If you ask EHS professionals about their top challenges, they’ll undoubtedly tell you that they’re continually being pushed to do more with less. Completing important safety activities, often individually, as well as tracking down and conveying the data they and other stakeholders require to measure safety performance, all while attempting to convince management of the worth of their safety programs. It’s an unpleasant truth that will only get worse in today’s evolving EHS landscape.
In what follows, we’ll look at some of the major trends in the safety world right now, such as the ongoing reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in our concept of work itself, and how they’re influencing our perception of what effective safety management looks like.
Responsibilities under COVID-19
We’ve seen how safety experts have had to pivot in the last year to handle the additional hazards posed by the COVID-19 epidemic while still dealing with existing workplace risks. Employers were forced to change timetables, track employee symptoms, adopt disinfection schedules, and reconfigure the work environment in order to accommodate physical separation measures.
They wanted to make sure they didn’t lose sight of the old ones, like routine workplace inspections, corrective action tracking, and incident investigations, in the midst of all these new responsibilities. They were also required to make sure that they created Job Safety Analysis (JSAs) for new duties and altered current JSAs to account for changes in how job tasks are accomplished that may have occurred as a result of physical separation measures or a reduction in headcount.
Many states have developed guidelines (and in some cases, legal requirements) for temperature and health screenings, and other states have issued specific COVID-19 rules requiring companies to implement precautions to protect their workers from coronavirus exposure.
As we previously reported, OSHA provided new COVID-19 guidance this year, outlining its expectations for businesses, including protocols for sanitizing common spaces and high-touch surfaces, as well as reporting COVID-19 incidents in the workplace. OSHA has also sent a draft temporary standard on COVID-19 to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for evaluation as of this writing. If a federal COVID-19 Standard is issued shortly, businesses and safety professionals will have to manage an additional layer of responsibility.
Changes to the HazCom Standard Proposed
OSHA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) earlier this year to revise the HazCom Standard. The NPRM’s public comment period ends on May 19. The NPRM would revise classifications for a variety of chemical risks, including aerosols, flammable gases, and desensitized explosives.
OSHA could release a final HazCom regulation as early as the end of 2021, kicking off a two-year transition period for chemical makers that begins 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. This means that safety professionals will need to review whether their workplaces include chemicals that have been impacted by the revisions and be prepared to potentially amend their written HazCom plans and training programs. Those who are already struggling to manage their SDSs and keep chemical hazard information visible may find it challenging to assess the possible consequences of the upcoming revisions and remain compliant.
Work in the Future
The nature of employment has changed dramatically in the last year, with many firms realizing the benefits of remote work, even if they were compelled to do so by circumstances related to the pandemic. Simultaneously, companies have gained a better understanding of the importance of employees’ mental health, with several studies revealing a rise in reported levels of depression in recent years. For example, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the prevalence of depression among adults in the United States is more than three times higher than it was before the COVID-19 epidemic.
Before anyone had heard of the SARS CoV-2 virus, a growing focus on what NIOSH calls “Total Worker Health” was already in action, but the pandemic has surely heightened awareness of its relevance. Psychosocial risks show as worry when employees believe they have no say in safety management or question that their employers are addressing their individual requirements and dangers. At the same time, the workplace is changing, with more multi-employer workplaces, temporary workers, and work that is geographically dispersed.
These and other concerns are explored by NIOSH in its “Future of Work” project as part of the scope of modern safety management. The initiative’s goals are to gather studies on the future of work and correlate trends in workplace, work, and workforce changes in order to prepare for the future of occupational safety and health. Industry safety experts are increasingly recognizing that today’s safety professionals must deal with complex and emerging issues like changing employment patterns and relationships, recruitment and retention in competitive labor markets, social inequalities, and job loss as a result of technological innovations. To meet the difficulties and opportunities posed by the future of work, safety experts will need to carefully weigh these considerations.
Now is the time to improve safety management
So, how does appropriate safety management appear in this ever-changing environment? It must actively involve workers in important safety duties so that we can benefit from their knowledge and they can benefit from a sense of belonging to the workplace safety program. It must also keep our complete workforce connected, even when they are not all present at the same time or when there are several contractors and temporary workers on the job site. Finally, it must provide us with quick and easy access to our most critical safety data so that employees are more aware of their surroundings and we have the information we need to make better decisions.
Let CloudApper Safety Assist You
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Author Bio: SK. Moinur Rahman is a digital marketing analyst at CloudApper. It is a No-Code Enterprise Mobile Apps Platform consisting of OSHA Recordkeeping & Incident Management Software, HIPAA Compliance Management Application, etc. He’s on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs sparkle.