The value of Safety.

Can you really put a value on safety? Well yes you can, everything has a value, everything has a cost and although I don’t make light of safety issues I can tell you now the safety has a massive cost and a value that many can’t and wont calculate.

Ten years ago the company I worked for went through a massive safety audit, not because of accidents, not because the place was unsafe, purely because a government pen pusher who sat in his high rise office five days of the week needed to justify his job.

Again don’t get me wrong I don’t think safety should be taken lightly but the cost and value for our company nearly sent it broke. It wasn’t even a case of these things should have been done before to maintain a safe working environment. Our company had not had a major accident in more than five years. But because some bureaucratic pen pusher decided without leaving the comfort of his office, where he turned the computer monitor on each morning only to warm his hands and play solitaire, needed to been seen doing something. So he decided, without consultation with anyone in the field, that ‘safety’ measures needed to be changed.

We were truck drivers, delivering baked goods seven days a week out of two regional depots. We had eight twelve tonne trucks, two prime movers with tri-axle pantechs, two reps cars, and countless other items required for the job. Thanks to a state wide government mandate we had to make many changes to remain ‘safe’, here’s some of them.

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Remodelling of two loading docks: The loading docks which had been in place and well maintained for more than fifteen years were deemed unsafe because they were not anchored to the building structure. Each loading dock, made out of solid timber and chequer plate steel weighed in excess of 1500kg, was mounted to the ground and did not move. But new rules stated, despite the advice of structural engineers, that they should be secured to the main structure of the depot. Small cranes were hired and tradesmen brought it etc and once secured they also needed to have yellow lines painted on every edge. Cost to remodel: $45,000

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All ladders on loading docks needed to be remade as vertical ladders with rails that extended 1.5 metres higher than the loading dock and mounted to the loading dock. Most stores in this country mount the ladder on a wall 90 degrees to the loading dock because it allows hand delivered items to be lifted up onto the loading dock, pushed out of the way and the delivery person to climb up. Ladders on the loading dock meant such deliveries couldn’t be made without ensuring the loading bays were not being used by trucks or forklift. Cost to our company alone: $1400 per ladder to be remade. $400 per installation and we had four ladders in each depot. $14,400.

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Yellow lines had to be pained on the rear edge of each truck and trailer because yellow paint apparently ensures workers don’t walk of the edge. Chequer plate also had to be sealed with a lacquer. Because of drying time and the work needed each truck had to be taken off the road for two days while the job was done. Cost of paint and painters $2200 for each of the eight toy trucks and $3800 for the two semi trailers. Truck hire to replace what was off the road $13,500. Total cost $25,200.

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All tail lifts on all trucks and trailers needed safety rails added to them. These rails had to be designed by an engineer to ensure they didn’t effect the way the tail lifts worked or their safety. However the only design they could make work meant that instead of the smaller trucks able to hold three bread dollies, (dollies that held two columns of fourteen high bread crates), they could only hold two. The semi trailers went from four dollies to two. The total cost for all tail lifts came in at $27,000. Because the toy trucks could hold fourteen dollies and the semis could hold thirty in total, the unloading and loading time spent every day has probably added up to more than that since those changes were enforced.

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Then there is the loading ramps which allowed bread dollies to be shifted between the loading docks and the ground which had to be removed because they WERE NOT allowed to be mounted to the loading dock because mounting things to the loading docks is unsafe. Not taking into account that each depot instantly had two $3500 loading ramps they could no longer use the time lost by workers over the last ten years would be well into the tens of thousands.

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There was also a plethora of other things that the new government mandates cost too but those few things alone cost our company in excess of $125,000.00. The value however, even with our massively over priced labour market, has been so much higher. The value will continue to grow as well because these rules and rules like them continue to be made, without proper thought and without proper consultation all because someone needs to justify their own tax payer funded job.

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As an interesting (although painful aside) before these new rules came in, as stated above, our company had gone more than five years without a serious loss time accident. Within twelve months of the new rules there had been two accidents caused by the tail lift rails which were suppose to be there to stop people falling off. Both accidents were serious enough for drivers to be off work, require surgery and eventually unable to continue as truck drivers.

So how much does safety cost? A lot more if it’s bureaucratic safety!