Overcoming the Challenges of Delivering Off-the-Job Safety Programs

by Dan Hannan, CSP

An employer that only focuses on preventing workplace accidents is missing a large exposure. It’s a hard reality that the frequency of off-the-job injuries and fatalities exceed those occurring in the workplace many times over. Even though he’s not “on the job” when an employee makes home roof repairs , fails to use a ladder properly, and then falls, the impact from the resulting injury extends beyond his family’s livelihood to affect his employer’s productivity, as well.

Safety is about managing risk. In its simplest form this comes down to making good decisions. The Holy Grail of safety is to change core behavior so that good decisions are likelier to be made. Employers invest a lot of time and money educating employees on the finer points of safety in the workplace in the hopes that what is committed to memory will become automatic. But what are the expectations outside of work? With no oversight or disciplinary consequence will employees take their workplace safety knowledge and apply it off-the-job (OTJ)?

The goal of an OTJ safety and health program is to help the employee realize the value of applying safety 24/7. By bringing safety home and passing that knowledge on to their family the employee helps prevent family members from becoming injured, as well. Uninjured family members keep the employee at work and keeps employer-provided health care costs down.

In August of 2014 the National Safety Council conducted a survey of their member’s to identify what the challenges are in implementing an OTJ program. The results were enlightening. That survey data, along with input from members with active OTJ programs, identified the following barriers to implementation and common perceptions/misperceptions:

  • Cost of implementing an OTJ program is a prohibiting factor.
    There is little support for the suggestion that cost is a prohibitive factor. The primary goal is to show effort, caring and concern for the well-being of the employee and their family. Whether a lot or a little money is spent, that outcome can still be achieved.
  • “Difficult-to-sell” to the workforce and sustain interest.
    Means and methods for delivering helpful OTJ information must be considered carefully so as to not suggest that the employer is trying to tell the employee how to live/play/work off-the-job.
  • Difficult to demonstrate the value to management and hard to measure the ROI.
    The business value returned to employers is difficult to calculate directly. Many of those companies with current OTJ programs find intrinsic value in the care exhibited to their employees and do it because “It is the right thing to do”.
  • Lack of off-the-job resources.
    A variety of free and low-cost options exist to engage employees in the messaging around safety.
  • Poor understanding of the risk factors.
    The growing concern over distracted driving, both on and off the job, has compelled employers to address this issue. However, data from the most recent NSC Injury Facts publication actually shows that an employee is two and a half times more likely to be fatally injured at home or in the community than while driving.

We can see that answers to these barriers for implementing OTJ safety programs do exist. The NSC Safe Communities Division convenes a group of industry leaders monthly to discuss these challenges and identify best-practices. If you are interested in participating in this discussion please contact Dan Hannan, Chairman, NSC Safe Communities Division at:

Learn more: Mr. Hannan will present “Achieving a 24/7 Safety Mindset through Off-the-Job Safety Engagement” at BLR’s 2015 Safety Summit. To register for the event, visit


About Dan Hannan:

Dan Hannan, CSP has been a safety, health and environmental professional for 24 years and has worked for both public and private employers in a variety of industries including oil & gas, construction and manufacturing. Mr. Hannan is the present Chairman of the NSC Safe Communities Division and author of “Preventing Home Accidents”, a book resource for employers to engage their workers in being safe away from work.