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Ask EHS professionals about their biggest challenges and they’ll probably tell you they always seem to be asked to do more with less. Completing key safety tasks, often singlehandedly, and hunting down and communicating the data they and other stakeholders need to assess safety performance, all while trying to convince management of the value of their safety programs. It’s an unfortunate reality that will only grow increasingly difficult in today’s changing EHS landscape.

In what follows, we’ll take a look at some of the broad trends happening now in the safety world, including the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to our understanding of work itself, and how those are impacting our view of what effective safety management looks like.

COVID-19 Responsibilities

In just the past year, we’ve seen how safety professionals have had to pivot to address the new risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, while still addressing other workplace risks. Employers found themselves needing to shift schedules, track employee symptoms, implement disinfecting schedules and rearrange the work environment to accommodate physical distancing measures.

In the midst of all these new tasks, they also needed to make sure they didn’t lose sight of the old ones like regularly occurring workplace inspections, corrective action tracking and incident investigations. They also needed to make sure they developed Job Safety Analyses (JSAs) for new tasks, and revised existing JSAs to account for changes in the ways job tasks are completed that may have occurred because of physical distancing measures or reduced headcount.

Adding to these pressures, many states have implemented guidelines (and in some cases mandatory requirements) for temperature and health screenings, and some states have issued specific COVID-19 standards mandating that employers implement measures to protect their workers from exposure to the coronavirus.

As we’ve blogged about previously, OSHA has also issued updated COVID-19 guidance this year explaining its expectations for employers, which include procedures for disinfecting common areas and high-touch surfaces, and reporting workplace COVID-19 cases. As of this this writing, OSHA has also sent a draft temporary standard on COVID-19 to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. Should a federal COVID-19 Standard be issued soon, it would create an additional layer of responsibilities for employers and safety professionals to manage.

Proposed Changes to the HazCom Standard

Early this year, OSHA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to update the HazCom Standard. The public comment period for the NPRM is ending on May 19. The NPRM would, among other things, change classifications for several chemical hazards including aerosols, flammable gases and desensitized explosives.

OSHA may issue a final HazCom rule as early as the end of 2021, which would begin a two-year transition timeline for manufacturers of those chemicals that begins 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. This means that safety professionals will need to assess whether they have chemicals impacted by the changes in their workplaces, and be ready to potentially update their written HazCom plans and training programs. Those who are already having problems managing their SDSs and maintaining visibility of chemical hazard information will find it difficult to evaluate potential impacts of the coming changes and stay in compliance.

The Future of Work

The past year has witnessed large-scale changes to the nature of work, with many employers discovering the benefits of remote work, even if their hand was forced by circumstances related to the pandemic. At the same time, employers have learned more about the importance of workers’ mental health, with many studies showing increases in reported levels of depression compared to recent years. For example, a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study showed the prevalence of depression among U.S. adults is more than three times greater than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

An increasing focus on what NIOSH calls “Total Worker Health” was already in motion before anyone had even heard of the SARS CoV-2 virus, but the pandemic has certainly accelerated awareness of its importance. Today’s safety professional needs to be aware of psychosocial risks which manifest as anxiety when employees feel they don’t have a stake in safety management, or doubt that their employers are addressing their specific needs and risks. At the same time, the work environment itself is evolving with more multi-employer worksites, temporary workers, and geographically isolated work.

These factors and others are part of the scope of modern safety management discussed by NIOSH in its “Future of Work” initiative. The goals of this initiative are to compile studies on the future of work and connect trends in workplace, work and workforce changes to prepare for the future of occupational safety and health. Increasingly, industry safety experts recognize that today’s safety professional must confront complex and emerging issues, such as changing employment patterns and relationships, recruitment and retention in competitive labor markets, social inequalities and job loss due to technological innovations. Safety professionals will need to carefully balance these issues to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the future of work.

