Periodically, we ask three safety pros how they’d handle a difficult work situation. Today’s problem: A manager is asked to cut an already lean safety budget.
Manager Mike Kelly was standing in front of the soda machine, getting ready to make a purchase when he heard, “Hey, can I borrow a dime?”
It was Bill Vilis, the company’s controller.
“The way you’ve slashed my safety budget, it’s kinda funny that you’re asking me for a dime,” Mike responded good naturedly as he handed Bill 10 cents.
Bill stood there with the dime in his hand. “Well, this is kinda awkward. Can we talk?”
Mike didn’t like the sound of Bill’s voice. They walked to Mike’s office in silence.
Good job – now cut more
“Let’s talk about next year’s budget,” Bill began.
“You’re going to give me back the money you cut last year, right?” Mike said.
“I really appreciate the cuts you made,” Bill said. “But I need you to cut 5% more from your budget.”
“Bill, I can’t cut another dime,” Mike said. “If you really appreciate what I was able to do last year, then I’m going to need at least a small increase because the cost of everything is going up.”
“Everybody has to make these cuts, Mike,” Bill said. “I can’t exempt your safety budget from that. Times are tough.”
“But I don’t think … ” Mike said before Bill cut him off.
“Have the budget numbers on my desk in two weeks,” said the controller as he walked out.
Mike wished he hadn’t given him that dime.
If you were Mike, what would you do next?
Penny Gledhill, Safety Director, Saegertown, PA
What Penny would do: First I’d try to show him the value of the safety department, why it was worth it to put a little more money into it. But if that didn’t work, I could try to come up with a few new ways to trim.
Reason: I don’t have much of a budget to work with here, so I’m used to figuring out how to meet safety requirements on a shoestring.
Jeff Grace, Safety Director, Massillon, OH
What Jeff would do: Research it and see the money impact either way. If you’re cutting money that’s saving the company in a safety-related area, cuts just wouldn’t make sense.
Reason: You’ve got to do your homework and see if you’re actually justified in asking for your money back. If you have high injury and lost time numbers, you’ll have fuel to ask for more money to combat that.
Dennis Giuliani, Director of Facilities, Oakton, VA
What Dennis would do: My inclination would be to go back to the previous year’s cuts and put them on the table in front of the controller. I might even bring in the people involved in those cuts. It’s important for the person making that final decision to see how we are putting ourselves at risk when safety’s cut.
Reason: If you lose a year, it takes a while to catch up to that. It could take you years to get back to where you’re already supposed to be, which sets back the whole company.
If you’ve faced a similar situation, what would you do? If you haven’t, do you know what you’d do if asked to make a substantial cut in your safety budget? You can tell us in the Comments Box below.