The top five workplace safety priorities for 2021

09 March 2021 3 min. read

Safety standards in the UK workplace are highly developed, but businesses should be wary of the dangers of having a false sense of security on the matter. DuPont Sustainable Solutions has presented five ways to take workplace safety from good to great. 

Although always a priority, health and safety in the workplace has taken on a new significance in light of the global pandemic. Bearing the brunt of this change are labour-intensive industries such as manufacturing, chemicals, mining, transportation and construction, among others, where hazards abound and close contact is common.

Against this backdrop, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS) surveyed more than 400 managers and supervisors from these industries, for a status update on workplace safety. Respondents were spread across most major European markets, with the UK accounting for the largest share, at over 12%.

Strengths and weaknesses of workplace safety standards

The big picture is positive. Most respondents prioritise safety over all other business outcomes, while around 90% have clear safety standards and a proactive approach to accident prevention. Indeed, only 3% feel unsafe in the workplace. At the same time, nearly 75% feel that there is room for improvement. 

One of the key problems outlined by the poll is that safety efforts appear to lack accountability. Linked to this, it is also an area of business which in many cases is failing to move with the times. Leveraging its world-leading position as an environment, health and safety consultancy, DSS has honed in on five safety priorities for 2021.

Five safety priorities

Top of DSS’ priorities is education. For example, most organisations have a detailed safety manual, but less than half the survey respondents actually received formal training in safety over the last two years. For the researchers, risk training is therefore the basis from which top-notch safety practices can be built.

Next on the list is positive reinforcement. To build a risk-aware culture, it is important to celebrate safety achievements – a step taken by only 16% of organisations. Mark Ingledow, a UK based Director at DSS, noted that “the benefits of celebrating efforts and safety successes is a strong lever that unites and promotes a good team spirit, giving work a strong purpose.” This is something which can quickly help to engage staff in a transformation to improve safety culture in a firm.

The third item on the agenda is more accountability. Less than half of all front line managers actually feel responsible for incidents, creating a perilous culture. Relatedly, DSS suggests that one solution is to train supervisors in leadership skills, encouraging them to “own safety on a daily basis.”

Then there is post-incident investigation – the fourth priority for 2021. As it stands, only 46% of incidents are thoroughly investigated and followed up with corrective action. Per the researchers, this spells a lack of operational discipline, and managers need to step up their implementation of prevention measures.

Last on the list is a focus on “off-the-job” risks. This includes risk of harm to employees when they’re not at home, either through usual unfortunate circumstance or as a result of psychosocial factors – stress, poor mental health, addiction, relationships, etc. With employee mental health reaching new lows since the pandemic, acknowledging these factors is more important than ever in 2021.

Implementing these five strategies is crucial, and could make an already strong safety framework even better. Concluding, Ingledow stated that to live and work in a safe environment “is a basic human right” and to that end, improving levels of safety can no longer seen as an objective, but “an expectation by society, employees and investors alike.”