Keeping workers safe and healthy is a challenging prospect, and for too many EHS professionals, it can be a grueling, grinding tug of war with production demands. But EHS managers are a resilient bunch, and many of them bring to bear years of experience – not to mention professional certification – in their noble quest for zero injuries.
In EHS Today's 2014 National Safety Survey, 35 percent of respondents indicated that they've been in the safety profession for more than 20 years (the No. 1 answer for that question). Nearly 33 percent of respondents said they bring more than 10 years of experience to the table.
A whopping 80 percent of respondents said they are certified safety professionals, while 22 percent said they are qualified environmental professionals and 21 percent said they hold master's degrees.
As their titles imply, most EHS managers have plenty on their plates. On top of the core job function of safety, a majority of EHS professionals in our survey said they also oversee emergency management (64 percent), environmental compliance (60 percent), ergonomics (66 percent), fire protection (62 percent), industrial hygiene (62 percent) and occupational health (76 percent). Nearly 33 percent of respondents manage security, while 27 percent run wellness programs.
When we asked EHS professionals to tell us where they'd most like to see improvement in their safety programs, some common themes emerged in their written responses. Do any of these challenges sound familiar?
- "More employee involvement in safety programs."
- "Walking and not just talking by senior management."
- "Having managers/supervisors/employees accountable to EHS managers."
- "More time to properly train."
- "A stronger safety presence by managers, directors, VPs, etc."
- "Standardization and [behavior-based safety]."
- "Employee engagement at all levels."
- "Management involvement and supervisor accountability."
- "More training."
- "Engaging everyone in the plant."
- "Improving our leading-indicator process."
- "Managers becoming champions for safety!"
- "More funding and staff."
- "Safety of employees given priority over production.
- "Increased supervisor involvement and accountability for safety improvements and violations."
- "Reporting of near misses."
- "Develop a formal ergonomics program."
- "More employee engagement."
- "Even more employee engagement."
- "Safety culture – that is treating safety as less than a novelty and more of an essential base for work functions."
While the quotes above might paint a dreary picture of the profession, EHS managers are well-compensated for their blood, sweat and tears. Nearly 19 percent of survey respondents said they earn more than $105,000 per year – up from 16 percent of respondents in the 2013 survey. Some 65 percent of EHS professionals indicated that they make $65,000 or more.