Adam Rollins graduated with a bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health in 2016, going to work for a heavy manufacturer that he had done internships with. His title is EHS Manager, and his true name is not Adam. Using a pseudonym avoids having to get clearance from his company’s legal department. Come next month, January 2019, we’ll be but 11 years from 2030. In 2030, Adam will have 14 years of experience and be in his prime, 38 years old. What will his EHS world, and the broader business world, look like?

Here are ISHN’s predictions, based on interviews with more than a dozen EHS pros and research into future projections of all varieties.

  1. EHS institutional memory will be valued. Currently, 23 percent of ISHN’s audience is between ages 60-69. By 2030, just about all those practitioners will be in their 70s, many if not most retired. Another 37 percent of ISHN’s readership is 50-59 years old. In 2030, many will be past retirement age, in their late 60s. Sixty-five will no longer be the standard retirement finish line, but together these two age groups represent more than half of ISHN’s audience. And the majority will have left their full-time jobs behind. A number will roam as consultants. Adam, as he looks around at age 38, will value the experience, insights, lessons learned, and the knowledge of EHS graybeards still hold down full-time staff positions. They won’t always be easy to find.
  2. More EHS management systems will be implemented and certified. ISO 45001 and ANSI Z10 will have been on the books for more than decade by 2030. Based on the number of companies that were certified to OHSAS 18001, the forerunner of ISO 45001, more than 150,000 organizations globally could be ISO 45001 certified. Global supply chains will demand consistency among suppliers and use 45001 as the standard.
  3. Sixty percent of EHS pros will work as consultants, independent contractors, freelancers. Forty percent will work full-time on company payrolls in Corporate America, construction, healthcare, the government, retail and manufacturing. PwC predicts by 2030 full-time, permanent employment in the U.S. will drop to nine percent, an all-time low.
  4. EHS pros often will work on projects as independent contractors or consultants as necessary specialists and be employed only as long as the project lasts. In-house EHS staffs will be lean, relying on technology. Much EHS work will be outsourced, as will human resources, maintenance, customer service, accounting, legal, and sales. Operations and assembly work will be populated by many off-payroll temps and veterans of the gig economy.
  5. Many EHS pros will have to fend for themselves for benefits like health insurance, pensions and long-term employment.
  6. Many EHS pros will have to become adept at marketing, sales and customer relations. Networking and social media will be essential. Pros will run their own businesses – You, Inc.
  7. Humanity will not change more in the next 20 years than in all of human history – despite what some futurists say.
  8. Robots and automation will not cause the loss of 73 million jobs in the U.S. by 2030, as predicted by McKinsey Global Institute. One EHS pro says manufacturing, oil and gas, and construction will be on the upswing. Infrastructure construction will be rampant. Another pro calls the lost jobs “over-stated.” Other pros called the job loss scenario “a premature announcement” and “over-inflated.”
  9. Human performance in the lean workplace will be pushed to the limit and obsessively monitored, tracked and analyzed.
  10. Performance and behavior in the workplace will be predicted. Predictions will be based on analytics. Every employee’s number of sick days, commute times, injuries and near-misses, shift and team audit and observation scores, and other factors will be calculated into an at-risk score. Employees ranked high as at-risk or accident-prone will be singled out, counseled and watched closely.
  11. Health in EHS will become a much larger part of professionals’ daily work. Says consultant Robert Pater: “Health is now a minimal focus for most pros, but it will become more important because as the workforce becomes smaller, maintaining a high degree of health for “the chosen few” will be more important.
  12. A shift will occur, with professional focus moving from predominantly avoiding lost time to maximizing mental and physical high-level decisions and actions.
  13. Workers will be expected to reflect their employer’s values at work and at home. Employers will do what they can legally to focus on what employees do off the job, at home. Legalized marijuana, maybe in all 50 states by 2030, will be one reason for employers wanting off-the-job insights. Use of social media is another. A “pill culture,” with 66 percent of all adults in the U.S. using prescription drugs, is another reason. 
