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Water Over the Dam: How Safety Culture Determines Profitability

By March 16, 2021Insurance

Photo by: Jason Harvey/KTNV, Copyright 2021 Scripps Media, Inc.

Written by Ralph Thresher, Senior Safety Consultant at Webber and Grinnell Insurance

Your safety culture determines your profitability. Yes, you read that correctly. Your first thought when you hear “safety culture” might be “it slows me down and makes me less productive.” Creating a safety culture does require an initial investment of time and money. But if you do it well and maintain it, you will save substantial sums of money in the long term. If I’ve gotten your attention and made you question “how could this be?”, read on.

Imagine your company as an expansive reservoir held in place by a dam. Your company’s ever-growing revenue stream is the water that continuously flows into the reservoir, supported by the dam. You want to make sure you’ve built the dam as solidly as possible and done everything you can to make sure the water stays behind it. You need an effective dam maintenance and repair program so that the dam is in great shape for many, many years. You want to build it large enough to hold all the water from the area streams and rivers flowing into it – your revenue streams – and as those streams grow, you want to continue retaining more and more water without it overflowing.

Your safety culture is that dam.

A weak safety culture allows employees to violate safe working and driving procedures without correction, as if someone is striking the dam with a wrecking ball. It goes unnoticed at first, but eventually the cracks begin to show. Holes – known as accidents – begin appearing, insurance costs rise dramatically, regulatory citations force you to pay large fines, and production slows down due to employees experiencing shock. You spend time and money hiring new employees to replace injured ones, and replacing vehicles and equipment while paying to repair the damaged units. You spend considerable time taking extensive corrective actions involving discipline and retraining to “beef up the dam”, after water has already escaped.

Each accident, much like cracks and holes in a poorly-maintained dam, will cause you to lose a large part of your revenue stream annually. In a matter of time, if you continue to allow your safety culture to crumble, the weak dam will finally let go and a major catastrophe will occur, causing you to lose your business entirely. This could be a major fire, vehicle accident, or other event that involves employees, the public, and your property. As an example, a jury recently awarded a family whose 21-year-old son was killed in an auto accident, $247 million to punish the offending company for allowing a knowingly unsafe driver to continue to operate. Could you survive that?

A strong safety culture – much like the large and strong dam – safeguards your revenue stream, allowing it to grow safely without worry. And much like a great maintenance program for a dam, a safety culture with effective safety programs enables you to sleep better at night knowing you are doing your best to protect your employees from injury, your property from damage, and keeping the likelihood of suffering a catastrophic loss to an absolute minimum.

We’ve all seen pictures of the Hoover Dam, and the massive undertaking needed to construct it so it would not fail. It holds millions of gallons of water daily and is well maintained to ensure it functions properly. You have spent a vast amount of time and energy creating your business to generate your revenue streams. Safeguard your employees and finances with an effective safety culture and reap the rewards for many years to come.

Want help further developing your culture of safety? Feel free to email me at, or call me at (413) 478-5228 and I will be glad to help!

 Ralph E. Thresher, Sr. Safety Consultant