We’re flat out trying to keep our work sites safe, and this provides challenges for safety professionals. The question is what next and how can we do what we need to do better?
The changes in the economy where there is a move towards service sector jobs, casual jobs, and part-time jobs place a burden on safety professionals who need to train workers who may be here one day and gone the next. The challenges for safety professionals is to help employees move their focus away from just receiving a paycheck to taking on personal health and safety responsibilities.
For this article, we look at a recent report that came out of the US. The study surveyed 1,500 safety professionals and asks the question: What is the biggest challenge facing the industry today? The results had a common theme of a need to increase employee engagement to establish, maintain or extend a culture of safety in their organisations. Safety professionals need to engage with workers so that they feel connected with their roles to encourage safe practice in everything they do every day.
The Varied Role of Safety Professionals
The safety professional is almost a jack-of-all-trades, and their role often includes:
- Occupational health
- Risk management
- Emergency management
- Environmental compliance
- Industrial hygiene
- Worker’s compensation
- Human resources
- Wellness programmes
- Data analysis
As we enter a new decade, the most significant challenges for safety professionals are this ever-growing list and the rise of technology and their understanding of how to use tech to assist them in their role. They need to keep their employees safe in faster-paced, high-tech environments, and they need to skill themselves up about these new technologies, and how they can use tech to enhance and promote safety. Tech has an advantage in that it can help to engage the audience.
What is the Key Focus in the Next 5 Years?
Overwhelmingly, the survey found that training and compliance were the challenges for safety professionals in the next five years. To meet compliance, they are looking for support from the regulators to advise on requirements and enforcement.
Workplace injuries continue at a similar rate year on year. We still see the usual suspects of slips, trips and falls; musculoskeletal injuries; and being caught up in or struck by machinery and moving equipment. A casualised, part-time and contracted workforce adds to the likelihood that workplace injuries will increase or remain the same.
Due to the issue of injuries and fatalities occurring at the same rate, safety professionals are keenly investigating how to improve their workplace safety training. They recognise that training delivery methods need to be engaging and cost-effective because time away from production, while workers are training, has a direct impact on the business bottom line.
Workplace safety training that is engaging starts to bridge the gaps between the disconnected workforce that we are beginning to see in organisations. When we use technology to assist our training we can make it more engaging and cost-effective.
Tap into Safety takes workplace safety training seriously. We provide engaging methods to train how to manage workplace hazards using critical control measures. We understand that relevant and engaging safety training is crucial for the transfer of knowledge into practice. The training uses gamification to improve the trainee’s experience when using our software; however, we never trivialise the training content. Each training course has a purpose. Contact Us for more information.
Using Leading Indicators to Improve Workplace Safety
Challenges for safety professionals include the move to use of as many leading indicators as possible to measure improvements. Examples of leading indicators include:
- Collecting and recording near-miss data (see our article, Near-Miss Reporting Improves Workplace Safety)
- Conducting employee observations
- Recording participation rates and results of employee safety training (see our article, How Can You Achieve Value from Your Safety Training?)
- Performing safety inspections and analysing their results
- Participating in safety meetings and membership to safety committees
- Measuring the involvement of safety overall by employees (see our article, Can Employees Recognise, Recall and Report Workplace Hazards?)
- Maintaining equipment and machinery
- Regularly surveying employees and analysing the results
- Developing a mentally healthy workplace (see our article, 3 Steps Towards a Mentally Healthy Workplace).
Collecting information on leading indicators such as the time taken to rectify a hazard or close out an incident helps to reveal gaps in processes. Recording staff training completions, including safety inductions, hazard perception training and other safety training, allows you to map and track ongoing competencies. It’s also a good idea to note the number of senior leaders safety visits, safety and toolbox meetings and attendance rates and safety observations.
Other leading indicators that can be measured include the financial investment dedicated to safety, tools such as wearables (read our article, Can Smart Watches Stop Workplace Injury?), technologies such as sensors (read our article, Can Sensors Identify Hazard Zones to Reduce Risk?) and geolocation, training delivery methods including immersion and gamification. You might want to note the number of team members committed to workplace safety and the time allotted to their activities to improve safety performance.
Developing a Safety Scorecard
You should drive your decision-making and reporting processes around realistic targets underpinned by a root cause analysis. When conducting a root cause analysis ask yourself:
- What are the main drivers of incidents in our organisation?
- What can we do to change?
- How does changing the weighting of certain variables impact the organisation’s performance?
Start by recording a baseline and define a target for each measure and use this to create a safety culture or performance score for each measure. Introduce one change at a time to affect culture and performance by a particular amount. Record the score and compare against the baseline and the set target. From there, review and adjust to understand priorities and further changes.
See our article on, How Can We Use Data to Improve Safety Performance?
The challenges for safety professionals in the next five years is to help employees take on personal health and safety responsibilities. The study notes the safety professionals recognise a need to increase employee engagement to maintain a culture of safety in their organisations. Safety professionals need to engage with workers so that they feel connected with their roles to encourage safe practice in everything they do every day. Engaging training and meeting compliance obligations rated as the highest priorities for safety professionals in the next five years.