Health and safety supervisor

PPE among key issues for health and safety

A new report issued by industrial and electronics product provider, RS, highlights the current issues faced by health and safety professionals. The 2024 report, Striving for Excellence, is based on findings from a survey that aimed to gain a snapshot of the environment, health and safety (EHS) profession, and explore its challenges and priorities.

The survey findings cover key areas for H&S professionals, including the management of EHS, compliance, women’s PPE, sustainability and factors affecting the future of health and safety.

Says Ryan Plummer, Senior Director at RS Safety Solutions:

“In a volatile environment, environment, health and safety (EHS) is more important than ever to ensure businesses can operate responsibly and that employees can flourish. This report takes an in-depth look at the profession, outlining how confident those working in it feel and the challenges they anticipate over the next few months. It also explores some of the issues that must be confronted if organisations are to achieve their aim of ensuring people are adequately protected at work at all times. There are three key themes we have focused on, which we hope will provide valuable insight into the issues facing those working in the health and safety space today: managing EHS capabilities, business strategy and compliance, and personal protective equipment (PPE).”

Managing EHS capabilities
Encouragingly, 84% of respondents rate the attitude towards managing EHS as either high or extremely high. Eighty per cent of respondents rate the systems, reporting, leadership and governance for EHS as either high or extremely high. Organisations are also confident they are able to protect both end-users (89% rank their capabilities here highly) and employees (88%). “One emerging area is that of mental wellbeing,” says Plummer. “Three-quarters (76%) now have a focus on this and 55% are confident in their capabilities. There is definite room for improvement here, but this is certainly an area that is now on the radar for EHS professionals.”

Business strategy and compliance
While organisations are generally confident when it comes to their EHS capabilities, only 39% believe they are operating at a high maturity level, with 54% stating they are at a medium level of maturity. Plummer says: “One reason for this could be the growing responsibility many in the EHS function have for environmental issues, which is new territory for many.”

The main focus for those in the function, however, remains accident prevention, with 86% of respondents pointing to this. But there are concerns around how well organisations are reporting accidents, with 27% failing to make use of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure these.

Says Plummer:

“Other priorities are systems (83%) and fire prevention and management (82%), while 56% are targeting cultural change. There are challenges, too, which loom for organisations and could impact health and safety performance. These include skills shortages (highlighted by 47%), budget cuts (41%) and the pressure to improve productivity (39%). Inflation is also still a worry for more than a third (36%). These are ongoing issues that were also highlighted in last year’s report and which combine to creating a turbulent landscape that health and safety professionals need to navigate. An emphasis on training and development and workplace culture is seen as one way of helping to navigate some of these issues.”

Personal protective equipment
PPE is a vital part of the mix for health and safety professionals. The main concern here, says Plummer, is “finding the correct equipment, put forward by 46% of respondents. Other issues are range (12%) and cost (11%), but it’s reassuring to see concerns around availability listed by only seven per cent (down from 13% the year before).”

The survey also explores two big topics in the area of PPE: women’s equipment and sustainability.

“There are some mixed messages with both of these. While 82% of respondents think more needs to be done to ensure women have suitable equipment, only one per cent say it’s important when it comes to making a purchase. Similarly, 78% say they would be prepared to pay extra for a more sustainable product, yet only two per cent cite this as an important factor when buying items.

“Cost is clearly still a major factor here, even if organisations would like to improve their practices. There are also other issues around PPE. Sub-standard or counterfeit PPE is a real concern for more than a third (37%) of respondents, while 31% find it a struggle to find suppliers with the right stock and services. Knowing where to source quality parts is also a growing concern (up from 26% to 28%). Building relationships with a trusted partner can help here, taking the hassle away from buying teams and providing quality items that can be relied on.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

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