ERM's 2020 Global Health and Safety Survey Report, building on our 2018 Global Safety Survey Report, sets out findings from engagements with 273 senior health and safety function leaders from corporations with combined revenues of US $6.6 trillion1, and which collectively employ 12.2 million people2. 79% of the participants in the study had global responsibilities for H&S in their organizations with operations in 143 countries across a broad range of industry sectors.

The study was designed to provide deep insight on a range of topical themes on health and safety which we believe are of greatest interest (and concern) to organizations at this time3.

The themes were selected by a team of 50 senior ERM partners and principal consultants who work in the H&S field. We revisited a number of the themes we addressed in the ERM 2018 Global Safety Survey to provide insights on evolution in the field4.

The structured interviews with the Health and Safety Function Leaders were conducted from July to October 2020 by a 19-person multilingual team from ERM using a standard purpose-built protocol.

Preliminary findings from the study were reviewed in a series of 33 roundtable engagements on best practice in addressing the challenges identified in the interviews. The roundtables were hosted by a team of 18 ERM subject matter experts and ran from September to October 2020. 123 health and safety function leaders each participated in one or more of these discussions. Insights from the roundtables have been integrated into the study findings.

ERM’s data science team performed a comprehensive analysis of the survey results using R-based tools including data summaries and visuals, correlational analysis and statistically-based testing.

Nine themes
We have set out our high level findings from our engagements with the functional leaders under nine headings. 

  1. Performance improvement failing to keep pace with rapidly changing expectations
  2. Game-changing insights from the global pandemic
  3. Evolved approaches deliver results: Putting the ‘why’ back into health & safety
  4. Changing role of H&S functions demands new capabilities: Bridging the gap
  5. Success and pitfalls in harnessing data and technology
  6. Five key challenges call for advanced leadership development methods
  7. The persistent challenge with contractor safety performance
  8. An escalating crisis on mental health in the workplace
  9. Increasing cost of H&S and changing investment priorities

Detailed findings for each of these themes are presented in the report, as well as our perspectives on the rich insights provided by participants in the section titled ERM’s Point of View.

1. Equivalent to 7.5% of world GDP of US $87.552 trillion in 2019.

2. Source: Company annual reports
3. The ten themes explored in the study are as follows: health and safety in the broader business context and changing stakeholder expectations ; health and safety investment priorities in a changing world; leadership engagement and impact; shifts in risk tolerance; adapting health and safety functions to take better account of changing stakeholder needs; benefits and value derived from different guiding philosophies and established safety processes; challenges arising from the migration of risk into the contractor base; trends in investment in technology in health and safety and value derived from these investments vs expectations; extent of rising concerns about mental health at work and best practice in supporting those in need; learning from the COVID-19 pandemic at this time
4. ERM 2018 Global Safety Survey Report