Safesite Predicts 2021’s Health and Safety Trends

The year 2020 was a wild year for health and safety professionals. We’re all still processing it, and most days look to be a repeat of last year.

Some of the predicted trends for 2021 will reflect what was already coming for us pre-pandemic — with updates based on what we had to learn quickly last year. It’s going to be another white-knuckle few months, but there are many reasons for optimism. 

What’s going to come across your desk this year? Buckle up and check out some of Safesite’s predictions for health and safety trends in 2021.

Increased Health and Safety Investment

From a greater understanding of the impact of public health to a new day for OSHA, health and safety investment will grow this year. Some of that investment will come out of necessity, particularly as concerns over COVID-19 persist and OSHA regains some of its teeth with the new administration. 

Where is that money going? Some of the general investments will likely head to:

  • Increased compliance efforts
  • Crisis mitigation and management
  • Employee-assisted programs
  • Telehealth services
  • Preventative health
  • New PPE (including smart PPE and PPE catering to women)

Meaningful Focus on Predictive Analytics

Safety professionals know that leading indicators offer a more accurate picture of their safety programs. Leading indicators also fuel the push towards predictive analytics. 

Predictive analysis provides insights like “if x happens, then y is also likely to happen.” And it’s clear to see why it’s so important for safety. The goal of a safety program is to prevent incidents when possible.

Predictive analytics is still in its infancy in the safety field. It requires a huge amount of data to run accurately and offering meaningful insights. However, occupational health and safety is the perfect candidate for this type of technology. And some of OHS’s brightest minds are working on it. Led by Dr. Matthew Hallowell, the Construction Safety Research Alliance at the University of Colorado is currently working on developing a model that identifies the best demographics and work characteristics to predict the most severe injuries.

In case you missed it, CSRA’s white paper on “the tyranny of TRIR” sparked much discussion in the safety field at the end of 2020 when the researchers asked: “Given the way that it’s used, to what extent is TRIR statistically valid?” Go check it out if you haven’t already!

Renewed Emphasis on Total Health and Wellness (ft. Stress and Mental Health)

The year 2020 wasn’t just a threat to workers’ physical health. Unfortunately, we are only just beginning to understand the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. And early surveys from NHIS and KFF found alarming data

COVID-19 is having a dramatic effect on adults’ mental health. Between January and June 2019, 11% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or stress disorder. In January 2021, the KFF survey found 41.1% of respondents reported those symptoms.

While the trend towards total health and wellness was already here, 2021 will see a renewed emphasis on mental health and the impacts of stress. Work-related stress is likely to coexist with pandemic-related stress, creating the perfect storm of risk at work.

For safety pros looking to act now, the process will begin with recognizing the impact of COVID-19 and other external events on people and people of color, in particular, and reducing the stigma associated with mental health. Developing programs available to all employees that allow them to support themselves, their co-workers, and their family and friends will be key to finding a healthier workplace this year and going forward.

Catering to Organizational Knowledge Loss

Knowledge-loss occurs when an employee leaves an organization and takes everything they know, especially their tips for working safely, with them. If an organization doesn’t capture their knowledge, it leaves the day they walk out the door.

The knowledge-loss crisis isn’t anything new: it can happen to any company without an overt commitment to knowledge transfer. But knowledge loss is growing in safety-critical fields, like construction and manufacturing.

The construction skills shortage is a ‘threat to the industry’. At present, it’s also unclear whether the uncertainty of 2020 will improve or exacerbate the problem. In manufacturing, aging and retirement are creating more job openings than companies can fill. Data shows that 25% of the U.S. manufacturing workforce is already 55 or older.

A loss of experienced workers combined with the hunt for new, less experienced employees demands a stronger organizational knowledge-sharing program. These programs remain particularly important in the field of health and safety, where inexperience and missing knowledge can come with severe consequences.

This year is an excellent time to create or shore up knowledge-sharing programs, particularly as safety professionals deal with a reinvigorated OSHA and see renewed investment in safety.

2021 Will Improve Safety for the Next Decade

The year 2020 will soon become the year that must not be named, but it generated some valuable lessons to carry into 2021 and beyond. The good news is that we can use hindsight and lessons learned to make our safety programs stronger this year. And there’s plenty of technology already here and coming down the pipeline to help share the burden.

Are you ready to take on 2021? Find a collaborative partner in Safesite. Learn more about how we help safety pros manage their world-class safety programs by scheduling a free demo.

Nikki Olson

By Nikki Olson

Nikki Olson is a former commercial archaeologist and current Content Marketing Manager at Safesite, the only forever free safety solution. When Nikki’s not waist-deep in writing and editing, she’s in over her head surfing and kayaking around Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

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