Three key takeaways from Safety 2021

ASSP conference spotlights hot button topics in OHS sector, including burnout and tech

Three key takeaways from Safety 2021
“Safety professionals are in a place to provide a significant and positive impact on people’s lives.”

The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) wrapped up its annual conference last week. One of the biggest safety events in the U.S., it’s always a great time to connect with other safety pros and learn about burning topics in the OHS space. Here are three of the main takeaways from the 2021 edition.

1. A holistic approach to health and safety

The conference held a number of panels on topics that have gained a lot of traction in recent years: diversity and inclusion, mental health, mentorship, etc. The trend in the OHS sphere has been to move toward a more holistic approach to safety to look at total worker health – something which has been accelerated by the pandemic.

One stand-out panel from the conference was led by Brittany Busse, Associate Medical Director, Workcare Inc, and Geralyn Datz, President Clinical Director, Southern Behavioural Medical Associates.

The session, titled ‘Preventing Occupational Burnout: A Novel Concept’ explored why burnout has become so prevalent during the pandemic, and ways in which workplaces can support employees suffering from burnout and mental stress.

“Health and safety professionals […] are really considered first responders in preventing burnout. There’s really no foundation for mental wellness, either in or out of the workplace, without this foundation of safety and trust,” said Busse.

2. Reimagining the workplace

Keynote speaker Michael Bonner, teacher and author, closed out the conference with a session about how COVID-19 has presented us with an opportunity to bring new perspectives to how we operate in the workplace as well as how collaboration and self-development can enhance performance.

This was a sentiment echoed in other panels as well.

Leaders have a huge part to play when it comes to shifting company culture – especially in uncertain times like these.

And in this changing workplace, safety leaders will hopefully be playing a more central role:

“Safety professionals are in a place to provide a significant and positive impact on people’s lives and this has become especially apparent during the COVID pandemic,” said Natalie Schwatka, Assistant Professor, Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health.

3. Using tech for a safer workplace

There are also a number of panels on the growing importance of tech in OHS.

“We can all agree that one incident is one too many,” said Heather MacDougall, Vice President – Worldwide Health and Safety, Amazon.

MacDougall highlighted some of the technology that Amazon is using the improve safety within the organization, notably with regards to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which she said were the leading cause of injuries at Amazon and industry-wide.