Examinetics serves the compliance needs of more than 3,000 companies in the U.S. We talked with three of them recently for a safety roundtable. Read on to learn their thoughts on safety trends, their upcoming plans, and ideas to keep your safety skills sharp.
Q - What do you think will be the most important safety issues this year? What are the biggest challenges facing EHS leaders today?
PM - Sprains and strains continue to be the leading cause of injuries involving days away from work or lost time. I feel that there will be a greater focus on mitigating these incidents to help ensure we, as health and safety professionals are doing everything we can do to reduce the costs of workers’ compensation claims. The biggest challenge health and safety professionals face today is the labor pool majority is older and working beyond their anticipated retirement. This is a huge ergonomic risk and, as a result, the number of sprains and strains in all industries will continue to top the statistical charts.
TR - Lockout/Tagout continues to be one of the most violated OSHA standards. There were almost 3,000 violations last year. I believe this is one of the most important safety issues to address. An overlooked challenge in EHS is the lack of consistency in shifts and departments among the employee population. We need to find and create solutions that overcome these logistic barriers.
AH - The OSHA Top Ten is always important to address, this year and every year. It is a great place to mitigate risk, especially if you don’t have the resources to keep your own data. Patrick mentioned the aging workforce, and it’s also important to understand the differences with the newer entrants to the labor force. Learning how to best accommodate the attitudes and desires of Millennials and Gen Z is a big challenge for leaders as a generational shift is hitting the workforce.
Q - What initiatives does your company have this year for EHS?
AH - We will be implementing an ISO 45001 safety system this year. While it will not be the easiest undertaking, it shows commitment from the company and leadership to providing a safe and healthy workplace. Developing a systematic approach for continuous improvement of our OHS performance will have many benefits to our safety culture. I’m looking forward to seeing the direct impact on employee health.
PM - Our company is currently focusing on rollover prevention. There was a big spike in the number of rollovers in the ready-mix industry in 2019. We are looking at several controls to help mitigate this number. We are installing in-cab cameras on all our trucks, as well as proximity sensors and back up cameras. There is also a telematics and behavioral analytics app being installed in all our drivers’ tablets to monitor their driving. These controls, along with more frequent rollover prevention training throughout the year, have already been implemented for the start of the first quarter.
Q - What have you learned from your hearing conservation and/or respiratory protection compliance programs?
PM - I have learned that I get a much greater response and feedback from the older generation of employees, such as Boomers. Gen X and Millennials are much more difficult to connect with when it comes to hearing conservation and respiratory training and guidance. I feel a major contributor to this is that the older generation has been exposed to, and is dealing with, hearing loss and medical issues related to the job. They are worried about their health and hearing and probably wish they would have taken the necessary precautions provided in good hearing conservation and respiratory program as they were introduced to the workforce. We need to target the younger generations harder before it is too late.
AH - Being so close to our hearing conservation program reinforces the need to be diligent. We need to continually check our employees’ hearing and make sure we are always completing the training each year. Putting engineering controls in place to keep sound decibels as low as possible is very important. And ear fit validation testing is equally important. We will now be completing that this year.
TR - Similar to Adam, I have realized just how critical both programs are to the safety of our people. It’s not just about being compliant, but how important enforcement of hearing and respiratory programs are to truly protect employee health.
Q - What advice do you have for a new safety pro just entering the EHS field?
AH - I would tell a new EHS to master three traits - consistency, determination, and patience. You will never get it all, but take one day at a time. Work on tasks in threes. Get three done and then work on three more.
TR - Go the extra mile to find what it takes to engage your employees – there is no one size fits all solution. Make sure to utilize the talent and passion you have within the company. A few good team members can start the trend in the right direction. And always acknowledge those that do well with recognition and praise.
PM - As Teresa mentioned, listen to and get to know your employees. Talk to them as often as possible and truly get to know the way they think. Though this may take time, it will help you better understand why an unsafe act occurred that may lead to an incident or injury. At-risk behavior contributes to most of any industry’s injuries. There is no one root cause and, whether intentional or unintentional, at-risk behavior is usually a key factor.
Q - What tips or tricks do you have for increasing employee engagement with health & safety?
PM - I tend to monitor the Federal Regulatory sites often. OSHA, MSHA and DOT are the main three that I follow, several others such as the NRMCA (National Ready-Mix Concrete Association), ARPA (Arizona Rock Products Association), and Creative Safety Supply usually provide me with plenty of useful information. I get the best results and information from other safety professionals - whether it is a quick phone call, an email, or a text from someone I have known for a long time or just met recently at an event. Networking with other safety professionals has helped me grow and I will continue to tap into their knowledge to help me grow.
AH - I follow trade organizations and publications such as National Safety Council and EHS Today. I also find that training companies like National Safety Compliance and JJ Keller are great resources. I will be starting my Master’s degree in June.
TR - I stay connected to my local chamber safety councils. I make sure to attend a lot of training and seminars as things can change rapidly. I find BWC (bureau of workers’ compensation) to be a great resource.