As we prepare to jump into the new year, EHS Daily Advisor reached out to professionals throughout the industry to get their predictions for what will happen in EHS and workplace safety in 2023. Here’s what they had to say.
Karen Hamel, regulatory expert, trainer, and technical writer, HalenHardy
1. Mental health and workplace violence will continue to be on the radar for EHS professionals. Let’s face it: the world is a tumultuous place. Things are much different now than they were four years ago. Many employees have had time to reflect on work/life balance and their own well-being. Unfortunately, they’ve also had time to become polarized on many issues.
This can create stress, unrest and hostility in the workplace. Where issues like this used to primarily be in HR’s territory, EHS professionals are now being challenged to know more about these topics, draft plans, provide training and assist with resources in these areas.
Fortunately, resources are available; but like everything else, it takes time to do this well.
2. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, high heat, sub-zero temperatures, and every other form of natural disaster won’t take a holiday this year. In fact, it’s not just in your imagination: natural disasters are happening more frequently.
When disasters occur, they interrupt more than your operations. They can also impact your employees. FEMA and the NFPA both have resources for facilities to plan for the impact of natural disasters. The NFPA 1600 Standard is especially helpful for planning.
For EHS professionals, initiating these response and recovery plans or having a seat at the table when these plans are being made is critical because it won’t be “business as usual.” What keeps your people safe during daily operations probably won’t be enough to keep them safe during a disaster or in recovery operations. As the saying goes: failure to plan is planning to fail.
3. Falls from heights: Unfortunately, I see this being the number one OSHA violation again in 2023. Construction is riddled with all sorts of hazards. Falls from heights is one of those hazards that, fortunately, has so many resources to help minimize its risks.
We have stand downs. We have directives. We have toolbox talks. And yet, falls from heights still hold their notorious rank. Safety suppliers are a great resource for more than just the latest products. They also have great training resources that go way beyond how to don and doff your harness. Utilize them. Let’s crack this nut!
Kevin Shoemaker, EHS Solution Engineer, EHS Hero
We will see safety budgets constricting as the economy continues to decline. Unfortunately, when money becomes tighter, some leaders believe that safety spending can be reduced without effects on the bottom line. I firmly disagree with this approach and have seen it in several customers over the last 30 years where reducing this budget increases injuries and creates negative culture within business that can be difficult to turn around.
I believe technology will continue to advance quickly as innovation will be used to allow managers and employees alike to utilize technology to improve safety, reduce injuries, and create company cultures where people are excited to come to work every day.
I believe OSHA will continue to be one of technology-based companies’ largest competitors. They continue to create tools for employers that can be used to replace technology company solutions, including E-tools, trainings, reference materials that can be accessed for free from their website. Technology companies will have to continue to improve their products to add the value associated with “Simple” access to these references as currently these government sites are less friendly.
Dom Tolli, Senior Vice President, Product Management and Platform Development, American Red Cross
While some workplace industries will always have a need for in-person training, others with greater flexibility began transitioning to online and virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, we will see a mixture of learning options with blended learning (online content with an in-person skills session) remaining popular but virtual learning (where the instructor and participant are in different locations) declining in use. As an example, even with a shift to blended learning for American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED courses, we are seeing that in-person sessions with an instructor reviewing critical skills in a classroom have increased in use, most likely as an effective, human touch to 100% virtual learning.
Better educational formats that allow for a personalized approach to learning will continue to become prevalent. Let’s use adaptive learning, a format the Red Cross pioneered in its workplace and healthcare training, as an example. In this methodology, students who are participating in blended learning formats take an online pre-assessment test. The curriculum is then personalized to their knowledge and level of skill. Students get a tailored learning experience that objectively assesses skills competency while minimizing operational impact due to shorter class times.
