According to International Labor Organization (ILO), Occupational accidents or work-related diseases result in over 2.78 million deaths per year globally and that’s only part of the story. These Occupational Injuries/Illnesses also result in over 374 million non-fatal work-related injuries each year, resulting in more than 4 days of absences from work. The ILO estimates that the annual cost to the global economy from accidents and work-related diseases alone is a staggering $3 trillion.
These numbers are absolutely staggering and scary considering decades of hard work done to
- Create international standards by global organizations like ILO and WHO
- Governments/ regions passing and implementing specific regulations, legislations and laws
- Occupational/Enterprise safety and health programs put in place by organizations to adhere to all these requirements and
- Use of technology to meet all these OHS/EHSEM requirements.
While situation is not the same as 20th century from safety perspective due to improvements in awareness, programs and technology but we can easily infer that we are still missing something from the secret sauce of “safety culture” at global, local and organizational levels.
Since 1950, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have shared a common definition of occupational health:
“The main focus in occupational health is on three different objectives:
- the maintenance and promotion of workers’ health and working capacity;
- the improvement of working environment and work to become conducive to safety and health and
- development of work organizations and working cultures in a direction which supports health and safety at work and in doing so also promotes a positive social climate and smooth operation and may enhance productivity of the undertakings. The concept of working culture is intended in this context to mean a reflection of the essential value systems adopted by the undertaking concerned. Such a culture is reflected in practice in the managerial systems, personnel policy, principles for participation, training policies and quality management of the undertaking.”
All international, governmental organizations, private companies, employees & EHSEM software companies try to follow a similar mantra that Occupational Health & Safety and Employee Wellbeing is an integral part of their work culture. The truth is that OHS/EHSEM is still treated as a standalone process and as a step child in most organizations. The responsibilities, reporting, delegation of tasks, investigations and analysis of workplace injuries/illnesses is not integrated with any other process and/or system. This is where the problem exists i.e. you cannot have a working culture of safety by treating it as a silo unrelated to the core of the business.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word “culture” is defined as “the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time”. e.g. Christmas celebrations are an essential culture in western countries because it brings everyone together as a single entity. If each person celebrated Christmas in a silo at their homes without sharing the happiness with others it wouldn’t feel like a true Christmas culture. If your most favourite sports team won the biggest sports event, it wouldn’t feel like a culture if the whole city isn’t out in celebrations. It’s the shared cohesion and togetherness that creates the culture.
Now the issue with extremely high death and injury/illness rates globally is that OHS/EHSEM is still not part of the culture. It’s a silo’ed process and tasks. This silo is created because most organizations are running on technologies that provide only 1st level of the workplace safety.
Level 1 (Data Level Integration): Ability for safety and health softwares to capture safety related data/information in simple forms with a standalone database underneath. These systems do not integrate with any other process, departments, hierarchies, internal/external entities and stakeholder. The good part is that you can capture your injuries/illness data and get reports from the system but the bad part is that safety process doesn’t seamlessly integrate with anything else as it should with other processes of HR, Finance, Sales and Procurement etc. This doesn’t allow for a collective learning and improvement of safety and health at a department, plant, organization, city, state, country or global level.
Level 2 (Process Level Integration): Achieving this should be the goal of all organizations who really want to make safety part of their culture. At this level, Occupational Safety and Health is a fully integrated process just like any other process in the organization. All employees, managers, departments, internal/external stakeholders and systems work collectively towards addressing, investigating, management, tracking and preventative learning e.g.
- Employees know that their OHS/EHSEM trainings and reporting of hazards are part of their annual performance reviews and bonuses
- Union Representatives and employees can report grievances and complaints regarding safety
- Safety records of a supervisor and his/her team are integrated with recruitment for hiring and job promotions
- Preventative Analytics tells the management and JHSC teams about flagged areas of a site and assists them in injury prevention
- AI & Machine Learning automatically pushes out training courses to employees based on types of injuries by reading plant level data
- Finance automatically knows about all OHS/EHSEM costs such as purchase of ergonomics equipments, disability claims etc
- Safety experts of a plant know when new PPE will be delivered etc ordered by Purchasing.
- Sales agents can speak proudly about their organization’s safety statistics when speaking with potential clients
This means that OHS/EHSEM has become integrated into every single facet of the organization at process level. Sodales’s EHSEM software is what allows companies to achieve Level 2 and assists them to achieve the real “workplace safety culture.