The results are in for the State of Safety poll.
What have we learned? There is a lot of work to do, or, at least, major room for improvement in certain areas.
Key insights about safety attitudes...
Businesses care about people. 41% of respondents said “No”. Let’s take a shot at unpacking this. First, this is a broad question, so there are many influences informing that opinion, stretching well-beyond issues of occupational safety and health. A few examples: health and benefit packages, corporate policy, workplace culture, narratives in media and journalism, exposure or familiarity with the political context, and personal experiences. However, the context of this poll was clear: it’s about safety. So, reasonably, the implication is that businesses are not performing up to safety expectations, as responses are nearer the issue than not. The responsibility to change that perception rests with many stakeholders, but none more so than business leaders. It’s been said many times before—safety starts at the top.
Safety is far behind the technology curve. 39% of respondents said “No”. Surprised? It is true that the proliferation of safety technology in the marketplace has exploded recently. Wearable tech, virtual reality training simulation, and dozens upon dozens of ‘safety apps’, are rapidly gaining interest, if not traction, with safety professionals. Just walk any national safety tradeshow floor to find vendors leaping to offer you new technology, dangling the promise of a smarter approach to safety, and return on investment. Apps are cheap, but the other stuff isn’t—that's the reality for early adopters along the technology curve.
Based on the thousands of conversations we have with working occupational safety professionals, here is what we know: there remains a heavy reliance on PowerPoint, Excel, DVDs (yes), in the mix for an overwhelming share of the audience. Even online safety training faces strong skepticism. Software adoption is coming along more quickly in years past, but the number one obstacle is budget. Relatively few organizations have the mindset or dedicated organizational safety budget, to pursue new technology. That signals a break with the results of the poll.
Based on a previous data collection exercise about safety culture and employee safety engagement, we know that…
- Only 34% characterized their safety culture as “Highly Engaged”.
- The largest share (43%) answered with “Somewhat Engaged”.
- 11% of our audience characterizes their “Safety Culture” as “Old School”
- 5% say it’s “Non-Existent”
- 5% say “Disinterested”
We know that there are many ways in which technology promotes engagement, and it is more accessible than at any time in history.
Businesses are trusted to keep people from dying at work. 22% of respondents say “No”. What to make of the 22%? Tough question. It is possible that the mentality of personal, employee-centric responsibility for safety informs the answer. In other words, it is the employee’s responsibility to prevent injury or illness, not the business. It is also possible that a cynical view of “businesses”, based on may factors (historical safety performance, chiefly), is at least partially responsible. And it is possible that the professional pride of safety leaders is coming through in the 77% of respondents who answered “Yes”. What other elements factor into this perception? Does the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) enforcement activity play a role?
This prompts a fairly obvious, multiple-choice follow-up question: Who bears the responsibility for preventable deaths in the workplace? Or, who should be trusted to keep people on the job?
D. Safety Professionals
E. All of the above
The goal of this inaugural survey effort was to benchmark safety attitudes. Yet, the poll lives on; you can take and share it now. Results reporting is something we’ll do on a continual basis.
Thanks to all the voters and social participants who took and shared our first State of Safety poll!