Here’s the forecast for the environmental health and safety field heading into 2007: Professionals will find mostly favorable winds at their back for career security and stability, according to the 23rd annual White Paper survey conducted by Industrial Safety & Hygiene News.

This past September, ISHN mailed a two-page questionnaire to 2,000 subscribers. From a delivered base of 1,978, we received 471 useable responses for a response rate of 24 percent. The survey was designed and tabulated by Clear Seas Research, Troy, Mich.

Assessing the climate

You can assess the EHS climate using many barometers. Job satisfaction is always a favorite. Twenty-five percent of pros we surveyed reported greater job satisfaction in the past 12 months, with only 15 percent registering more complaints. For most, job satisfaction has remained status quo. No extreme conditions here.

Another assessment: the level of satisfaction with senior management’s leadership in health and safety. More than one-quarter of pros (28 percent) reported increased satisfaction regarding executive leadership in the past 12 months; 18 percent were less than thrilled. Again, most reported no change in the level of satisfaction.

What about personal effectiveness on the job? Have feelings changed given the increase in work hours and job stress reported in White Paper results? Almost one in three pros (30 percent) reported being more effective on the job in the past year - more than three times the number who believed their contributions deteriorated (9 percent).

Money and manpower are always central forces determining the EHS climate. In 2007, these forces are neutral to positive; rarely damaging. The percentage of pros working with larger EHS budgets (26 percent) is more than double the percentage making do with smaller budgets (11 percent). Staff reductions will be infrequent: Only nine percent of pros anticipate heads to roll. Still, expanding staffs will be uncommon. Only 13 percent of survey respondents report their EHS payrolls will grow in the coming year.

Conditions in the EHS field usually parallel general economic cycles. Right now we’re in an “up” cycle, with almost two in every three pros (61 percent) reporting sales and profit gains for their companies in the past year. Only 13 percent cited sales and profit losses.

Past comparisons

So how do current climate patterns compare to conditions in the past? Money is a bit tighter, for one thing. Ten years ago, ISHN’s 1997 White Paper survey reported 36 percent of pros would receive budget increases that year (vs. 26 percent in 2007). Staffing trends ten years ago were very similar to today: 16 percent of pros expected staff increases in 1997, and 9 percent anticipated cutbacks. In 2007, 13 percent expect increases and 9 percent are looking at cuts.

Job security is better today. In 1997, more than one-quarter (26 percent) of pros were worried about holding their jobs. Heading into 2007, only 17 percent report rising job security concerns.

Most EHS climate measures show little fluctuation. The field isn’t heating up, nor has a deep chill set in. Fifty-five percent of survey respondents report no change in their level of job satisfaction. Fifty-six percent see no change in the degree of their professional effectiveness. In 2007, budgets will remain the same for 64 percent; staff levels the same for 78 percent.

Perhaps we’re seeing the EHS profession’s maturation as a stabilizing influence. Sixty-one percent of all 2007 White Paper respondents are AARP-qualified — age 50 or over. Forty percent fall between ages 50-59.

For full report results, please e-mail or contact Renee Love at (248) 786-1581.