  14. Wellness programs, fitness programs, off-job lifestyle choices will increasingly become mandatory. Employers will be driven by ever-increasing health care costs. The great majority of adults who use prescription drugs have one of five common chronic conditions – diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis and cancer. Fitness, diet and healthy lifestyles can be difference-makers.
  15. Millennials and Generation Z (born mid-1990s to early 2000s) won’t mind the increased emphasis on personal health. They are the most safety and health-conscious generation to date. Says Carter Ficklen III, CIH, CSP: “Millennials saw PPE in use from birth. Sat in car seats. Wore bike helmets. Were warned smoking could kill. Saw tragedies such as 9/11. They are more accustomed to rules, procedures and regulations than any generation.” Think of the business of organized youth sports in which they were raised versus old-school “go out and play sandlot ball; make up your own rules.” Those days are long gone.
  16. Work will not be confined to 9-5, 5 days a week. Divisions between work and home will blur and overlap. EHS pros, especially the self-employed, will be expected to be “on call” for text messages, teleconferences, virtual meetings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the trade-off for landing gigs. 
  17. Worker safety practices and behaviors and attitudes will be much more personalized. The same as medicine and healthcare will be much more personalized. Wearables, video surveillance, sensors everywhere in a plant will produce customized data. There will be more individual data than ever. Privacy will be a major issue.
  18. Hazards of 3-D printing, additive manufacturing, will be studied extensively. There will be 3-D printed cars, consumer products, body organ replacements, buildings and food.
  19. EHS pros will need these “additive” job skills: mental elasticity and complex problem-solving; critical thinking; creativity; people skills; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); coding; ability to use social, mobile, analytic and cloud platforms; and interdisciplinary knowledge. Read everything.
  20. Autonomous fork lift truck driving, express delivery driving, and long-haul truck driving will reduce accidents and increase the need for EHS oversight, vigilance, and resistance to laissez-faire complacency.
  21. Risk-based thinking will be the norm in larger companies. EHS work will become more proactive in a number of large organizations due to preliminary risk assessments, risk mapping, risk matrices, and weighing potentials for severity and likelihood of an incident.
  22. Small businesses with 50 or fewer employees will remain off the EHS radar screen. They won’t be inspected. Won’t have full-tine EHS staff. And very limited funds for EHS. 
  23. Executives and senior leaders in publicly-traded companies will have to live and work to a higher standard of personal responsibility and accountability for EHS. Wall Street and investors will demand it.
  24. More EHS pros will have new and different titles. Recognized Healthcare Provider. Asset Protection Specialist. Chief Sustainability Officer. Robotics Safety Officer. Safety Data Analyst. EHS Genetic Specialist. Nanotechnology Safety and Health Specialist. Human Performance Specialist. Health Mentor.
  25. Prevention through Design will become more imperative. Robotic advancements and artificial intelligence will demand upfront safety considerations.
  26. U.S. businesses will be more impacted by EHS laws enacted off shore — by the UN, the EU, Canada, Australia and Scandinavia. Think of GHS and REACH. 
  27. Millennials and Gen Z workers will demand more attention be paid to the environment, health issues, mental health, work-life balance, corporate values and corporate reputation.
  28. Voluntary standards from the likes of NFPA, ISO, ANSI and the Robotics Industries Association will become de facto regulations to be followed at the risk of lawsuits, not enforcement penalties. Attorneys will be more powerful than federal regulators. OSHA standards-setting will continue at a crawl. From advance notice of rulemaking to a final standard will take longer than the current eight years on average. By 2030 EHS pros will see very few new OSHA standards, and they will be narrow in scope.
  29. EHS practitioners will exist in reduced numbers. It’s the price of automation and off-shore manufacturing. Supervising the safety of man-machine interfaces and exposures will guarantee a certain number of jobs (full or part-time). 
