I hear it very often from students, attendees at safety shows, and during site needs assessments. It is usually something the safety representative says, but more and more, I hear it from the employees, and it goes something like this: “Our management wants us to be safe, but when it comes time to sign the check to pay for it, all of a sudden they have second thoughts.”
In my experience, investment in safety is often cyclical; it ebbs and flows with the macroeconomy generally, and with a specific industry sector's performance in particular. Investment in safety tends to wane when profits are lean.
One of the old TV commercials put it clearly. It was a motor oil commercial and the mechanic says, “You can pay me now for an oil change, or pay me later for an engine rebuild.” The broader message is: it's much cheaper to invest in preventative measures now than to pay for the failure later.
An article published in NSC’s Safety + Health magazine earlier this year points out some strategies that may help you as a safety professional demonstrate to your management the economic sense of investing in proactive safety.