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2020 Research: What Sets High-Performing EHS Programs Apart

Toby Graham /

Measuring the efficacy of an environment, health, and safety program isn’t easy. There’s no way to count the number of injuries avoided or dollars saved, and any comparison between past and current performance may not tell the whole story.

Indeed, when an EHS program works, its primary indicator is no indication at all—no incidents, losses, or unexpected costs. It can thus be difficult to convince decision-makers that the program is a good investment.

In KPA’s recently released report, 2019 State of the Industry: EHS Program Trends (collected by Informa Engage and EHS Today) we went beyond simple metrics. We decided to measure not only the quantitative impact of different organizations’ EHS programs—how they stack up against industry averages—but the qualitative evaluations of these programs as well. We wanted to track how participants viewed their initiatives; whether they thought of EHS as a necessary evil or as an element of their larger successes. 

What we found was that respondents tended to fall into one of two categories: high performers and poor performers. High performers prioritize EHS and are safer and more efficient than the industry average. Poor performers have programs that receive little support, and they tend to experience greater-than-average incident rates.

What Makes a High Performer?

Respondents categorized as high performing indicated that EHS programs are prioritized higher throughout their organization. They care deeply about employee health and safety, and will endeavor to protect their workers’ well-being at every opportunity. In our survey, employee training, inspections and audits, communication and reporting, and preventive and corrective actions ranked more positively among high performers.

By the Numbers: Signs of High EHS Performance

Employee Training

Companies with injury rates and absenteeism rates below industry average ranked their employee training programs as top-notch more often than poor performers did.

Inspection & Audit Programs

Companies that did not experience safety violations in the past year, along with lower than industry injury and absentee rates, rated their inspection and audit programs “very good” or “excellent” more often than those that didn’t.

Incident Reporting & Tracking

Companies that did not experience safety violations in the past year, along with lower than industry injury and absentee rates, rated their incident reporting and tracking program “very good” or “excellent” more often than poor performers did. For instance, companies that had injury rates below industry average rated their incident reporting and tracking programs “very good” or “excellent” 24% more often than did companies with injury rates reported above the industry average.

Other High Performing Areas

Companies that did not experience safety violations in the past year, along with lower than industry injury and absentee rates, rated effectiveness of their preventive/corrective actions, communication and reporting, and data collection and analysis higher than those reporting as poor performers.

As the report shows, the efficacy of an EHS program can be both tracked and felt throughout an organization. High performers believe in their initiatives and see fewer than average incidents as a result. Investment pays off in terms of avoiding injuries and illnesses, as well as in improvements to morale—along with money and time savings. All this means these organizations have a greater capacity to sustain and improve their performance.

Given the fact that high performers tend to maintain or improve their results while low performers tend to stay the same or get worse, are companies stuck where they are? Is there any way to shift from low to high? Our survey offers some insight no executive can afford to ignore. Check back soon for another article exploring the opportunities and challenges in improving EHS performance.

Until then, if you’d like to review KPA’s 2019 State of the Industry: EHS Program Trends report for yourself, download it for free here.

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