Worker attitudes, limited budgets and lack of understanding of risks are three major barriers to implementing health and safety practices in the workplace. Despite commitment of senior management and very positive view of health and safety by both the management and regular members of staff, employees attitudes are seen as a primary obstacle to putting health and safety practices into effect.
This is the key finding of Health and Safety Industry Survey 2014, carried out by MySafetySign to gain insight into key factors driving health and safety practices in the workplace and main barriers that health and safety professionals face within their organizations.
The survey has also revealed that the main “drivers” of health and safety in U.S. businesses are the commitment of their top management, and safety culture, both mentioned by more than half of the respondents in the survey.
Similarly, 96% of organizations whose representatives took part in our study have at least one way to demonstrate their commitment to health and safety. The most popular methods are through training and regular staff meetings, practiced at 75% and 62% of organizations respectively. Less popular ways included induction and incentive programs for employees with only 25% and 21% of organizations employing these practices for the benefit of health and safety in the workplace.
Despite these efforts, certain health and safety concerns are not given enough consideration, according to health and safety professionals we surveyed. Most notably, 24% mention stress and 20% mention overworking as the main concerns that are overlooked. These two risks were reported in a range of industries, such as manufacturing and health services, where physical risks might seem more prominent. It is important to bear in mind that more immediate, typical concerns are not necessarily the ones that get overlooked.
Whereas limited budgets are mentioned as one of the key barriers in the way of putting health and safety practices into place, over 40% of companies that have a health and safety department have expanded it in the past three years. In addition, 34% of companies whose health and safety professionals took part in our survey give 10 or more training sessions per year to their staff, with another 27% stating that their staff gets between three and nine sessions annually.
The MySafetySign Health and Safety Industry Survey was designed to explore the current state of health and safety practices in U.S. businesses today. We surveyed 532 health and safety professionals in the United States online using a self-administered questionnaire powered by SurveyMonkey.
Our survey reached businesses from as small as self-employed entrepreneurs to organizations employing more than 500 people, across 17 industries.
In total 470 responses were used for analysis of survey results and for preparation of this report. Only fully complete surveys were used in the analysis.
The importance of health and safety
According to our respondents, top management are more serious about health and safety than regular employees. To be more precise, 63% of respondents claim that their senior management see health and safety as very important, whereas only 43% of staff share that view.
Generally positive perceptions of health and safety are indicative of commitment to implementing appropriate practices in the workplace. Whereas there are many ways to demonstrate such commitment, here are the methods used by the organizations where our respondents work:
As you can see from the graph above, training (e.g. compliance and workshops) dominates the list with 75% of respondents listing it as one of the ways their organization commits to health and safety. Such practices as regular staff meetings were mentioned by 52% of our respondents and top management involvement by 42%.
It is important to note that whereas training and meetings seem quite popular measures of health and safety implementation in companies, employee-level measures were significantly less popular. Only 21% of people said that their organization had health and safety embedded into staffâ€™s personal responsibilities and objectives. Similarly, incentives and bonus programs were reported by only 21% of respondents.
Coming back to the prevalence of training as means of a company expressing its commitment to health and safety, it appears that as many as 34% of respondents claim staff at their companies receive 10 or more training sessions per year. And 27% of respondents indicate that their staff are given only one or two training updates a year, 19% suggest the number is between three and five, and 8% enjoy six to nine training sessions in a year.
Health and safety drivers and barriers: top management committed, worker attitudes lag behind
One of the key questions in our survey was about main factors that drive health and safety practices in the workplace. While 42% mentioned recognition of problems and risks, 51% noted the safety culture in their organization, it was the commitment by top management that topped the list of “drivers” with 62% of respondents mentioning it.
Among the barriers to implementing health and safety practices in the workplace, worker attitudes were pointed out by 39% of our respondents, with limited budgets and staff not understanding the risks were mentioned by 28% and 19% respectively.
Stress, overwork and back strains most overlooked concerns in the workplace
As high as 24% of respondents named stress as a health and safety concern that is not given enough consideration in their workplace. Stress was followed by overwork and back strains that were mentioned, respectively, by 20% and 19% of people who took part in our survey.
It seems rather interesting that three out of five concerns that are seen as the most overlooked are psychosocial concerns and are not related to more physical risks to health such as hazardous materials, heavy and dangerous equipment, falls from above, or confined spaces.
This finding might support the opinion that whereas physical risks are more typical for certain industries, e.g. manufacturing and engineering, psychosocial risks are more ubiquitous in practice. However, as the results of our survey suggest, stress and overwork are recognized as overlooked by our respondents from a broad spectrum of different industries. Most notably these concerns are not given enough consideration in energy & water, health services and even manufacturing, where stress and overworking came in joint second to musculoskeletal disorders.
Overall, we found that safety professionals have a clear picture of the barriers to effective safety programs, and the driving factors that make those programs successful. It was noteworthy to hear from our respondents that top management's role is critical in the success of their health and safety initiatives, and that unseen and lesser-regulated hazards like stress and overwork aren't getting enough consideration. The survey highlights these industry trends, prompting further discussion in 2014:
How should companies increase personal responsibility in their workforce, and does that improve the worker attitudes that may be hindering health and safety practices?
How can safety professionals give stress, overwork, and other psychosocial issues a higher priority in the workplace?
How does staff perceive the commitment and involvement of senior management, and how does that perception impact the success of health and safety initiatives?
We look forward to hearing your insights; please get in touch with our editor [email protected] with any feedback, or suggestions for further areas for investigation.