Safer Workplaces are More Productive, Says Former OSHA Head

Environmental and Occupational Health Professor David Michaels knows quite a lot about the benefits of keeping workers safe.  As a researcher who has been investigating occupational safety and health for decades and the longest-serving leader of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Michaels has amassed a great deal of data showing that the employers with the safest workplaces tend to be some of the most profitable.

Over the past few weeks, Michaels, who left OSHA to return to the Milken Institute School of Public Health last January, has given important talks on what he believes is an under-appreciated topic.  “By managing for safety, businesses are not only safer places to work, but the firms become more productive and profitable.  It’s a win-win proposition,” he explains. 

Michaels spoke about the link between safety, productivity, and profitability as a featured speaker at the XXI World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, the world’s largest conference of its kind.  Held in Singapore in early September, the event’s organizers estimated that it drew more than 3,500 delegates and 5,000 visitors from over 100 countries.  

More recently, he gave a similar talk at a meeting of the Council of Institutional Investors, a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of corporate, public and union employee benefit funds and endowments.  The session where he spoke at that meeting focused specifically on Tesla Motors, a rapidly growing firm where workers are at increased risk of injury.  

In the coming months, Michaels plans to speak and write more about what he considers to be a crucially important subject.