We recently published the results of the EHS Today 2020 National Safety Survey, and as you can imagine, COVID-19 is the uninvited special guest star of the survey. As we do every year, we asked the question, “What’s the biggest challenge facing the industry this year?” and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, the pandemic and its impact on the workplace was by far the most-frequent response. While much of the demographic information in the survey tends to remain consistent from year to year(the typical EHS manager is a white male in his 50s, with more than 20 years of experience, living in the Midwest, and working in the manufacturing industry), the responses to the “biggest challenge” question were dramatically different from the responses to previous years… just as the response to this pandemic has been unlike any other health emergency or business disruption.
However, we asked a number of other questions as well. I’ve worked for a lot of magazines and conducted a lot of industry surveys over the years, and I have to say that no other profession is as willing to share their opinions as safety professionals.So when we asked, “If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?” we got a huge variety of answers (and almost none of them referenced COVID-19). Here’s a small but representative sampling of the types of issues most important to you and your fellow safety leaders:
● More communication from upper management about decisions that affect the entire organization.
●Additional EHS staff.
●Bigger budget for safety.
●Access to economical online OSHA training.
●Spend more time out in the facility instead of writing policies and paperwork.
●Better communication between all departments.
●Clearer compliance requirements.
●Get relieved of quality duties so I can focus more on safety.
●Have leadership more actively engaged with employees about our safety programs and activities to demonstrate support and ownership.
●An atmosphere more conducive for diversity and inclusion.
●An EHS assistant at each facility.
●More time for training.
●Not to wear so many hats.
● To decrease the level of cynicism that some employees hold toward EHS in general.
●More integration with sustainability.
●I would rather change what is going on with the world that is keeping me from doing my job.
●Reduced federal regulations.
● Upgrading to software apps for reporting and for follow-ups.
●Would like to see a safety cultural shift in corporate America across all industries.
● That management listens and takes the actions that I recommend.
●I would live in Charleston, SC, on a 42-foot catamaran sailboat.
Okay, so there’s always at least onewise guy in every survey. But I think you get the very real sense of the passion and dedication safety professionals—and since this survey was taken of our readers, it’s quite likely that those of you reading this participated in it yourself.So thank you for your openness.
Nearly two decades ago, I was editor of a logistics magazine and had a front-row seat as the supply chain profession reinvented itself—almost overnight—in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The whole nature of travel, global commerce and security protocols were turned on their head and dramatically revised to reflect the new world that then confronted us. While those early days of the 9/11 aftermath were certainly tense and nerve-wracking, the logistics profession did itself proud thanks to its spirit of resilience and getting-it-done attitude.
What I’m seeing today from EHS professionals in all industries, at big, medium and small companies alike, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is just as inspiring and just as impactful. Yes, these times are fraught with confusion, frustration and downright consternation. And yes, safety leaders are being asked to adapt and pivot to new protocols and proceduresso often that your heads have to be spinning. Keeping the workplace and workforce safe and healthy from a danger that’s unseen and didn’t even exist a year ago is a tremendous responsibility, and it’s to the credit of every safety professional that goods are still being produced, shipments are still being delivered, buildings are still being built, and workers are still going home safe every night. We owe you all a tremendous debt of thanks for the work you’re doing to help us get through this pandemic, and EHS Today remains committed to telling your stories and helping elevate the stature of safety professionals everywhere.
Stay safe and stay healthy.