in business. The worst thing that can happen is your business being shut down by fire. The building damage, business operations interruption, lost income, and additional expenses to get back into business are, of course, problems you want to avoid. You can take measures to identify and control circumstances that could result in this catastrophic event.

Good housekeeping techniques and an automatic sprinkler system can minimize fire risk and reduce damage if there is a fire. A sprinkler system may be expensive upfront, but it might save you insurance dollars. An automatic sprinkler system must be installed, maintained, serviced, and inspected by a professional. Inspections should be done annually, or more often, depending on local requirements. Make sure the system is tagged the day of the inspection.

The system should be designed for your specific operations and the type and amount of combustible materials in your facility. The control valve should be chained in the open position. Adequate water supply to utilize the system fully is key. Always protect your pipes from freezing. Check sprinkler heads to make sure they are in good condition, free from obstruction, dust, dirt, paint, and other materials commonly used in your operations. Keep a supply of sprinkler heads for replacement as needed. Maintain proper clearance of at least 18 inches between the sprinkler head and stored material.

Portable fire extinguishers are less expensive than an automatic sprinkler system and often are the first line of defense in fire fighting. Use the correct extinguisher for your operation, and place extinguishers near possible ignition sources—clearly identified, highly visible, and easily accessible. Train employees on how to use them. Like sprinkler systems, portable extinguishers should be professionally inspected, serviced, and tagged annually, or as often as locally required.

Smoke and fire detectors are excellent tools to alert you if there is a fire. They should be tested at least monthly and kept clean and clear of debris. If battery- powered, units should be checked and batteries replaced as needed.

Flammable liquids storage and use is another important safety issue. Always store flammable liquids in their original labeled containers inside a UL-approved cabinet. Use only what you need for the job and avoid storing large amounts. Make sure that adequate ventilation is present where flammable liquids are used, and keep them away from ignition sources. Properly dispose of oily and solvent-soaked rags by placing them in an approved container to avoid spontaneous ignition.

Remember, safety makes good business sense. Giving safety the consideration it deserves will be beneficial to your success.

Charlie McCarthy, retired from CNA, was the original underwriter for the FMA/CNA business insurance program and continued in that role until his retirement. He is an independent insurance consultant and continues to serve on the FMA/CNA Safety Committee. He can be reached at

Charlie McCarthy

Contributing Writer
Charlie, now retired from CNA, was the original underwriter for the FMA/CNA business insurance program and continued in that role until his retirement. He serves on the FMA/CNA Safety Committee.