In an ideal world, every environment, health, and safety program would be the same. Across industries and organizations, there would be no EHS incident—no injuries, no illnesses. All avoidable human and financial costs would be, well, avoided.
We don’t live in an ideal world, of course. But if recent research collected by KPA, and EHS Today indicates a pattern, we may be getting closer.
Our 2019 State of the Industry: EHS Program Trends revealed a full picture of EHS in 2020, highlighting which companies are doing it well and which companies need work. The insights captured in our survey show a simple but undeniable connection between EHS performance and organizational resources: incidents are lowest where EHS is a priority and highest where it’s viewed only as a drain on the company’s bottom line.
What’s noteworthy about our findings is not only the portrait of where EHS is right now, but where things are headed next. However they’re performing today, organizations are dedicated to improving. In the coming year, company spending on EHS will increase or remain the same for 96% of our respondents, with only a small percentage (4%) decreasing spending.
Aiming High: How Organizations Are Shifting from Low Performance to High Performance
Plans for Software Support
The majority of respondents plan to invest in software—either introducing new software or expanding the use of current software—to support their EHS programs.
Impacts on the Bottom Line
Notably, a high percentage of low performers agree that EHS software and services improve their bottom line. Yet, as our report revealed, it’s poor performers that also report a lack of support for investing in EHS programs. For a shift to be seen in performance and support, it will be critical for companies to make the case for placing EHS programs higher on the priority list
With the impending changes in software support and spending, companies should make investments that will generate stronger performance. Using software to manage EHS programs can reduce reliance on manual processes, improve communication and data tracking, and increase adoption of policies and procedures to increase preventative measures.
Increasing executive support improves visibility for EHS programs across the organization and leads to a ripple effect of making EHS a priority with all employees.
Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving EHS Success
As much as the survey spotlighted the differences between high and low performers, it also underscored what all EHS practitioners have in common. Many organizations encounter the same roadblocks—roadblocks that can be alleviated through improved technology systems, executive leadership, and processes that enforce a strong safety culture.
Challenges in Improving EHS Performance
Of all the obstacles organizations face, human resource challenges topped the list, with the majority of respondents reporting that following internal policies and procedures was the greatest hurdle. This was followed by the necessity to rely on manual processes to manage operations.
In today’s technology-centric age, it was surprising to find that over half of respondents are not using EHS-specific software. More than half are relying on spreadsheets (37%) or paper (15%). However, nearly half (42%) are using third-party or internally-developed software. Some fill-in answers of note indicated the variety of approaches for tracking EHS programs, including several mentions for using a combination of methods and responses that indicated moving towards adopting newer technologies.
Making the Case for ROI
As technology continues to advance, EHS professionals must ensure their department lands high on the priority list of essential investments and receives the support it needs to successfully contribute to the company’s bottom line. This research demonstrates that leading companies are moving beyond old school spreadsheets and seeing the value of investments in technology that will allow for EHS performance to improve. Across the board, the connection drawn from high performing EHS programs (those with lower than average industry rates of injury, absenteeism, and report violations) to effective use of newer technology can be used by companies to make the case for their future investments, ultimately resulting in increased health and safety and a more productive workforce across the organization.
In order to create and maintain a strong safety culture and high performing EHS program, organizations must move away from manual processes and invest in modern technology. The right software can help companies to manage online employee training, conduct mobile inspections, track incidents and accidents, perform corrective and preventive actions, and monitor the progress of the overall EHS program with reports and dashboards that can be shared with the executive team and distributed to decision-makers across the organization.
The research shows that organizations investing in technology are outperforming their peers. However, the “secret sauce” is not the technology itself, but rather executive leadership and strong internal processes around following safety procedures and ensuring compliance.