Sep 24, 2019
While the variety of work is developing, maintaining employees safety on the job remains the unchanging purpose of all types of safety leadership. You might think that if you asked 1,500 safety training professionals a question, you’d get 1,500 different answers, but as it turns out that’s not the case. Far and away, the most popular answer to that inquiry was…
Certainly, there was a lot of variation in how that “biggest challenge” question was answered, but basically, everybody is steering to the same thing: “employee engagement.” Whether it’s due to young people coming into the business, older workers who think they know it all, or senior management who consider “safety” as just a cost rather than an avenue to improved profitability, safety training professionals and construction safety leaders seem uncannily uniform in the way most of them believe that instituting and sustaining a thriving safety culture at their companies is their top hurdle. Safety leaders tend to be seasoned experts. In our survey, we found that nearly two-thirds have more than 10 years of expertise, and more than one-third of all respondents have at least 20 years of experience. And one thing they’ve seen a lot of—perhaps too much of—is the transformation of the marketplace away from manufacturing and construction jobs towards service sector employment, making it harder to attract young people to replace an aging workforce, putting more of a strain on safety leadership to train construction workers who may be here today, gone tomorrow, but who nevertheless have to be kept safe on the job while not endangering the safety of their co-workers. As one survey respondent put it, “Engagement and involvement from the younger safety professionals seem to be lacking. In the next 10 years, there will be a lot of safety professionals retiring. Will the next generation of safety professionals be ready?” Another respondent noted, “As economics force more people to seek part-time employment, the challenge is to help employees shift their focus from their paycheck to their work satisfaction, personal worksite health and safety, and a commitment to learning new skills.” That’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it?—finding the best ways to engage with workers so that they feel engaged enough in their roles (and in some cases, in their own lives) so that safety becomes second nature to them.
You might think that if you asked 1,500 EHS professionals a question, you’d get 1,500 different answers, but as it turns out that’s not quite accurate. For instance, when EHS Today conducted the 2019 National Safety Survey, one of the questions we asked was, “What is the biggest challenge facing the industry today?”