Several workplace safety trends observed in 2023 are expected to persist in 2024. However, the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to reshape work dynamics and interpersonal relationships.
Proactively anticipating and planning for upcoming challenges is crucial to supporting an organisation and its workforce.
Here are some noteworthy trends in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) anticipated for 2024.
Emotional Well-being: A Prevailing Workplace Health Concern
A notable consequence of the pandemic has been a significant increase in mental health issues, contributing to challenges like substance abuse, sleep disorders, stress, and diminished work performance. While this has fostered broader acknowledgment and destigmatisation of mental health problems, it has also underscored the inadequacy of current mental health resources, even in developed nations.
This heightened awareness has instigated meaningful changes, compelling employers to offer better support and guidance for employees dealing with stress, anxiety, or substance abuse. Mental health challenges, being a universal issue, affect workers across all industries, workplaces, and career levels. Although mental health has been a focal point for occupational health professionals in recent years, the continued awareness and individuals’ willingness to speak up and seek help are expected to keep these issues in the forefront in 2024.
Sustainability as a Crucial Element of OHS
As organisations across industries realign their operations to embrace sustainability and environmental consciousness, this shift has significant implications for workplace safety and health. The relationship between safety and environmental management is intricate and can either be conflicting or collaborative, depending on the circumstances. For instance, a new, eco-friendly exhaust system for industrial machinery might reduce its carbon footprint but could involve hazardous chemicals or generate considerable noise, adversely affecting workers’ health.
OHS experts are increasingly playing a role as partners in sustainability endevours, finding a balance between efficiency, safety, and minimising environmental impacts. There are instances when OHS professionals need to advocate for workers, facilitate the implementation of retraining and safety procedures with the introduction of new technology, or ensure that new sustainability guidelines do not compromise worker safety. Achieving this balance requires OHS professionals to develop a profound understanding of the principles underpinning sustainability, their employers’ current and future sustainability goals, and any emerging technology or techniques in their industry.
Diversity and Inclusion as a Priority in OHS
Diversity and Inclusion has become a critical focus for modern organisations, extending their influence into OHS concerns. As equity and inclusion address the specific challenges faced by marginalised members of a community or workplace, OHS professionals are increasingly familiarising themselves with these issues and exploring effective solutions. While OHS initiatives and priorities alone cannot establish equity or promote diversity, they can contribute to ensuring that members of marginalised communities feel heard, respected, and secure in their workplaces.
Similar to sustainability, an OHS approach to Diversity and Inclusion requires collaboration and input from workers, human resources professionals, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders. OHS professionals have a unique role in helping team members understand and perceive Diversity and Inclusion as integral to health and safety. Team members unfamiliar with the principles of Diversity and Inclusion may find it more accessible to comprehend and invest in when they realize its impact on their coworkers’ mental and physical safety at work. By fostering collaboration across departments, teams, and garnering support from employees and managers, OHS professionals can significantly influence their organisation’s priorities