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Top 10 EHS Trends in 2021

02 December 2021

The challenges of 2020 forced industries to rethink the way they operate, and manage employee and contractor safety whilst maintaining sustainable operations. Focus shifted to finding improved ways to resolve complex Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) challenges. Now as we reach the end of 2021, let’s review the current top 10 global trends in EHS.

10. Strategic Leadership

Leadership teams across different businesses have started to implement a ‘bottom-up’ approach to safety which has proven to be a much more efficient approach to safety management within an organisation. From this perspective, leaders are offered more visibility into the business from every level, incorporating real world observations and
insights. This gradual shift from a ‘top-down’ approach has been proven to create a deeper employee engagement into a goal-orientated safety culture. If leadership is seen to be committed to following safe practices in the workplace, employees will naturally follow.

9. Shifting the Focus from Detection to Prevention

Companies used to spend a significant amount of time focused on detecting unsafe conditions where mitigation of risks is heavily skewed to occurrence after an accident as opposed to preventing them from happening in the first place. According to the Work Fatality and Injury Rates 2020 report, the cost of accidents are three times higher than safety costs. Companies can save lives by investing in accident prevention and being proactive about the safety of their employees. This mindset has tremendous benefits including a measurable return on investment, especially for heavy industries where hazards are encountered daily. Having a preventive approach to safety management in your company results in fewer incidents and reduced long-term costs. In working towards this, leaders can improve incident management which was identified as being the number one concern for employees in a survey completed by Verdantix, an independent research and advisory firm.

8. Remote Worker Safety Technology

The emergence of COVID-19 has been the leading influence for organizations adopting remote worker safety technology. Remote workers are out in the field everyday, facing unfamiliar and potentially volatile situations. By investing in tools to bolster the health and safety of these workers, you are creating an environment of inclusion for these often isolated workers. These remote worker technology solutions allow employees to send their real-time location to their contacts, allowing for resources to be transmitted easily and data to be mapped seamlessly based on the lone worker’s location. Specifically, for remote workers, there is software available that can easily schedule rotations, flights and accommodation. There is an attraction towards this type of technology as, in these uncertain times, employees can be notified automatically about flight or rotation changes that affects them. It’s essential that people movement can be tracked so companies are aware of the location of all their employees in the event of an emergency. Technology such as GPS tracking or Smart PPE can assist to make this process easier and more efficient.

7. Cloud

Cloud-hosted deployments are almost the standard amongst EHS software companies. Cloud platforms help companies address data challenges as cloud enables storage, analytics and management of huge amounts of data. In a survey completed by Hexagon Mining, 78% of respondents said their organizations will be migrating to cloud technologies in the near future. Implementing a cloud solution for your business allows for more detailed reporting as there is no storage limitations. This in turn, improves safety in your business as you will be able to access information and data from any point in time, and run analytics to provide meaningful insights.

6. Data Analytics

Technology has been the main driver of delivering an excessive amount of information to companies to track and monitor operations. With the adoption of data analytics solutions into your workforce, companies can maintain a more holistic view of their operations, improving their efficiencies across the board. Other benefits of using data analytics solutions are measuring success (or failure), performance levels to help improve safety through the identification of pain-points

5. Embracing Technology

Many companies are beginning to embrace advanced technology such as AI, drones and IoT to manage health and safety in their workplaces. Industry experts expect that this uptake will only increase in the future as companies grow and expand. This adoption of technology is widely popular for its ability to reduce costs and improve operational efficiencies by detecting dangerous conditions. Machinery with AI features can report on breakdowns, maintenance and setting malfunctions. The implementation of smart technology has the potential to reduce worker injury and keep workplaces functioning without maintenance for longer.

4. Continuous Training

It is essential that safety professionals are participating in training courses, to keep their certifications, compliances and competencies up to date. Alongside the shift from detection to prevention, there is also emphasis on the training of employees to ensure they remain compliant with company safety procedures. In studies completed by Verdantix between 2019 and 2020, it was apparent that employees are looking to training content, specific to EHS use cases for personal development purposes. As such, more and more companies are starting to implement recurring safety training programs which are designed to retrain employees in health and safety. The availability of this ongoing training ensures top-of-mind awareness which could help in reducing accidents in the workplace. As we transition to a digital environment, online learning is becoming a key outlet for employee training. It allows them to complete courses in their own time and when best suits their schedules.

3. Increase in Environmental Safety Professionals

From the increase in emphasis on health and safety in the workplace, companies are hiring more safety professionals, especially Environmental safety professionals, to ensure their safety processes are of high standards. Companies are investing in EHS employees and procedures which means they are investing in safeguarding the lives of all their employees. By hiring safety professionals, workers can be informed about the latest safety processes, technologies or compliances they must obtain. They are also made aware of issues or regulations regarding the environment they work in. It is better to have these safety professionals in-house rather than outsourcing so they are present everyday and can oversee operations to ensure the workplace is safe.

2. Smart PPE

Smart PPE can monitor, collect, and record biometric information, location and movement data in real-time using sensors. The annual global EHS survey revealed that high priorities for 2020 were going to revolve around improving incident management, achieving environmental compliance, and enhancing occupational health. This smart equipment can collect similar data to wearable devices including heart rate, calories burned, steps walked and blood pressure. It can also track more advanced data such as the user’s blood alcohol content, fatigue, alertness, sweat levels, vital signs and environmental conditions.

1. Mobile Applications

New mobile technology helps workers to stay connected. Increasingly, mobile tools are being used to complete tasks and improve the safety of employees whilst at work. Workplace safety tools are predicted to become more prevalent in the workforce, as are apps that can turn off workers’ mobile devices when they are completing essential or dangerous tasks. In recent years, nearly 75% of safety professionals are using mobile devices across their operations, according to research conducted by Verdantix. This has been due to the simplified usability of mobile apps that allow workers to lodge issues and inform themselves on requirements of the task they are completing easily. In having the appropriate EHS applications available, employees can record accidents and events that occur, as they occur, which allows for more visibility and accuracy when reporting. It is essential that with the presence of mobile applications, EHS managers will have to provide and enforce appropriate procedures for the use of mobile technology that keep workers safe and allow for greater efficiency from mobile apps in operations.

Ben Borin
Ben Borin

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