ISHNjust completed a study of 320 subscribers learning how they use the internet in all its permutations here in 2006. It's a chance to benchmark your own use of the 'Net against a random sampling of several hundred pros.
Here's what we learned:
- Of course almost every EHS pro employs the internet as a tool of the trade - 97% according to our survey.
But they are not using it as much as you might think. Compared to Internet Usage surveys we conducted in the go-go boom years of the 'Net - the late '90s and circa 2000 before the bubble burst - the novelty has worn off and EHS pros are smarter users. Plus search engines have come a long ways.
So your typical EHS pro now spends only about one hour each workday using the internet to search for EHS-related information.
About 10% spend two hours each day. Very few spend more time than that.
- The object of their searches has not changed over the years that the 'Net has been at their disposal. Compliance, compliance, compliance is the name of the internet search game. Eight of ten EHS pros say obtaining OSHA-related information is their number one objective.
That includes regulatory interpretations, MSDS specifics, enforcement data, and as one respondent described, "hazard and toxicology information beyond what's available on an MSDS."
- No wonder OSHA's web site is by far the most popular destination for EHS pros on the 'Net. Almost nine of ten pros say they regularly visit OSHA's site. Imagine the traffic if the agency was more active in standards-setting...
EPA and NIOSH sites are noticeably less popular: about 39% of pros visit EPA's site regularly; 27% regularly hit the NIOSH site.
Organizations with loyal followings - professional associations and societies such as ASSE and AIHA, and safety magazines such asISHN- are other high-traffic sites.
- How big of a headache is spam mail for you? The average EHS pro deletes about 20% of their daily emails without ever opening them. We thought the percentage would be higher; perhaps our spam filters or firewalls are not as effective as yours.
- EHS newsletters abound on the 'Net. On average, 31% of EHS pros receive 1-2 newsletters per week; 26% receive 3-4; and 19% look forward to 5-6 each week. That's got to keep a lot of editors busy.
- It's a whole different story for EHS blogs. The blogosphere in general may be expanding faster than American Idol's audience, but only 3% of EHS pros regularly visit an EHS blog. Practical pros have always been more interested in technical info than rants and raves.
- Webcasts are mushrooming like e-newsletters and blogs, but at this point it is the minority of EHS pros who have participated. In the past year, only 13% paid to "attend" a webcast, while 30% attended a free webcast.
What's the hang-up with webcasts, even if they are free? Not enough time to participate, say 38% of pros. About 25% are not familiar with the technology. One survey respondent probably speaks for many when saying: "I want a face-to-face interaction."
Compliance, culture and getting employees more involved in safety and health processes are the subjects most likely to draw webcast audiences. Our survey respondents reported little interest in topics such as international EHS standards, emerging issues such as nanotechnology, and management systems such as the new ANSI Z10 voluntary standard.
As we said, EHS pros tend to be a practical-minded crowd. They want information today that they can apply tomorrow on the job.
- Interest in and use of distance learning courses delivered over the internet seems to be mostly reserved for certified professionals seeking certification maintenance points. In the past year, only 22% of pros we surveyed have taken a distance learning course.
Future use of distance learning shows more promise than webcasts or audio conferences. Forty-four percent of pros plan to take a distance learning course in the next 2 years - compared to 13% who plan to participate in a future paid webcast and 13% who plan to register for a paid audio conference.
- Secure web platforms inside an organization's firewall - intranet sites - are natural delivery mechanisms for safety and health applications, report more than half (54%) of our survey respondents.
Updating and posting company safety policies and manuals is the number one intranet app, cited by 80% of pros with access to an intranet site. Posting presentations, checklists and tracking injury reporting and training session attendance are other popular uses. About 46% of pros with intranet access say online training is delivered via the site.
- In general, the overwhelming majority of safety and health training is still delivered in the classroom, according to our survey - 85% vs. 15% delivered online.
- There's slightly greater acceptance in using the internet to manage MSDSs. About one-quarter of our respondents (26%) say they use an internet service to manage their MSDS inventory. About another 10% plan to switch over to online MSDS management in the next 2 years.