EHS Management, Safety Culture and Behavioral Safety

Focus on 2022: Safety Culture

This week, EHS Daily Advisor (EHSDA) is examining four key issues that will impact EHS professionals in the new year. Today, we asked three industry experts to provide their insights on what workplace safety culture will look like in 2022.

Earlier this year, EHSDA and Avetta conducted The State of Safety and Beyond survey, which gathered insights from 314 EHS professionals about how their organizations are dealing with current safety challenges and what they’re expecting in the future. Several questions on the survey focused on safety culture. Asked how they would rate their organization’s safety culture, 64% of survey respondents said it was good, 18% said excellent, 16% said their culture was below average, and 2% said their culture was poor.

When it came to ranking the top challenges in building a culture of safety, respondents said engaging and motivating employees (72%), balancing production pressures with safety efforts (59%), and getting supervisor cooperation (45%) were the most challenging. These were followed by providing effective training (34%), employee unwillingness to follow rules (31%), getting support from C-suite or upper management (26%), and measuring safety performance (26%).

A major factor in having a strong safety culture is leadership support. Asked about this, 40% of respondents said their organization’s leadership was very committed to supporting a strong safety culture, 36% said leadership was sufficiently committed, 20% said it was somewhat committed, and 4% said their leadership was not committed.

How do you see workplace safety culture changing in 2022?

Rachel Walla, principal consultant with Ally Safety:

I think the cultural challenges will continue around COVID-19 and also include mounting tensions between employers and employees due to inflation, changing expectations of employees, and continued strain on employers due to supply chain issues and the labor shortage. It’s likely to be a year that requires a very concentrated effort on company culture. I’d suggest careful messaging, open communication with employees, and openness to adapting to the new, post-COVID workplace. Companies who adapt will likely gain a competitive advantage over those who are more resistant to change. 

Claire Beich, president and owner of Ascend Consulting Environmental Health & Safety:

There have been so many changes already to workplace safety culture in just the last couple years, 2022 I believe will be no different. I see 2022 solidifying and securing that safety in the workplace is widely accepted as a necessity in each organization—no longer optional. We will also be navigating a more hybrid structure in positions and locations for jobs become more fluid. It is setting itself up to be a stabilizing year for safety in the workplace while still being a year of ‘figuring it out.’ It is an exciting and wonderful opportunity for the EHS leaders looking for relevancy and support to improve their safety programs.   

Kevin Shoemaker, senior product manager, EHS Hero:

I believe like many aspects of business today, you have to empower the entire workforce and drive out complacency. Management and leadership has to understand their direct effect on the safety culture and how efforts in these areas without their clear support will not be successful. And I think organizations need to realize that safety is for everyone, all the way to the lowest level of the organization. People need to take some responsibility for themselves and not allow work in unsafe conditions without proper equipment and training. Management needs to respect these observations and solicit these workers input on prevention rather than reaction to situations and events. Safety situations and events will continue to happen it really comes down to how your work culture handles them, whether you are preventing or reacting to injuries and accidents.