Global Trends in OSH


In my August 2015 message, I reported that ASSE’s global advocacy continues to expand as we foster and sustain OSH communities throughout the world. This month, I’d like to highlight five global trends that are affecting the OSH profession now and likely into the future.


Prevention Through Design

Prevention through design (PTD) is a proven way to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses because it eliminates hazards and risks early in the design process. By incorporating safety and health decisions into all aspects of workplace design and retrofit, an organization can mitigate risks upfront, while eliminating or reducing the need for additional controls.

We are seeing renewed interest in PTD—and for good reason. Studies in the U.S. and Europe have shown a connection between construction fatalities and decisions made upstream related to the design of a construction site. ASSE has been a leader in this arena through ANSI/ASSE Z590.3, Prevention Through Design Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Hazards and Risks in Design and Redesign Processes.


ISO 45001: Management Systems

It is known that regulatory requirements alone do not sufficiently protect workers. This has led to the emergence of management system standards such as ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 that address quality and environmental concerns.

We are now on the verge of an international management standard for OSH known as ISO 45001. The standard will provide a framework by which any organization can link OSH to its overall strategy and improve its safety performance. Many believe ISO 45001 will be the most significant OSH standard in the past 50 years. ASSE has taken a leadership role in its development, a process that involves 58 participating countries and 14 observing countries. We anticipate a final standard by early 2017. 


Professional Framework for Practice

Factors such as university degrees, a code of conduct, a body of knowledge, certification standards and the existence of an association help establish the framework of a profession. Such a framework delineates attributes required to undertake professional roles and responsibilities, and it provides employers with clear guidance on how to assess, maintain and update employee capabilities.

To build a framework for the OSH profession, ASSE is working with several global safety groups to develop a competency-based model that will ensure that our members have relevant, up-to-date skills while also setting performance expectations for various roles. While technical skills remain critical, this framework will emphasize the OSH professional’s ability to communicate, influence and lead. Ultimately, this model will facilitate global practice and enable greater recognition for practitioners in countries that lack certification schemes.


Integrated Financial Reporting

Historically, an organization’s worth has been determined primarily based on financial information such as equity, cash, property and equipment. But that has changed. Investors now recognize that financial data alone are not sufficient for evaluating future performance, and they are viewing elements such as business strategy, environmental and social factors, human capital and risk management as material information for the valuation process. This trend has prompted more companies to employ integrated reporting as a way to communicate a clear, concise, integrated story that explains how all of their resources are creating value.


Risk Assessment

To help prevent injuries and illnesses, OSH professionals must ensure that work risks are identified, evaluated and controlled. This demands a comprehensive risk assessment, a function that has little to do with conducting safety inspections, performing compliance audits or being a safety cop.

This responsibility reflects the continued evolution of our role in business, as we transition from a focus on compliance to a focus on risk assessment and mitigation. We are skilled at identifying risks, and we are learning to communicate safety performance in terms of risk identification and mitigation. This is a critical transition because risk is the language understood by CEOs, CFOs, directors, investors and operational leaders. Effectively communicating with this audience helps us demonstrate our value and brings us closer to our operational and leadership partners.

 The OSH profession is transforming. ASSE is at the forefront of many of these changes and will continue to provide guidance and resources every step of the way.


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