Every June, the National Safety Council (NSC) observes National Safety Month, a time to recognize the importance of organizational environment, health, and safety (EHS) and the efforts of the professionals that work in the field. As we mark the third National Safety Month spent in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an apt time for EHS to reflect—and prepare. What is your team doing to keep health and safety a priority in a post-COVID business world?
Even when the threat posed by the virus has lessened, health and safety professionals will no doubt face (and are perhaps already facing) a familiar foe: Complacency. Here are four steps you can take this National Safety Month to ensure that health and safety remain front and center at your organization.
The shift in EHS from a reactive to proactive stance has been ongoing for years if not decades—and the pandemic drove home the importance of this shift. As business considers a post-COVID future, maintaining this proactive mindset is critical for EHS to ensure health and safety don’t fall by the wayside.
Here are a few ways to stay on top of things:
Keep your safety messaging visible and welcoming. A proactive approach will help an EHS manager be more of a coach and less of a cop. Make resources available to employees in both print and digital formats, and hold safety observation contests to keep workers engaged.
Offer EHS training classes to all employees, even those in non-safety-sensitive positions. Training in areas such as CPR and emergency response can be interesting for everyone and can help you build safety champions within the organization beyond your EHS team.
Build a diverse safety committee. Your safety committee shouldn’t consist of EHS experts alone—you need representation from across the entire organization to really get a full safety picture. Find volunteers from the shop floor up to the board room to participate, and rotate your membership periodically to always gain fresh perspectives.
When COVID-19 hit their organizations, EHS managers had to revisit, revise, and adapt their systems and protocols—fast. Workers who could perform their tasks remotely vanished from workplaces, and those who needed to remain in person had to be protected. Ventilation, surface sanitation, and other industrial hygiene practices were stepped up; personal protective equipment (PPE) issuance and compliance became a daily concern; the division between “essential” and “nonessential” employees potentially resulted in staffing issues.
Now is the time to review how new systems have taken shape and readjust them—while keeping any improvements in place. Consider, for example:
Improvements in industrial hygiene have likely improved the indoor air quality of your facility as well as its overall cleanliness. Don’t rush to remove the extra hand sanitizing stations put in place to deter COVID—it’s very unlikely that they have inhibited worker comfort or productivity, and they could end up improving the health of your workforce during the next regular flu season.
What new EHS training techniques did you need to adopt during COVID? If you discovered that online learning offered new efficiencies and high engagement and learning retention among staff, keep it going! (While ensuring you are upholding all hands-on training compliance obligations, of course.)
Any EHS initiative that you can demonstrate resulted in a positive return on investment (ROI) will be good news for your team—and the organization.
There was at least one silver lining for EHS amid the dark cloud of COVID-19. In many organizations, health and safety experts suddenly gained something they had been pursuing, to varying degrees of success, for years—the ear of executive management. While they may have been previously viewed as cost centers and productivity inhibitors, comprehensive EHS programs and strong safety cultures were now potentially the greatest assets in preventing shutdown of production.
It’s imperative that EHS managers keep these lines of communication open and resist being overlooked in any rush back to “normalcy.” You may have had weekly or even daily meetings with management at the peak of the pandemic; while it may be appropriate to scale back in the future, do as much as you can to prevent these meetings from disappearing altogether. Quick tips for success include:
Keep them short and to the point. When you demonstrate respect for an executive’s time, you’ll receive respect and attention in return. Prepare ahead of time so that you can deliver your message and invite discussion within 15 minutes to a half an hour.
Focus on actions and bring solutions to the table. Don’t just describe an EHS problem—explain how you would solve it and clearly impart what you need from management to carry it out.
Lead and end with metrics. You need to speak the language of the C-suite, and metrics are the great translator. Use data and clear, concise analytics reports to show how good EHS programs are good for the company.
The importance of metrics—both leading and lagging indicators—to your EHS program cannot be over emphasized. In addition to helping you communicate with the C-suite as noted above, metrics allow you to track the progress, success, and shortcomings of your safety initiatives and correct course when necessary.
Effective use of metrics can be an excellent guard against health and safety complacency. Some necessary tools include:
Accessible incident reporting. Make sure employees can easily and accurately report incidents without fear of retaliation.
Tools that allow for safety observations. Observations are critical leading indicators that may help prevent future incidents. Ensure you have systems to capture them.
Dashboards that help you make sense of all the data. With so much to keep track of, a customizable system that provides visibility to key stakeholders will impart valuable insights as well as highlight where corrective and preventive action is necessary.
Hazards are relentless and can take many forms—from musculoskeletal injuries to heat stress to novel coronaviruses—and EHS teams must remain engaged and vigilant in response. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a landmark event for EHS, one that has drawn greater attention to all the triumphs and challenges of the function. This National Safety Month, recommit yourself and your team to the mission of sending employees home safe every day.
Dakota Software recommits to safety every day, the same as you. Check out our demo library to see how we can help your EHS program thrive in a continuously evolving business landscape.