Manufacturers can navigate environment, health and safety challenges with better insights

Posted on 15 May 2024 by The Manufacturer
Partner Content

The challenges facing manufacturers are infinite: from maintenance and production downtime through to supply chain challenges, rising costs and energy management. One other significant area of focus in any plant, regardless of whether they are process or discrete manufacturers, will be Environment, Health and Safety (EHS).

Protecting people and product is a duty of any organisation in this space and one which is bound by regulation and compliance. The obligation is a serious one and requires manufacturing operators to be abreast of changing legislation and the latest products and services to maintain EHS across the plant.

In order to help professionals in this space navigate the challenges and provide insights to help them in their roles, RS conducted an industry survey among professionals working in health and safety roles across a variety of sectors. The resulting 2024 Health & Safety report, Striving for Excellence, aims to empower them to make better informed decisions, particularly around key areas like mental health, inclusive PPE and sustainability, which are all hot topics for those working in this arena.

Strong confidence in EHS capabilities, but mental health mustn’t be side-lined

The survey highlighted that most businesses feel confident in their EHS capabilities when it comes to management, reporting and culture and how they are geared up to protect their employees and end users (almost 90% of survey respondents cited this). But there are variables which can affect this capability.

One is the emerging area of mental health, which can have a significant effect on safety compliance and culture, and firms need to ensure they are providing due focus around this. The RS survey unveiled that the mental health agenda is growing: 75% of respondents claimed to focus on it, but there is still a higher level of competency to be achieved in this area as only around half felt confident in their capabilities.

In the area of accident prevention and management, while 73% of respondents said they set KPIs for accident rate measurement, it means there are 27% that don’t. This could be affected by other factors: there’s no doubt that skills shortages and budget cuts are adding pressure and a potential barrier to setting or measurement of KPIs, but it does show that some organisations need to better address this important area.

Thankfully, the results also showed accident prevention as the highest rated business strategy element, with 86% of respondents claiming this was the highest priority area of compliance.

It’s clear the right culture needs to be embedded in an organisation as it grows. Onboarding people into the right culture and consistency implementing and following processes like setting and reviewing KPIs is key to ensuring employees and the supply chain understand the value of a strong health and safety culture.

Women’s PPE and sustainable options come to the fore as key themes

The importance of getting PPE right wasn’t lost on the RS survey respondents, with almost half of them citing selection of the correct PPE product for the application and user as the most important factor.

And on the theme of correct PPE, getting it right for women was the consensus among respondents. Eighty two per cent of them believe more needs to be done around better PPE options for women. Conversely, only one per cent ranked it as an important factor when purchasing PPE, and with 25% claiming 40% of their workforce are PPE-wearing women, there’s a real disparity between the ideal and reality.

The report also explored the key issue of sustainability and results showed that more organisations are willing to pay more for sustainable products, with 78% citing this. More contradiction was demonstrated here though, as only two per cent of respondents said sustainability was an important purchase factor.

This is where working with trusted suppliers can really help with better education around the true economics of buying products that can be reused, recycled, are made from recyclable materials or in a sustainable way.

Product cost alone should not be the main consideration, but instead the overall cost of ownership. Buying in this way can also help organisations meet their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) objectives.

Risk factors like counterfeit PPE products are on the minds of HSE professionals, with more than a third (37%) citing counterfeit or substandard PPE as a concern and industry issue. Again, working with reputable providers of products and services that can demonstrate commitment to verified, ethical supply chains and prove the products are tested and certified to the relevant standards can help reduce risk.

It’s great to see awareness and positive attitudes and actions in areas like women’s PPE – which RS is a real champion of – and in sustainability which is a major consideration and responsibility for us all. The themes and topics covered in the Striving for Excellence report should help people working in H&S roles in a variety of organisations, not least in the industrial sphere, understand some of the key factors that are crucial to maintaining health and safety. With almost 900 survey respondents in relevant work roles from the UK and Ireland feeding into this report, there are some strong insights for operators to make use of.

The RS Striving for Excellence 2024 Health & Safety report can be downloaded by visiting

About the author

Ryan Plummer is senior director for RS Safety Solutions.