Below are eight current trends in the occupational health and safety industry that could have an impact on your career path.
Trend #1: Global Harmonised System
The Global Harmonised System has arrived. On the agenda for many years, GHS finally came into effect in 2015. GHS is not greatly different from the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS), and is long overdue in our world of interlinked economies.
Trend #2: The profession will remain fractured and regionalised
There are hundreds of certifications in health and safety, and many are region specific. There is no clearly agreed upon standard of what ‘health and safety professional’ really means, and who actually qualifies as a professional, as the designation-versus-certification debate continues. Even training is not consistent in content or quality.
Trend #3: Regulators will remain under increased scrutiny
In places with larger populations, it seems that regulators are facing mounting criticism. This may just be part of the continuing trend towards mistrust of government, but this aspect is a new and emerging trend.
Trend #4: Demand for safety people will remain strong
The safety occupation will continue to grow strongly as the function becomes more embedded as a requirement, rather than something nice to have. Smaller companies involved in high-risk industries, such as construction or those involved in work with large companies will see the need for trained safety staff.
Trend #5: Fatalities will rise
This should come as no surprise. More people are working and therefore fatalities will rise. Occupational disease fatalities will rise because those related to mesothelioma or asbestos related respiratory diseases have not peaked yet. Motor vehicle fatalities will rise along with economic activity. The fatality rate may stay constant, but expect it to rise in high-risk industries (e.g. construction). Fatality rates in construction have been on the uptick recently in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Since there is no national analysis of workplace injury or fatality data in Canada, no one has really noticed yet, but it is expected for this trend to continue.
Trend #6: Our fascination with ‘zero’ will continue
Zero is a target for a lot of companies. It is big and round, and far away or nebulous for most – more of a philosophy than a target. Setting unachievable goals or ones that the workforce has difficulty relating to will actually make people more likely to take risks.
If John F. Kennedy had said ‘We are going to the moon’ instead of ‘We will go to the moon in this decade’, it may never have happened. In 1962 planning and activities to meet the goal were well underway. Everyone understood how the goal would be met.
Targets are great and zero is a good one, but if you have no idea how to get there then it isn’t a real target. Doing more of whatever is being done now will not get anyone to a sustainable level at or near zero. No relevance (timeline), no plan and no vision equal no effect.
Trend #7: Enrolment in OHS diploma and certificate programmes will see strong growth
The reasons for this are easy. More people are getting into health and safety, and employers are becoming (to their credit) more demanding in terms of people and their educations. Experience will still be important but education will take on more emphasis in the future. The overall trend to online learning will also continue to grow as many in the health and safety field are already working and cannot make it to a traditional classroom.
Trend #8: ISO 45001 will not get much notice
Yes, our friends at the International Standards Organization are working on a health and safety standard for release in 2016. Not many companies certify to existing standards because there is little benefit. While we could debate whether it is really needed, maybe we should all agree that we need to standardize our methods first, which are also very fractionalised by region or country.
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