In their latest press release, the American Association of Safety Professionals (ASSP) issued a clarion call for immediate action on addressing stagnant injury rates, urging employers to “reconsider their current approaches to workplace health and safety”. As ASSP President Diana Stegall phrased it, “Stagnant injury rates are unacceptable and a clear call to employers nationwide to take a harder look at their approach to workplace safety and health.”
Regardless of industry or company size, preventing unwanted workplace incidents, injuries and illnesses, as well as reducing business risk are always of prime importance to companies. Based on newly released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the incident rate for non-fatal workplace injury and illnesses had not changed from 2017 to 2018 – marking the first time since 2012 that this rate did not decrease.
Nick Gutermuth, CSP Ret. (LinkedIn), has practiced Health & Safety for almost 50 years – with a focus on implementing safety programs and enhancing compliance practices at companies that have included General Electric, Merck, and Jones Lang LaSalle. With this experience, he has established extensive expertise in training, auditing, incident investigation, and EHS management systems development.
As a lifetime designer and tireless advocate of effective health & safety improvement processes, Gensuite recently interviewed Nick on his assessment of the stagnant injury rates and his recommendations for companies to reevaluate their injury and illness reduction programs.
Gensuite: Nick, we are thrilled to be speaking with you today–thanks for joining us. Your expertise in the health and safety space is impressive, and we know that your knowledge and perspectives could be beneficial to our readers.
Gutermuth: Thanks, I am glad to be speaking about this topic. I truly believe that one of the core values of a company or business is a commitment to the health and safety of its employees, along with the people and environment in the communities where they operate or do business. The importance of sustainability, along with being a good corporate citizen, is critical to the culture of the company or business.
Gensuite: In your opinion, what is causing the workplace injury rate plateau?
Gutermuth: I suspect that there several possible contributing factors. A core issue may be EHS Management Systems that are ineffective, unsustainable, or even non-existent. Further, ongoing EHS monitoring, assessment and appropriate controls are often not implemented on a consistent basis. These systems can help companies continuously identify and eliminate safety and health risks, reducing unwanted incidents and the potential of a worker getting injured or becoming ill.
Gensuite: You mentioned ineffective and unsustainable systems – how do you measure if your management system is performing as it should?
Gutermuth: Incidents are simply a symptom of a larger problem in an EHS Management System. If the Incident Control Plan is not showing improvement year over year, then the system may not be effective. Too often, companies have non-integrated or poorly applied EHS applications/processes (such as Risk Assessments, Root Cause Analysis) in place that are hindering them from meeting their EHS objectives.
In my experience, a critical step to H&S sustainability is the implementation of a Plan, Do, Check & Act process. The basic elements of the PDCA process are:
- Plan – Develop policies, procedures and objectives.
- Do – Identify hazards and Assess Risks, Develop Controls
- Check and Act – Performance Measurements & Monitoring, Evaluation of controls and Process improvement Implementation
The PDCA process ensures that ongoing Monitoring, Assessing and Appropriate Controls are implemented that will drive continuous improvement in your H&S process.
Gensuite: Clearly, overcoming the injury rate plateau is of paramount importance. How do you recommend conducting comprehensive hazard and risk assessment to prevent injury?
Gutermuth: First and foremost, it’s important to perform a root-cause analysis to evaluate the existing procedures that are in place, then execute a PDCA plan on a regular basis. This procedure provides the foundation of what software applications should be doing to know what is working well or could be improved. Bottom line –determine if your processes are working before you integrate EHS management software applications.
Over the years, I’ve come up with a 5-part checklist to conduct this assessment.
- Identify the Potential Hazards or Hazardous Situations Including Critical Behaviors
- Identify Existing Safety Control Measures and Gaps
- Take Appropriate Actions
- Identify and Communicate Safe Behaviors and Expectations
- Check Periodically for Conformance (part of PDCA process)
Gensuite: These are all great recommendations. Software is only effective if you have some current program and processes are initially built out for your organization. Can you address how an EHS Software can provide added value to safety management?
Gutermuth: EHS software provides an intuitive and efficient way to connect employees, collect data, and gain insights across your organization. Having a central system can help an organization easily pull reports to review incidents and near misses, as well as provide corrective actions is critical. Safety management software also ensures regulatory compliance. The software should meet the requirements of ISO 45001 in particular, as this standard was developed specifically for occupational health & safety to minimize potential injuries and illnesses in workplaces globally.
Gensuite: In your professional career, I’m sure that you’ve had experience with various EHS solutions. What software and capabilities have you found most beneficial to EHS practitioners?
Gutermuth: I’ve been in EHS for almost 50 years and I have seen programs, processes, systems come and go. But at the end of the day it’s all about people, leadership and a sustainable, comprehensive loss control system. For the past 20 years, I’ve used Gensuite and noticed a remarkable difference between their offerings versus others. The power of Gensuite comes from the clear integration of the EHS applications which enable companies to reduce workplace injury and illness rates. And unlike other solutions, Gensuite offers free software updates to customers as technology and regulatory guidelines change to support program compliance and operational excellence. Lastly, I have found that Gensuite’s Dashboards and Analytics applications are excellent EHS tools that enhance your EHS process.
There is an old saying: “You cannot fix what you do not know is broken.” So in final analysis, I believe EHS Sustainability and Excellence can be achieved through integrated EHS applications along with following my five part assessment checklist as reviewed earlier in this white paper.
Gensuite: We appreciate your thought leadership and insight on this, Nick – as you know, our customers and champions keep us inspired for continuous improvement and innovation.
Having a comprehensive EHS solution in place is critical to make an impact on reducing injury rates. It is the responsibility of safety professionals to develop programs and procedures to reduce incidents, remain in compliance, and increase overall employee safety.
Gensuite’s integrated software streamlines EHS and sustainability for your organization to not only fulfill the requirements of ISO 45001, but also promote a safer workplace. Kickstart your safety management approach with Gensuite today, with solutions from incident management (to engage employees and drive a constant state of process improvement) to behavior-based safety observations (to support real-time insights into safety risks in the workplace and for promoting safe employee behaviors and work activities).
Looking to make the switch from your current EHS system? Contact us today to schedule a demo with one of our experts!