Every seven seconds, a worker in America is hurt on the job, according to the National Safety Council. The new year brings fresh opportunities to improve your safety culture and streamline your enterprise, and safety experts are creating innovative solutions to tackle some of the toughest questions in workplace health and wellness. Technology continues to find new roles in the workplace, and safety leaders are increasingly turning to holistic solutions to keep employees safe and healthy. Here’s a rundown of the top three trends in workplace safety you can expect to encounter in 2020.
Trend 1: Holistic worker safety strategies are catching on fast
Risk managers and safety professionals across industries are increasingly looking to adopt total-worker solutions that promote health in a broader, more holistic manner. The Total Worker Health® (TWH) approach to workplace safety, as outlined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)1, has shaped the world of risk management, and companies everywhere are catching on. By addressing the worker’s entire experience—from the physical requirements of their tasks on the job to their sleep patterns at home and the equipment they use at work—this strategy has delivered results for companies of all types.
By utilizing strategies that tackle workplace safety from several angles, businesses can account for risks that originate from all aspects of the worker’s experience. Through a focus on body, behavior, and environment, organizations are quickly implementing TWH solutions through an integrated approach. Safety managers are now responsible for more facets of the workplace than ever, and they will continue to lean more heavily on proactive solutions that eliminate risk at the source before it leads to injuries and major costs for the organization. With the proper tools from a multi-pronged safety strategy, you can be ready for all the challenges of the new year.
Trend 2: Technology-based safety programs are stepping up
To counter the range of risks employees face on a daily basis, more and more enterprises are investing in high-tech solutions that can enhance workplace safety programs. These solutions are easy to integrate into an existing strategy and can provide assistance both in analyzing the risks of the workplace and in preventing injuries, chronic pain, and fatigue.
From wearable devices that measure workers’ exertion levels and offer predictive safety analysis to exoskeletons that provide support for employees whose jobs require difficult postures or high levels of force, there is no shortage of technologies available to optimize your safety program. New desktop software and cloud-based tech offer ways for employees to take charge of their health through self-correction and at-home self-care, allowing them to monitor ergonomic factors and perform exercises that contribute to better strength and conditioning. Smart tech has also shown promise in preventing fatigue among workers, offering predictive analysis that can determine fatigue risk at virtually any point of a shift.
Even more exciting is the growing integration of artificial intelligence in workplace risk management systems. AI-powered software can monitor the workplace and evaluate risks in real time, warning managers and employees when a risk factor turns into a safety hazard. Combined with other tactics like increased training, ergonomics, and on-site coaching, technology can be an integral part of an effective and proactive strategy. For more information on the role of technology in today’s safety world, click here.
Trend 3: Managers are acknowledging worker substance abuse and mental health issues
Employees face a range of stressors at work regardless of their health status, and these risks only compound when drugs and alcohol become involved. About half of all workplace injuries involve drug use in some capacity, and up to 20 percent of workplace fatalities can be attributed to alcohol or drug abuse. In light of the national opioid crisis, it’s essential that managers and their companies take the issues of drug abuse and mental health seriously. Mental health issues can have a dramatic effect on morale and productivity, as individuals with chronic mental health disorders like depression or anxiety are more likely to exhibit presenteeism and lose work time than workers with other chronic illnesses. Likewise, the work environment and mental health are strongly linked—employees who suffer from chronic fatigue as a result of overwork or burnout are more likely to experience depression or anxiety, and physical factors like chronic pain can also contribute to mental illness. Many employees also live, work, and play with chronic pain as a constant in their lives. Up to now, managing and addressing pain has been left to the employee and their healthcare professional. This is a significant issue that costs American employers over $600 billion annually, and increases opioid abuse and emotional distress. Employers should evaluate on-site solutions that help employees address pain, self-care, and proper use of biomechanical technique. With more resources becoming available to help managers deal with these complex issues, now is the time to start addressing substance abuse and mental health issues in the workplace.
Every year brings its own unique surprises and challenges, but with a proactive mindset and a holistic strategy, safety managers can make major strides in preventing injuries, protecting workers, and streamlining operations. With investment in diverse safety tactics and a commitment to addressing difficult issues, companies can cut costs and improve productivity, all while fostering a supportive and positive culture of safety in the workplace.
1Total Worker Health is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Participation by DORN Companies does not imply endorsement by HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.