  30. Employees will assume more safety and health responsibilities, thanks to mobile apps and technologies. Their input and engagement will be expected. This won’t be an issue for many younger workers. Almost nine in ten want meaningful, higher purpose work; 42 percent would quit if technology was substandard, according to Matthew Elson, SHE Software CEO.
  31. Passion, compassion, empathy, interest and curiosity about people will still be at the core of what motivates and drives EHS pros.
  32. New KPIs for EHS performance will be widely accepted and adapted.
  33. EHS pros employed full-time will be expected to be highly visible, collaborative, engaging, team-centric and out of the office, out from behind the desk. 
  34. There will be a surge in demand for EHS pros overseas. Particularly in countries with less mature EHS infrastructures.
  35. EHS will have a new vocabulary. Key concepts: materiality, connectivity, capacity, context, human capital, asset management, humans in fact always make mistakes, incidents are disruptive, people shouldn’t become ill at work, digital natives, digital immigrants, agility and readiness to respond. 
  36. Connectivity will be a central way of doing business; taken for granted. Employees will send and receive safety-related messages at the click of the button. Worksites will be mapped with sensors and workers will be tracked through PPE and industrial hygiene wearables, mobile apps, and lone worker monitors.
  37. Video will be a major tool for EHS pros. YouTube will provide a plethora of safety and health lessons, tragic incidents and their aftermath. Employees and pros will post video hazards on smartphones and tablets. Video-wired worksites will provide real-time surveillance.
  38. Safety will not become invisible. Attempts to integrate EHS at the front of the pipeline will often fall short because rare will be the organization that integrates EHS into every meeting topic.
  39. Smaller firms will remain compliance-only focused. Larger firms will use EHS staff and resources to address risk, psycho-social issues, mental health, total worker health, sustainability issues, organizational readiness and resilience, and serious injuries and fatalities.
  40. There will be work for EHS pros who truly want it. Demand drivers: a shrinking labor market increases need to protect human capital and expensive technology; analyzing human performance; maintaining and upgrading management systems; EHS databases will be vast troves (for large corporations) of information to be culled and used as predictors and precursors.
  41. At the man-machine interface, there will always be a hazard, and that hazard will need to be assessed and managed by EHS professionals.
  42. Industrial EHS jobs will decease and service-sector EHS jobs (healthcare, retail, energy, logistics) will increase.
  43. EHS professionals will need persuasive powers in order to be in the line of sight of the board room. Relying on “OSHA says” will be ancient news of little interest to large corporations more concerned about competitive advantages, brand and image reputation, sustainability rankings, and employee skilled talent retention.
  44. Human error will be more accepted as a fact of life. Devising system controls and inter-personal tools (JSAs, JHAs, pre and post job briefings, find it-fix it programs, etc.) to isolate errors from becoming incidents will be crucial.
  45. Ergonomists will be in increased demand due to man-machine interfaces, elderly care, booming health services.
  46. EHS pros will continue to be pushed to increase their business acumen and decrease their military-like command-and-control policing.
  47. Small firms will still be reactionary to accidents and injuries. Large companies will shift to be more proactive; that shift is already underway. Safety will be understood in these firms as having sufficient capacity to manage man-machine exposures and to be prepared for incidents and emergencies. The readiness to respond to risk.
  48. Safety technology uptake will be an incremental process. Slower than many expect. First come pilot programs, trials, benchmarking, in-house selling. Pros will need to answer the question: “What’s the ROI for this tech?”
  49. Millennials and Generation Z employees and EHS pros will be more interested in the mental health landscape than the current Baby Boomer cohort. The younger generation has experienced a more stressful education and extra-curricular activity culture; has more personal experience with anxiety, depressions and substance abuse.  Plus work will become faster and more stressful.
  50. EHS will be more “bottom up” – employee engagement, ownership, accountability and responsibilities – and less the tradition “top down” communication of mandates, rules and codes.