6 Occupational Health and Safety Trends in 2022
Workplaces are always changing, and the safety industry must constantly evolve to keep up. New technologies make companies more efficient, but they also bring risks, especially when used incorrectly. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has added another level of difficulty for OHS managers since 2020.
The University of Regina publishes the Report on Work and Fatality Rates in Canada each year, using data from the AWCBC. Since gathering data about workplace accidents is difficult, these reports actually cover data from two years before their publication date. In other words, the 2021 edition covers accident rates from 2019, and the following are some key findings:
- Between 2018 and 2019, workplace fatalities decreased from 1,027 to 925.
- Lost-time injuries increased from 264,438 to 271,806
Even with a slight decrease in the number of workplace fatalities, companies cannot afford to drop their guard. Remember that the latest report from the University of Regina uses 2019 data, which means the impact of the pandemic is not reflected yet. Here we will discuss some major safety trends for 2022, a year with unique challenges as more employees return to the workplace.
1) Wearable Tech
The Internet of Things is improving all types of devices, and this includes Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Traditionally, PPE has provided physical defense against hazards, but it can now be equipped with sensors for live monitoring. The following are just some examples of how technology can improve PPE:
- Sensors can detect when workers have been exposed to hazards (even briefly), and they can send automatic notifications.
- They can also monitor the workers themselves, measuring vital signs like heart rate and body temperature.
- Sensors also improve human perception: They can detect hazards that your senses cannot, and they can warn you with alarms.
Traditional PPE protects your employees, while helping you meet local regulations. However, smart PPE can give you live feedback about safety conditions in the workplace.
2) A Broader Health Approach: Mind and Body
Traditionally, the OHS industry has focused on keeping us safe from physical injuries and work-related illnesses. However, the importance of mental health is now evident, especially after two years of a global pandemic.
Companies have started to realize they cannot be competitive if they don’t look after the mental health of their employees. The World Economic Forum has found that anxiety and depression have an economic impact of over one trillion US dollars per year. There is now a building certification called WELL, similar to LEED but focused on wellness, and many of its requirements are related to mental health.
3) Virtual Safety Training
2020 and 2021 forced companies to use technologies like videoconferencing, as a way to continue working during the pandemic. However, managers have now realized that these technologies bring permanent benefits. Virtual learning is a clear example:
- Employee training costs and time requirements are reduced drastically.
- Companies also avoid the administrative work related to classroom training.
Traditional classroom courses are a challenge even before they start. Companies must find a schedule where the instructors and participants are available, and then gather everyone in the same place. This can be a logistical nightmare for large companies operating in many cities, especially when they must complete a safety course ASAP to meet regulations. However, distances and schedules are no longer an obstacle when using virtual training.
4) Ergonomic Workplaces
When workplace injuries are mentioned, we tend to think about sudden accidents. However, injuries can also be caused by repetitive tasks over time, even in jobs that are not considered “dangerous”. For example, having a bad posture when working on a computer can cause back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Since these injuries happen gradually, employees may ignore the pain at first.
- Eventually, the pain can reach a point where it makes work impossible, and the affected worker must leave the job temporarily to recover.
To prevent these injuries, companies can purchase ergonomic equipment and tools, while training employees on how to use them properly. This not only applies for physically demanding jobs, but also for desk work.
5) Training Your Own Safety Experts
Safety consultants can help develop safety programs and train employees, but many companies are now training their own experts. This is especially helpful in heavy industries like mining and construction: there are more regulations, they are more demanding, and they are constantly changing! When you have safety experts in-house, your company can keep up with regulations more easily. They can also keep you informed about the latest safety technologies, while helping you with implementation.
6) Employee Feedback and Knowledge Sharing
Ideally there should be no incidents at work, but they happen eventually, even in companies with excellent safety records. However, an incident is also an opportunity to learn and improve your safety program. Listening to your employees is key: they have firsthand experience dealing with hazards, and their feedback can help improve your safety program. Feedback can also help you find safety measures that actually work: some measures can seem effective on paper, but end up being impractical in the workplace.
The OHS industry is being shaped by technology: personal protective equipment is becoming smarter, while safety training is moving to virtual classrooms. Companies are also realizing that safety goes beyond preventing accidents and illnesses, recognizing the importance of mental health and ergonomics. Safety programs are also becoming more dynamic, and they are constantly being improved based on knowledge sharing.
Originally Published at BIS SAFETY SOFTWARE
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