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Safety Managers Have Their Say

Study Covers Training, Tech, Exec Buy-In Levels and More

AI (artificial intelligence) safety training, labor shortages, supply chain challenges and PPE longevity – material handling / safety decision-makers had a lot to say about a number of key topics in a study commissioned recently by RDG Media. Wondering about the status of COVID-19 protocols in workplaces these days? Want to know what is keeping managers up at night when it comes to emergency planning? Keep reading. The study, by Market Research Support Consultants, LLC (MRSC), was aimed at understanding the current and expected usage of various products and services used for safety and material handling. It also took a deep dive into front-line supervision safety tasks and current and upcoming plans to purchase products and services.

Who Participated in The Study?

Ninety-seven percent of the respondents are involved with purchasing at their facility in some way. More than a third – 38% approve or authorize purchases, while 29% recommend them and 18% select or specify products that are needed. The job functions of those who answered questions ranged from safety/EHS professionals (53%); plant managers (11%); executive level types, including owners, company presidents, CEOs, VPs and general managers (7%); engineers (6%); industrial hygienists (4%), purchasing agents (3%); and human resources professionals (3%).

Show Me the Money

The good news – for study respondents – is that very few (3%) anticipate a decrease in their product-and-service-related budgets over the next 24 months. In fact, some 53% expect an increase. A little less than half – 44% – believe their budgets will remain the same.

Workforce Levels and Safety

The ongoing and wide-ranging labor shortage has negatively affected 76% of the respondents, to various degrees:

  • 41% say it put their operations behind less than 3 months
  • 12%: 3-6 months
  • 3%: 6-12 months, and
  • 24%: said it had no impact at all

The study found that the shortage had a lesser effect on companies’ safety cultures. It also identified the strategies managers are using to maintain company culture and standards of safety:

  • Less than half of respondents reported some type of impact
  • 24% said that existing staffers are working overtime to maintain desired levels
  • 18% of the companies involved are paying outside vendors
  • 9% have made additional hires
  • 6% have made reductions or changes in company standards on safety, due to an inability to keep up with the current workflow

And in the safety/health zone: 76% of respondents said that COVID-19 protocol and/or monitoring is not currently a priority in their facility.

Supply Chain Headaches

A whopping nine out of 10 respondents said supply chain issues are affecting their industry and operations to some extent, with nearly half – 47% – citing reduced output due to a lack of materials and supplies. How are they dealing with the challenges? Twenty-six percent use paid outside vendors to secure the necessary materials and supplies; 24% are having existing staff work overtime to do so and 3% have hired additional workers to deal with the problem.


Compliance with OSHA requirements is a mixed bag: nearly all respondents said their company fully complies 75%+ of the time, while 3% put the range at 50-74% of the time.

When queried about ANSI/ISEA 138-2019: American National Standard for Performance and Classification for Impact-Resistant Gloves, 35% of respondents said their companies use it when selecting hand protection for their PPE programs. Half do not, and some 15% weren’t sure if the standard was taken into account.

As for ANSI/ISEA 105-2016: American National Standard for Hand Protection Classification, one in four respondents believe that level A9 is a high enough level to allow for classifying cut protection. Fifteen percent said it was not, and nearly half – 44% – were uncertain.

When questioned about ANSI Z358.1-2014: Emergency Eyewash & Shower Standard, 76% of respondents said that 75% or more of their drench showers/eye/face washes meet the standard. Twelve percent said 50-74% do, and 3% said 24-49% of theirs do and 1% said 1-25% of theirs meet the standard.

Safety Training and PPE

As might be expected – given the various industries and facility types involved – findings about when, how and how often safety training is done yielded a variety of answers:

  • 29% of respondents said their companies do safety training during onboarding.
  • 7% said re-training is required after an incident or unsafe situation occurs.
  • 5% conduct safety training twice a month
  • 15% do it once a month
  • 6% do safety training once a year

This category garnered a number of comments from respondents, some of whom noted that safety training was conducted during onboarding plus at other times, such as continuously, annually or even weekly. There were also mentions of monthly safety meetings and safety notes during daily production meetings.

As for how safety training is implemented:

  • Nearly nine out of 10 respondents (88%) rely on a combination of vendor support training and inside development
  • 9% do inside development
  • 3% do vendor support/training

Only a third of study participants said AI is used by their companies, but 12% plan to use it within the next year. Thirty-five percent have no plans to use it and 32% are unaware of what AI training is.

When it comes to new workers, more than seven in 10 (79%) respondents educate them through communication programs and increased training – 71% through increased training alone, 35% using additional signage and 24% with additional visual floor markings.

As for personal protection equipment (PPE), nearly half of those in the study (47%) said that when sourcing PPE, their companies focus on premium products that last longer.

Safety Tech and Tools

Modern workplaces are continuing to adopt technology for safety-related tasks at a significant level, if the study results are any indication. Sixty-five percent currently use software for safety, health and environmental management and 12% plan to use it in the future. Nearly half (45%) use mobile devices for audits, and 30% plan to use in the future. Predictive analytics are used by 29% use to identify accident patterns and accident potential. Twenty-one percent of employees are equipped with wearables for exposure monitoring. Although only 9% currently use PPE embedded with sensors, that percentage will rise to 20 in the future.

In Case of Emergency…

Three-fourths of respondents said their organizations face challenges when it comes to emergency planning. They specifically cited:

  • Buy in to the program at an operational level (30%)
  • Resourcing a program with sufficient time and personnel (28%)
  • Resourcing a program with sufficient budget (11%)
  • Buy in to the program at a senior level (18%)
  • Getting access to the specialist knowledge required to implement a program (16%)

Comments in this section were revealing. “The widely variable nature of our business makes establishing an across the board em plan almost impossible,” noted one participant. Another mentioned that due to the size and complexity of his company, it had to have “numerous plans and processes” in place.

Emergency equipment is tested on a monthly or more frequent basis at just under half of the companies represented by the study; while 6% do it weekly, 9% quarterly, 3% yearly and 26% “as needed.”

Visual Communication

One in five respondents plan to adopt new visual floor markings and faster labeling and bar coding to increase plant- wide communication. Three-fourths do not plan to implement LED floor markings and signage systems; 5% plan to do so within 91-180 days and 5% within the next six months to a year.

What’s Important in a Software Partner?

Sixty-three percent of respondents stated that training content and support is what differentiates long-term software partners from run-of-the-mill software providers. Nearly half – 47% – say it’s an in-depth understanding of their business; 29% say it’s customer success function (dedicated account management) and 15% cited proactive idea generation.

Additional Findings:

  • Three-fourths said that real-time risk management for both works and assets is extremely/very important; 15% said it’s somewhat important, 6% feel that it’s not that important.
  • Two-thirds said the EHS team in their organization is seen as a strategic enabler for commercial growth and operational continuity; 24% say that is somewhat the case, and 12% said the team is not perceived that way.
  • One-third said their company is actively involved with an EHS strategy. Of those that are not actively involved, just one quarter of respondents believe they will be in the next 24 months. WMHS

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