We’ve seen “Challenge” and “Review” options grow in popularity in the healthcare market and can see that becoming a new trend in workplace training for those who have been previously certified. In a review course, students conduct a brief skills review before testing. In a challenge course, students proceed straight to the test, with the understanding that if they do not perform to set standards, then they have to take the course in its entirety. (This does happen, which is why a review course can often be the preferred of the two options.) These two streamlined certification course renewal options for experienced employees enable students to minimize the time needed to satisfy compliance while maximizing what they already know.
Luke Jacobs, Co-Founder and CEO, Encamp
ESG Requirements to Increase in the U.S.
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) adoption and requirements will increase for the United States in 2023, with two major factors driving that increase: Infrastructure and EU operations. Europe has typically led the way in ESG, so multinational companies operating in Europe—even those headquartered in the U.S.—are working to comply with European requirements. Companies want to reach for the highest standard, not the lowest common denominator, in terms of their company-wide ESG compliance. If you must update part of your operations, think more broadly and roll out those changes to all of your operations.
Meanwhile, the Build Back Better plan has launched additional infrastructure projects in the U.S. With those projects comes a host of ESG questions and requirements to track. Strict regulations combined with economic incentives will propel increased U.S. sustainability requirements next year.
Make ESG an Operating Reality
More than half of executives say their companies engage in greenwashing by exaggerating their efforts to curb environmental damage caused by their products, services, or operations. In 2023, organizations must commit to making ESG an actual operating reality instead of leveraging it as a mere marketing ploy for consumers and investors. If companies present themselves as sustainable and trumpet their ESG initiatives, they need data proving they’re walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
Large Manufacturers to Put Pressure on Their Supply Chain
Larger organizations allocating more money toward improving ESG have begun to expect their supplier network will hold themselves to similar standards. In 2023, major manufacturers will push smaller companies to adopt more stringent standards because they’re in their supply chain. That demand will create an immediate fire drill as many of those companies frantically search for ways to crack down on ESG. The worst case scenario? Smaller companies will fail to fulfill their contracts, and the larger manufacturers will find different suppliers able to meet those needs.
Bevin Lyon, Chief Product Officer, Encamp
Embracing Automation to Allocate More Time for EHS Initiatives
The EHS industry landscape is continuously evolving. But the rising importance of ESG reporting has created more work for EHS teams. In 2023, organizations must analyze the processes consuming such a large part of EHS professionals’ time to identify what processes would benefit from automation. With the help of technology, EHS teams can reallocate their time to larger projects—like zero landfill initiatives and emission reductions—with the potential to positively impact their business and the planet.
The Role of CPO Will Evolve Along With Niche Products
Traditionally, chief product officers (CPO) have development and engineering backgrounds. But now we’re seeing a trend of more executives bringing go-to-market experience to their organizations. More professionals are spinning off larger tech companies and creating niche products to solve a need the old technology couldn’t solve. In 2023, the SaaS products coming to market will include many new categories that are sub-niche portions of a larger category.
Communication Tools Will Continue to Evolve in the Virtual Workforce
Mediums of professional communication continue to evolve. We rely on email, text messages, and Slack to contact customers and colleagues daily, especially with hybrid and remote work remaining popular. In 2023, more startup companies will emerge, offering complementary tools designed to seamlessly integrate into communication software like Slack or Microsoft Teams and provide even more information and value to the virtual workforce.
Jackie Velazquez, Director of Environmental Compliance, Encamp
PFAS Will Become a Focal Point
PFAS, or forever chemicals, re-emerged as a top concern after the EPA drastically lowered their safe-consumption levels in drinking water this year. Next year, we’ll see greater scrutiny and regulations governing the use of PFAS, which will trigger additional research into how to break down these substances. Organizations will make advancements to level up antiquated technologies, such as carbon filtration, to protect people and the environment from these toxic chemicals.
Innovation Will Progress Tier II Reporting Maturity
Tier II reporting has languished in its current state for a long time. While digital tools and technologies serve as a small pocket of innovation for EHS leaders to utilize in their reporting efforts, there’s still room for improvement. Next year, the industry will continue chipping away at manual efforts. More organizations will discard paper reports and embrace digital transformation to drive higher quality, reliable environmental compliance.