State of the EHS Nation

ISHN's 21st annual White Paper "State of the EHS" survey

November 1, 2004
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For our 2005 outlook, we mailed 2,000 two-page surveys to ISHN readers in August and received 511 returns, for a 26 percent response rate. Here we present ten summary findings, along with some comparisons to a decade ago. Next month, we'll look at the practices of world-class safety programs. And in January we'll give you an in-depth look at responses by facility size and job function (safety vs. industrial hygiene vs. environmental).
 

1) What drives investments: OSHA rules

OSHA regimes come and go, but respect for the regs never wavers much for companies with safety and health pros on staff. OSHA compliance was a top goal of 73 percent of readers back in 1995. So what motivates companies to spend money on safety and health in 2005? OSHA compliance still dominates - cited by 65 percent of readers.

Company values are coming on as an influence (cited by 57 percent). That puts values ahead of workers' comp savings (45 percent) and way ahead of CEO leadership (29 percent).
 

2) Selling execs: bottom line pitch hits a wall

The business case for safety has had a hard time gaining traction. In 1995, 26 percent of readers wanted to sharpen their ability to document cost-savings. In 2005, 33 percent of work sites surveyed are investing in safety because it's seen as a competitive advantage.
 

3) Empowering employees: the quest continues

Giving employees more safety responsibilities (training, inspections, investigations, etc.) will get big push in '05 - cited by 67 percent of readers. This is a never-ending quest. In 1995, 45 percent of readers said increasing use of employee safety teams was a top goal.
 

4) Behavioral safety: it's part of the program

Behavior-based safety seems safely ingrained now as a staple of many programs - to be used by 51 percent of readers next year. That's up significantly from 1995, when 23 percent were using BBS.

Despite its "blame-the-worker" baggage, only 26 percent of pros say BBS is difficult to sell management. Selling it to employees might be a different story. Less popular tools: Management systems will be used by 28 percent of readers in '05; perception surveys by 15 percent.
 

5) Employee ownership: got to have it

Of all the things you can do to make a workplace safe, what's most important? Get employees to handle those safety tasks, say 48 percent of readers.

Call it delegating, empowering, off-loading or whatever, readers say employee involvement is more critical than OSHA compliance (cited by 45 percent as most important), ergonomics (13 percent), management systems (17 percent) or BBS (38 percent).
 

6) Budgets & staffing: mostly cut-resistant

Ten years ago, 15 percent of readers were trimming their safety and health budgets. In 2005, 12 percent will be cutting back.

In 1995, 19 percent of readers were adding to staff. Ten years later, 15 percent say they are expanding staff levels. And for the talk about layoffs in safety and health, eight percent of readers say their departments will cut staff in 2005. Ten years ago, ten percent were making cuts. Note: We are surveying more consultants now than a decade ago.
 

7) Measuring performance: lagging interest in leading indicators

Leading indicators measure safety activities and processes (number of hazards identified and corrected, for example). Many experts say these metrics give you a better picture of the vigor and effectiveness of your safety efforts, compared to after-the-fact OSHA injury rates. But only 18 percent of readers say they use leading indicators.

Injury rates have always been the yardstick for most execs when they study safety. And what management studies gets measured. Ten years ago, improving rates was a top goal of 56 percent of readers.
 

8) Job descriptions: no time for new roles

Ten years ago, 58 percent of readers said improving technical skills was a priority; 45 percent said they would be working on improving compliance skills.

For all the talk about pros shifting from compliance cops to in-house counselors, few readers seem to have the time for new roles. Tradition still holds sway. In 2005, 38 percent will devote more time to training, 36 percent more time to technical issues, and 27 percent will put more emphasis on enforcing compliance. Twenty-two percent say they will work more on being "change agents," 22 percent will delegate more, and 22 percent will spend more time as executive advisors.
 

9) Safety cultures: searching for buy-in

Readers are honest in appraising their workplace safety cultures. Only nine percent rate their cultures as world class. Most describe their cultures as above average (44 percent) or average (41 percent). Complacency isn't a problem, cited by only 20 percent. One-third see room for improvement. The biggest challenges: improving accountability for safety (cited by 56 percent) and employee ownership (46 percent), and management leadership (44 percent).
 

10) Job satisfaction: look who's smiling

About four in ten readers (42 percent) say they will feel a rewarding sense of job satisfaction in 2005. Ten years ago, 46 percent felt satisfied in their jobs. Downsizing, outsourcing, globalization, work-life stresses - ten years of assorted pressures don't seem to have diminished spirits much.
 

 

21st ANNUAL WHITE PAPER SPONSORS
• AV Systems
• Aerion Technologies
• Airgas
• BW Technologies
• Bausch & Lomb
• Bradley Corp.
• DBISala/Protecta
• E-A-R
• ENMET
• GfG Instrumentation, Inc.
• Haws Corp.
• ION Science (Americas)
• Industrial Scientific Corp.
• Moldex
• North Safety Products
• Perfect Fit Glove
• RAE Systems
• Summit Training Source
• The Bill Sims Company
• Uvex

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