In September and October 2016, BNP Media Research conducted an online survey of ISHN readers, asking many of you and your peers about program goals and priorities for the coming year.
What high-impact challenges confront readers? They really don’t change much year to year; same as with OSHA’s top most frequently cited standards. The top five challenges that will have a high impact on programs: 1) Getting consistent employee safe behaviors; 2) Putting safety on equal footing with production; 3) Safety training of employees; 4) Getting senior leadership buy-in for safety and health; and 5) OSHA compliance.
Employee behaviors, a level playing field in the organization, training, leader buy-in, and OSHA compliance — safety and health pros have been challenged by these same very issues for decades now.
What are low-impact challenges that don’t worry safety and health pros? About 60 percent of respondents or more say employee legal use of controlled substances/medications on the job; employee illegal substance abuse; and off-the-job injuries are not serious concerns going into 2017. So despite the talk about medication and illegal substance abuse epidemics in this country, most readers say their workplaces have not been infected.
The top three high-priority goals for programs in 2017: 1) Build/maintain a safety culture; 2) Reduce serious injuries and fatalities; and 3) Lower OSHA recordable incident rates.
Nothing surprising here. “Culture” has been one of the hottest topics in safety and health for years now. Serious injuries and fatalities are receiving increased attention as they still plague many organizations with otherwise better-than-average injury rates. And lowering OSHA recordables has been goal of professionals since the day OSHA first opened its doors in 1971.
BBS slide continues
Behavior-based safety programs have been on a downward trajectory in terms of popularity for some years now according to ISHN’s surveys, after BBS peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000 years. Only 28 percent of readers say BBS programs will be a high priority in 2017. In ISHN reader surveys in the 1990s, upwards of 50+ percent of readers were investing in BBS.
What’s low on the priority list for safety and health pros? Forty to fifty percent say preventing on the job violence, incentive programs, temp worker safety, and reducing employee fatigue won’t get a lot of attention.
Again, what’s in the news is not what’s on the radar screen of many pros. Workplace violence has gotten media coverage for years. OSHA in recent years has put a major emphasis on temp worker safety. And fatigue management programs are emerging as significant components of health and wellness programs. It could be that workplace violence is mostly a retail industry concern, not factory-oriented, which is where most ISHN readers work. Temp workers are everywhere in this economy, but apparently most safety and health pros believe temps are well protected in their workplaces. Fatigue as a health and safety issue may be too new to be recognized as a hazard by many pros.
Tech Safety is ”in”
The use of technology is definitely a hot topic in safety and health land. In the next two to three years, 56 percent of readers say their use of smartphones, tablets, and safety apps will increase. More than one-third (36 percent) report the use of wearable safety and health-related technology by employees will grow in the coming two or three years.
There is a significant shift occurring in the roles played by professionals. Only 15 percent say their emphasis on being the “safety cop” will increase in the next two to three years; almost triple that percentage (44 percent) say their emphasis on being an in-house safety consultant, advisor and coach will increase. It appears traditional rules discipline is being eased aside (not eliminated) by much stronger efforts to engage employees and coach senior leaders to get their buy-in.
Two organization-wide initiatives will continue to gain traction in the next two to three years, according to the survey. Forty percent of readers report their companies will get more involved in sustainability issues, and 38 percent say their businesses will be more involved in employee wellness and health promotion. One reason for that could be 36 percent of pros report employee lifestyle health issues are one of their top injury and illness concerns, and about one-quarter (26 percent) report employee stress and mental health is a top concern. Only four percent of those surveyed say their companies will be less involved in wellness and health promotion in the coming years. Only three percent perceive less involvement in sustainability issues.
Finally, a demographic snapshot: in 2017 the typical safety and health professional is 53 years old (mean age), male (84 percent), and experienced (53 percent have between 11 and 30 years on the job; 16 percent have more than 30 years’ experience). The median annual gross salary is $75,000. One-quarter (25 percent) of those surveyed make more than $100,000 annually.