So, what does good safety management look like within this changing landscape? It needs to actively engage workers in key safety tasks so that we can benefit from their insights, and they can benefit from the sense of inclusion in the workplace safety program. It also needs to keep our entire workforce connected, even when they’re not all in the same place at the same time, or when there are multiple contractors and temporary workers present in the worksite. Lastly, it needs to give us fast, easy access to our most important safety data so that employees have greater safety awareness, and we have the information to drive better decision making,

Getting Better at Safety Management Today

At VelocityEHS, we understand the challenges and promises of the Future of Work, and we’ve designed our Safety Management Solution to give you the support you’ll need.

Here are some of the key areas our Safety Management Solution can help with.

  • Reporting of Injuries and Safety Incidents – Incident reporting capabilities within our software ensure that you have an easily accessible system for reporting workplace safety incidents, observations, and documenting occupational injuries and illnesses such as work-related cases of COVID-19. You won’t need to do it alone because your people will be able to easily report all kinds of incidents from anywhere, right from your mobile device. We also make it easy to create and maintain your workplace injury and illness logs (e.g. OSHA 300, 301, 300A) and submit them to OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA) with just a click.
  • Workplace Inspections – We make inspections and observations easier with tools to quickly build custom checklists (such as COVID-19 related inspection forms) that ensure that you’re capturing the right details, then instantly deploy checklists to workers across your organization who can perform inspections using their mobile device.
  • JSAs – We make it easier to develop JSAs that evaluate the full range of jobs and job tasks in your workplace, and assess each job task for specific risks such as COVID-19 exposure. With our software, you’ll also have fast access to all of your JSAs and the ability to quickly update them as job tasks change or new risks are identified.
  • Safety Meetings – Your workplace safety committee is the tip of the spear when it comes to planning and executing workplace COVID-19 compliance measures and safeguards, and our software gives them the tools they need to optimize committee performance. Our Safety Management Solution makes sure your committee stays connected through streamlined scheduling and notifications, agenda planning and tracking, action item assignments and follow-up, and companywide visibility of committee activities.
  • Corrective Action Management – Our Safety Management Solution funnels your safety program actions into one location so you can more easily prioritize, assign and track them. Now you’ll have better visibility and control over actions across your organization, including those related to COVID-19 prevention or follow-up measures. You’ll also improve engagement by making sure that the right people are assigned, that they receive notifications of their assignments, and that actions have been completed as planned. Having a system that is purpose-built for planning, assigning and tracking safety action items is essential for compliance in all areas, but especially as you implement strategies to tackle new and emerging requirements.
  • Dashboards & Reporting: In many ways, the ability to quickly and clearly access your most important safety data is the glue that holds a good safety management system together. The data dashboards you get with our Safety Management Solution make it easy to see what’s happening, where and when it’s happening across your organization. You can also easily create reports and schedule them for automated regular distribution to users including Management to help better communicate the status and value of your safety initiatives.

Join Our Safety Management Webinar!

To learn more about the benefits of our VelocityEHS Safety Management Solution can help, register for one of the two upcoming live dates for our webinar “Simplifying Safety Management: How EHS Software Can Help”:

May 18th 11 am ET

June 16, 11am ET

This webinar will review common safety management tasks, and share best practices and strategies you can implement to improve efficiency and safety performance. We’ll also focus on the ways that modern software can deliver the simplicity, visibility, and control you need to maximize safety program performance. We hope to see you there!

Let VelocityEHS Help!

Ready for a safety management upgrade? Check out our cloud-based Safety Management Solution. You’ll get versatile, award-winning EHS management capabilities covering a wide range of the most common EHS tasks including SDS & chemical management, incident management, inspections, JSAs, safety meeting management, corrective action management, and more! We help you centralize your safety activities, save time, better engage others in your EHS program, better adapt to evolving regulatory requirements and take a more proactive approach to safety management.

If you’re looking for the agility you need to stay ahead in today’s changing regulatory landscape, request a demo today!