Just over a decade ago, the International Labour Organization (ILO) initiated the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Observed on April 28, the day serves to raise awareness and promote an organizational culture that prevents work-related injuries, fatalities and diseases. This year, the theme of the day focuses on the impacts of climate change on occupational safety and health. 

Behind workplace fatality statistics 

Roughly 15 workplace deaths per day are recorded in the U.S. In 2022, workplace fatalities totaled 5,486. Globally, the ILO puts the figure at nearly three million work-related fatalities annually, underlining the need to improve worker health and safety in every line of work, every day of the year.  

Individual entries in Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) fatality inspection data provide the details behind the fatality numbers, which include a falling crane boom, an explosion and an accident involving an air compressor. 

Overall, occupational safety and health data shows that transportation, construction, extraction, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry have the highest fatality rates. However, employees in presumably low-risk service jobs also face workplace health risks and danger. 

Protecting workers from climate change and diseases 

With World Day for Safety and Health at Work focused on climate change this year, operational risk or health and safety teams might emphasize the potential risks for employees who work outside. Heat is the leading cause of death among all weather-related phenomena. Extreme heat events and daily average temperatures continue to increase and can result in dehydration or heat stroke, or they may exacerbate existing health conditions. 

In addition, companies can identify other potential natural hazards by region. Emergency preparedness and training help prevent injury or death during extreme weather events such as hurricanes, blizzards or wildfires. Health and safety teams can also develop programs for dealing with greater exposure to chemicals or an increase in vector-borne (communicable) diseases following flooding, for example.   

Yet workers also need protection from non-communicable diseases such as respiratory conditions that result from inhaling hazardous chemicals. In fact, 81% of workplace deaths from disease can be attributed to selected occupational risk factors, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and ILO. Stress and long working hours can trigger cardiovascular disease, another killer, and increase the risk of accidents. 

Programs, policies and procedures for ensuring safety  

Whether in inherently dangerous industries or customer-facing occupations, programs and policies exist to preserve employee health, safety and well-being. Although there is some overlap in coverage, businesses focus on worker protection at several levels, listed below.  

Process safety management (PSM) aims to prevent major incidents such as explosions by properly managing hazardous chemicals, flammable liquids or gases in industrial facilities. Safety procedures, training and technology platforms support this management framework. 

In operational risk management (ORM), employees must work together to ensure safe working conditions. Plant leaders are responsible for instilling safety culture. Operators must be risk-aware, and maintenance crews should keep equipment functioning properly. Digital solutions can help by standardizing processes and improving visibility at all levels. 

Finally, environment, health and safety (EHS) management serves to protect workers, customers and communities from injury and exposure to hazardous substances. With EHS management software, companies can streamline compliance, decision-making and risk mitigation efforts. 

Increasingly, safety at work also covers mental health and well-being. A poor mental state or inattention can lead to accidents. Here, digital tools can improve the visibility of unsafe behaviors and help prevent them. Our global Health and Safety Pulse Survey provides valuable insights on factors that contribute to successful health and safety programs. 

Using a holistic approach that involves people and technology 

To be effective, health and safety measures must be embedded in a holistic approach that involves people and technology. Typically, processes for risk reduction include these basic steps: 

  • Assess risks to physical and mental health.  
  • Develop a safety culture. 
  • Understand worker competency. 
  • Train and empower workers, including contractors and temporary staff. 
  • Install management of change procedures. 
  • Evaluate the relationship between stress and safety.  
  • Record and report incidents.  
  • Document lessons learned. 

For example, Co-op,  a U.K. food retailer and Sphera customer, has used digital tools and data insights to build a safer workplace for its colleagues and reduce high-severity incidentsincluding assaults on shop workers.  

Also, Sphera customer Sika, a Swiss multinational producer of specialty chemicals for construction, building and manufacturing, aspires to prioritize the well-being of its workforce and eliminate all accidents. Through innovation, education and collaboration, the company aims to set an industry-leading benchmark for safety excellence.  

Improving ESG and safety performance  

This year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work extends to the dangerous and long-lasting effects of climate change. In general, the growing focus on ESG has elevated the roles of process safety management, operational risk management and health and safety management.  

Teams that traditionally focus on safeguarding people and operations now include environmental aspects in many processes. By improving both safety and ESG performance, companies gain tangible and non-tangible benefits that include: 

  • Business processes that run continuously. 
  • Less disruption, less asset damage and less revenue lost to downtime.  
  • Fewer legal repercussions or compensation claims.  
  • Less brand/reputational damage from environmental harm.  
  • Talent attraction and a satisfied workforce. Employees want to work for a company that keeps them safe. 

Using digital tools, companies can more efficiently manage workplace risk and ESG risk. Technology standardizes workflows, employees can communicate faster and reporting is easier than with paper-based systems. Learn about the relationship between operational risk, process safety management and ESG in our Sphera Process Safety Report 2023. 

Creating a safer, more sustainable and productive world 

Sphera provides a portfolio of solutions to identify, assess and manage risk, ensure workforce safety and support sustainable operations. Through technology, companies can integrate risk evaluation with other data to connect all levels: enterprise, operations and product. This visibility results in fewer work-related injuries, fatalities and diseases and less damage to the environment.  

With our Health and Safety Management software, companies reduce the likelihood of incidents and operational losses. They can use advanced software tools to capture, track, investigate, report and analyze health and safety data and standardize management of change practices and policies. 

Our Operational Risk Management solution empowers companies to keep operations safe and productive. Establishing a technology-driven strategy enables enterprises to reduce costs and risks, maintain governance and improve performance.  

Using Sphera’s Process Safety Management software, operators can identify hazards and implement corrective actions faster. Sphera offers decades of expertise in a range of manufacturing and service industries to help companies protect their people and their bottom line.  

Providing solutions for improving process safety, reducing operational risk and ensuring health and safety belongs to our mission at Sphera: “Helping you create a safer, more sustainable and productive world.” We support initiatives and measures that keep workers safe and healthy on World Day for Safety and Health at Work—and every day. 

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