New Global Benchmarking Research Shows Lack of EHS Maturity and Future-Readiness
America’s Workplace Safety Risks Are Far Too High
Frisco, TX. – December 18, 2023 – As the working year draws to a close, new research shows 97% of America’s workplaces are still too vulnerable to health and safety risks. Of those, 8.7% are exposed to unacceptably high levels of risk.
Only 3% of organizations believe they are ready to manage their environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks. This is despite increasing advocacy for zero risk in the workplace.
The research shows a central problem is the ability to capture vital data, and then action that data in time to prevent or respond to an incident or crisis. The research included more than 1,000 EHS professionals across 20 industries worldwide and was undertaken by independent analyst firm Focus Network.
A staggering 68% of EHS leaders do not have confidence in the quality and quantity of data being captured. (See key findings below.) This is not to say EHS professionals are not keeping their workers safe, but that they believe processes could be made much better.
“Behavioral economics tells us that executives are overconfident when assessing an organization’s ability to respond to future events. And we also know that one of the best antidotes for overconfidence is objective data. A 68% no-confidence vote by EHS professionals is very objective and very telling,” said Andrew Milroy, author of the report and lead researcher at Focus Network, the firm HSI commissioned to undertake the survey.
“As much as we’d like to think otherwise, risk management is in its adolescence. And ineffective or faulty evaluation of risk likelihood and severity can be extremely serious in EHS, just as it is in cybersecurity,” said, Jose Arcilla, President & Chief Operations Officer, HSI, the company that commissioned the research.
“From a risk perspective, we can’t keep thinking ‘if this happens,’ but rather ‘when this happens.’ And, if you’re not prepared to answer the ‘when’ question, you either have a healthy appetite for risk or are extremely complacent. Neither are good,” Arcilla added.
EHS maturity varies across industries. For example, healthcare and construction both have high risk levels, but their maturity is quite different. Healthcare has a maturity score of 63.6 out of 100 and is the best-performing industry. By contrast, the construction industry scored only 49.3 for maturity out of a possible 100, effectively failing to keep up with industry needs and standards.
In response to the research report, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien said, “All working people should have the right to a safe workplace, but the HSI research confirms the lack of health and safety capability is all too common. A key shortcoming is the failure by some businesses to consult and involve workers and their representatives in the design of their health and safety systems, despite workers being the ones who actually perform the work and understand its risks.
“ACTU research last year supports these new findings, with 20-25 percent of workers saying that employers did not consult or involve them in decision-making about their own health and safety – that has to change.”
But there is good news.
“There are a small number of big factors that make a difference,” said Milroy.
“First, many organizations are in a complexity blizzard. They can barely see the terrain they are on. This is because there are too many disconnected systems.
“Safety data is typically time-sensitive and too many organizations cannot action data in time. Often people don’t even know where or how to report an issue. So, a simple, integrated system solves many problems,” Milroy said.
The research also found that most organizations approached health and safety in terms of compliance, rather than as a part of risk management or as an investment in people and culture.
“Compliance is a grudge purchase. So, it is no wonder people are not engaging with safety systems and don’t adopt better practices. The leadership team needs to change the narrative on health and safety, so it becomes part of the vision,” Milroy said.
The research shows that best-practice organizations that have integrated technology and data dramatically reduce complexity. They also focus on the safety of the whole person, which goes beyond physical risks to include psychosocial factors such as anxiety and bullying, as well as cybersecurity and privacy.
“Yes, technology has developed in leaps and bounds, especially in our ability to integrate and use data in real time, but ultimately this is a leadership matter. It is about risk management and corporate culture. It is about the organization you want to be, not compliance, and if you don’t understand that you will fall further behind,” said Arcilla.
The Report was prepared by Focus Network and commissioned by HSI.
A full copy of the report can be found here - 2024 Global EHS Readiness Report.
Key Findings for Decision Makers
Compliance and engagement
- 75.8% of organizations are compliance-focused and struggle to engage their people
- 67.1% of organizations are simply “operational” with limited digitization
- 88.3% of organizations are vulnerable, in one way or another to risk, and falling behind in their EHS processes
- 70% of EHS leaders are saddled with multiple point solutions versus a multi-solution platform, increasing their lack of data integrity
- 68% of leaders report gaps in the security and privacy capabilities of their EHS process
- Gaining executive support is the leading concern with implementing a new EHS platform
- Reducing workplace incidents and injuries is the leading expected outcome of a new EHS platform, followed by the desire to reduce time spent on administrative tasks
- An increasing number of respondents, 57%, are focused on consolidating vendors and costs
- A major challenge for immature organizations is effectively engaging their staff and workforce on EHS issues.
Lack of connectivity
- In terms of connectivity, 47% of participants cited disparate systems as a major capability gap.
- The relationship between complexity and technology is misunderstood
- State-of-the-art technology can dramatically simplify data collection, analysis and action, yet far too few organizations understand this relationship, instead preferring to keep adding stand-alone technology that is difficult to integrate.
- Contemporary and emerging technologies will improve EHS readiness but, so far, only the most mature organizations understand this potential and have acted on it.
Largest capability gaps
The four biggest gaps overall are:
- Lack of engagement with staff and workforce
- Lack of integrated data that can be actioned in real time
- Low or non-existent resources allocated to psychosocial and mental health challenges
- Security and privacy issues
In the second half of 2023, Focus Network, in collaboration with HSI, conducted 1,013 interviews and surveys of EHS decision makers across the globe, distributed across more than 20 industries. Respondents were asked a series of questions relating to each component of the EHS function. Responses to these questions were then used to determine maturity for each component. A number of categories were determined for overall mean maturity scores in terms of readiness and in terms of risk.
Global breakdown of responses: 37% North America, 29% ANZ, 26% UK, 7% Other Countries
Organization size: 41% greater than 1,000 total employees, 59% lower than 1,000 total employees
HSI is your single-source partner for EHS, ESG, training, compliance, and professional development solutions. HSI provides integrated e-learning content, training solutions, and cloud-based software designed to enable your business to improve safety, operations, and employee development. Across all industries, HSI helps safety and technical managers, human resources, first responders, and operational leaders train and develop their workforce, keep workers safe, and meet regulatory and operational compliance requirements. HSI is a unique partner that offers a suite of cloud-based software solutions including an EHS and ESG platform, learning management, chemical/SDS management, and more, integrated with content and training so businesses can not only monitor and manage multiple workflows in one system, but train employees via one partner. HSI is majority-owned by Waud Capital Partners, a leading growth-oriented private equity firm with total capital commitments of approximately $3.0 billion. For more information, visit www.hsi.com.