Business Values Productivity over Safety

A new survey has found an alarming number of Australian businesses value productivity over safety in the workplace. The survey into business attitudes to safety was released at the Safety in Action Conference this month. It was conducted by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) in conjunction with the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA).

Productivity Vs. SafetyThe survey found that 50% of OHS Personnel said efforts to minimise OHS risks within their organisations are compromised by concerns that they will have a negative impact on productivity. It said that almost a quarter (23%) of senior managers who participated in the survey echoed these concerns about OHS and reduced productivity.

According to the survey less than half of CEOs and Board members (49%) and senior managers (44%) said they ‘strongly agreed’ that ‘there is OHS leadership within my organisation’. And a similar number do not believe their organisation has a ‘well entrenched OHS culture’.

This represents a worrying gap between the views of top level management and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Personnel. Just 44% of OHS personnel said there is a ‘very high priority’ placed on health and safety in their organisations compared to 71% of CEOs and Board members and 64% of senior managers.

According to AIM Victoria CEO, Susan Herron, given that OHS personnel are crucial to an organisation’s health and safety performance, this points to leadership and internal communication challenges for many Australian organisations if a high level, consistent response from all management and personnel segments is to be achieved.

The Business of Safety survey provides an insight into how Australian organisations regard workplace health and safety as a driver of organisational performance and employee engagement. It covered a wide range of business sizes and industries, from small businesses to large organisations.
Wayne Patterson is on the National Board of Directors of the Australian Institute of Management. He said “While the results were obtained by surveying a largely Victorian database the findings could be applied to business in all states. Business practice does not differ materially between states. If we find in one state there is a gap between what leaders say about the importance of OHS and what their line people tell us happens in reality, then you can bet that is the story everywhere else”.

The report finished by saying effective leadership on workplace health and safety is overdue. If you want to read the full report it can be found at Business of Safety.

About the Author

Joanne Wallace is our resident "Safety Guru". Joanne has provided advice on safety management for the past 10 years and written hundreds of articles on safety issues and tips. Joanne has experience in many industries ranging from manufacturing, food processing, timber milling, retail, office and wholesaling providing her with knowledge and experience managing risk and injuries in these industries.

Comments (1)

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  1. Les Henley says:

    The findings of this survey are not surprising given that few non-ohs trained managers (and many ohs trained specialists) are not able to adequately cost the ohs component of work tasks. Hence the ability to properly cost a tender for a contract is radically impeded. (See my article on this site at

    Even if one organisation were to properly cost the OHS component of a tender, the problem is compounded by the fact the tender would be unfairly compared against other organisations that did not add in the ohs component making the process of winning contracts impossible in this environment.

    It’s a never ending downward spiral until EVERY organisation is required to cost OHS and demonstrate their costing as part of the tendering/quoting process.

    Les Henley
    OHS Advisor

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