It’s sometimes hard to see the connection between workplace safety and financial success. But investing in it, aside from being the right thing to do, is simply smart business.

By Jeff Ghannam, CSP
EVERY ORGANIZATION is confronted with balancing overhead and revenue. Safety is often a low priority, even though many initiatives can be addressed inexpensively on your own—though others (like air quality) admittedly require a bigger investment.

A certain lack of enthusiasm is understandable. Bump up your marketing spend, and you’ll probably gain more new patients. Put money into new tech like 3D printing and imaging, and your levels of care and efficiency improve significantly. Invest more in safety… and the results aren’t as immediately apparent. However, there’s not only a statistical correlation between workplace safety and business success, but also gains in staff retention and even psychological peace.

One study from British Columbia found that businesses that failed within their first two years had, in their first year, an average injury rate more than twice as high as those that survived five years or more. Sure, you could argue that businesses with higher injury rates are just generally lazier and sloppier. But that’s akin to arguing that oral health doesn’t directly correlate with whole-body health. In the end, it misses the point: Businesses with successful overall strategies don’t ignore any opportunities to continually improve across all areas.

Employee retention is another area where a company can benefit. One safety consultancy boasting big-name clients including Coca-Cola and Walmart surveyed a broad cross-section of American workers in 2022. The resulting analysis revealed that 89 percent of working Americans say safety is more important than ever. No wonder. We’re living in a world in which accidents and natural disasters are now accompanied by increasingly jarring incidents of workplace violence—something to which health care workers are especially vulnerable.

Businesses with successful overall strategies don’t ignore any opportunities to continually improve across all areas.

Other reports indicate that while only about 39 percent of employers believe prospective employees ask about their organization’s health and safety programs, about 73 percent of potential hires consider it before accepting an offer. In today’s economy, everything businesses can do to make hiring and retaining employees easier and less costly is a win. Underestimating potential team member expectations, or neglecting them entirely, is profoundly counterproductive in a competitive hiring environment where every little advantage helps.

You’re probably already complying with basic OSHA, HIPAA and infection control protocols. But how would you escape from your workplace in an emergency? Who would take responsibility for evacuating both team members and patients—some of whom, conceivably, could be mid-procedure or even under sedation? Do you know where all the exits are? Are you sure the doors will be unlocked and that the exit access, such as a hallway, will not be blocked? Answering those questions won’t cost you a penny, and you’ll be well on your way to putting an exit plan in place. That’s a great start.

How about ventilation—have you asked your patients how concerned they are about air quality? Even practices that are locked into a set system or have limited budgets can supplement with portable filtration that improves conditions for everyone.

Deciding on practice upgrades that don’t necessarily draw a straight line to ROI is a judgment call. That doesn’t mean you can’t raise the bar on your current safety protocols for little or no money. At best, it will make you a better employer and smarter entrepreneur. If you’re not sure where to start, simply talk to your Friendly Benco Rep about coaching and education options keyed to your practice.

JEFF GHANNAM is is Benco Dental’s Safety Manager. He is a Certified Safety Professional whose background includes environmental consulting for architecture, general risk assessment and controls, and regulatory compliance and manufacturing safety for military and defense contractors.