As a compliance practitioner, how often have your heard something along the lines of “But we’ve always done it that way” or [my favorite] “That’s the way those people do business”? As a recovering trial lawyer, I spent the first 18 years of my career largely defending companies which were sued for catastrophic injury claims. From this vantage point, I saw the cost to corporations in the form of jury awards and insurance premiums that they paid for commercial general insurance coverage. A large part of it was due to the fact that safety was not mission critical to most of the companies that I represented.
However, this began to change in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Companies began to make clear, in a very public manner that safety was the No. 1 priority for them. One of the most public changes was at Exxon after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, where senior management made it clear that as closely as Exxon’s management watched costs, it also made clear to every worker that the one cardinal sin was skimping on safety. I recently saw an article, from a completely unrelated industry which made the same type of change, published in the online journal Slate, entitled “How tragedy on the set of the 1983 feature-length adaptation of The Twilight Zone changed the way movies are made”, where author Robert Weintraub reviewed the changes in movie-making safety after a horrific accident, on the set of the movie The Twilight Zone, led to the death of three actors.
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