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When it comes to anticipating trends in environmental health and safety (EHS), it’s good to know that industry leaders are always moving forward. For them, the pursuit of a safer workplace is neverending. Yet, with fatalities on the rise yet again, we’re reminded that dire straits require a thoughtful and knowledgeable response. Leading comprehensive safety inspections is a key component to ensuring compliance and improving workplace safety.

These are some of the trends we’ve seen and the solutions we can expect from health and safety leaders during the next six months of 2018.

Workplace deaths are on the rise, three years running!

2016 was the third year in a row that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an increase in the number of workplace deaths. At 5,190 fatalities, it’s the first time in over a decade that the number has exceeded 5,000– a worrying threshold to cross. As safety-minded executives look forward to the second half of 2018, we can expect their response to be a systemic approach with a focus on proactive wellbeing.

Promoting a system and culture of wellbeing requires safety leaders to set an example, though. They can’t just rest on their laurels like an armchair “surgeon general.” This year, more thought leaders than ever are tapping into the fact that health and safety impact productivity much more than a batch of morale-boosting doughnuts in the breakroom.

The true EHS superstars, the champions of worker well-being, are surpassing the bare minimum of government regulation with EHS management systems that incorporate mobile inspection platforms and strong networks of safety officers. Many of these risk-reduction tactics involve ditching unreliable modes of offline reporting with pens and clipboards in favor of smartphones and tablets.

Compliance managers need to be refreshed on current regulations and new opportunities to save lives.

Enterprise-scale businesses spend months if not years bridging the gap between current operations and new compliance measures. 2018 has seen the beginning of worldwide consolidation in safety management system, or SMS, implementation thanks to ISO 45001. That’s why the latter half of 2018 is turning into “The Year of the EHS Expert.” Safety leaders may be fewer in number than ever before, but that only makes the value they add all the more critical.

Even with more uniform regulations settling in place, an EHS operative in 2018 must be a well-versed “change manager.” He should be able to not only interpret the heavily-packed safety guidelines for his colleagues but also facilitate any interaction that executives have with their own compliance standards.

Take clause 4.3.1 of ISO 45001, for instance. According to this regulation, any time an organization wishes to modify their routine practices, they must first investigate and document all the hazards and risks associated with it. That’s right — every possible thing that could be a risk must be examined, even if the company only wants to change a single word. Issues like these require strong networks led by informed safety “gurus” capable of navigating these occasionally esoteric regulations.

It’s a tall order even for the most enlightened safety officer, which is why EHS veterans have increasingly turned to safety inspection software and data collection tools. Generally beloved because they are more reliable, accountable, and responsive than paper, mobile inspection platforms are a no-brainer for EHS professionals on the go. With built-in fail-safes like field validation, time and date stamps, and GPS fencing, it’s easy to see why top-level administrators would be amiable to digital solutions, too.

The best and brightest should be pursuing training to join the EHS workforce.

The EHS workforce has shrunk considerably over the last two decades. In 2011, it was estimated that at least 10 percent of all safety and health professionals retire every year. With a great number of EHS professionals past the midway point in their careers, age 50 or older, the industry is ill-prepared for an increase in retirements. According to the BLS, demand for safety specialists, engineers and technicians are predicted to increase by seven, ten, and eleven percent, respectively, over the next four years.

This is promising news for two reasons: one, higher demand means higher pay opportunities for EHS employees. And two, a younger population is more capable and ready to adapt to the technological environment EHS is fast evolving into. Making use of digital safety inspections will be second nature to a younger generation who grew up alongside mobile devices and wifi.

Conclusion

As we look to the next couple quarters of 2018, we can see that safety leaders are trending toward inspection software and systemic, integrated EHS strategies. Their answer to a negative spike in workplace fatalities will definitely involve proactive initiatives. EHS veterans will feel elevated this year as their skill set increases in demand, placing them at the center of a newly unified global EHS safety management system. Prospects are promising for new job-seekers starting their safety careers over the next several years, and their familiarity with IoT will be a boon to their professional progress and the organizations that empower them.

For further reading, check out this article about fire safety in the workplace.

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