Looking Forward into the Changes and Trends of 2021

Welcome to 2021! Before I jump into the meat of my Editor’s Note, let’s talk about what is different with OH&S. I’m sure you noticed the subtle changes in the magazine. From the redesigned cover to our new bolded and curved headers Occupational Health & Safety magazine has never looked better.

This is an ulterior motive to changing things up, I must admit. We wanted to bring our readers even more content than ever before. Our pages have been designed to fit more educational text and content—giving us the opportunity to bring you more relevant and important information in each issue of the magazine. You’ll find that articles are longer, graphs are bigger and charts, well, we’ve got them! I hope that these changes, as with anything new we introduce at OH&S, brings you the ability to easily continue your education in the occupational safety and health field.

And now on to the good stuff – anticipated trends for 2021! After talking with those in the industry, I believe that a lot of changes to the industry this year will circle around personal protective equipment. In 2020 PPE became a household phrase, but the safety industry has been working with this protective gear, manufacturing and transforming it, for years and years.

While the manufacturing of these items becomes more innovative, professionals are searching for ways to ensure that employees feel comfortable wearing their PPE. I believe we will see more personalized options that will work with employees’ personal preferences. These could include seamless, fine-knit gloves that provide increased comfort, lighter fabrics and more options in special textiles that enable clothing to meet productive standards as well as increased options for face coverings and respirators to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

We could also start to see more implementation of smart PPE devices in companies around the world. While smart devices, or IoT, isn’t new to the safety sphere, 2020 created circumstances in which remote data collection is especially useful to companies. PPE that allows a company to monitor location, movement data, and vitals could prove helpful in 2021 as companies ask workers to social distance or continue lone worker assignments around the country.

Another change we could see in 2021, that is not related to PPE, is a more standardized approach to high heat environments for workers. OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in hot environments. Nonetheless, under the OSH Act, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, including heat-related hazards.

We expect to see some state legislation pushed this year that will require OSHA to develop a heat illness standard. The legislation, which is spearheaded by California Representative Judy Chu, states that workers in high-heat environments would be required to have paid breaks in cool spaces, access to water, and limitations on how long they can be exposed to heat. If passed, OSHA would have two years to develop the standard for indoor and outdoor workers.

While this is not a comprehensive list of anticipated trends, these are at the top of my list. What are some trends or changes you expect to see in 2021?


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This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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