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What Safety Pros Learned in 2020 for 2021

03 February, 2023

In what has been a challenging year for businesses and their staff has also been a teacher. Safety leaders share how they are coping, meeting goals, and pivoting for the future.


Adaptation, evolvement, and growth. Whether good or bad, change is constant in business. It is also great for competition. However, while some companies are hurdling, others are struggling in a tumultuous 2020. Businesses are doing what they can to meet goals, keep up production, and stay afloat in an uncertain and complex global economy.

While no one has all the answers, industrial professionals are facing numerous challenges in managing new state and federal guidelines as well. Yet, tomorrow is another day. Here, they share the lessons they learned in 2020 that should carry into 2021.

Overcoming Challenges

One of the biggest challenges of 2020 in the U.S. has been COVID-19, from sanitation to social distancing and PPE shortages to daily testing. These new actions come on top of already rigorous safety management plans in some facilities. They also reasonably serve as a need to step up safety in others. Another big challenge in specific regions were natural disasters such as hurricanes and emergencies such as fires.

When asked about the challenges and lessons of 2020 to carry over into 2021, these safety professionals had various answers:

"Do your own research. Read the source documents yourself. Apply objectivity and logic. You will often be very surprised at the result vs. what the ?experts' are saying," cautioned Ed Bulakites in Pennsylvania.

"Have a backup plan!" said Dustin White in Louisiana.

Update safety data sheets regularly.

"We overhauled our safety program," explained Anthony Chavez, a warehouse worker in California. "We realized it was old and we needed new signs and safe social distancing, just like everyone else, but make it so that it served the needs for our facility."

"I have learned different ways but basic ways to stay connected and get the job done safely," said Nathan Bennett in Georgia.

"Reminding employees that hazards did not go away while they were gone," urged Steve Coleman in Dallas. 

"Virtual audits," noted Leslie Riv, an EHS manager in Florida.

"The resilience of the American workforce to shift gears and product lines is what makes our country great," stated Stefanie Corbitt, a safety professional for various military programs. She also recounted one of her concerns while hurdling through the COVID-19 pandemic, when she had to when to permit outside contractors and visitors on site. 

"For me, obviously, a Pandemic Preparedness Plan, Crisis Management, and Business Continuity," said Yusmiyanti Yunus, an oil and gas safety specialist in Houston. She shared that she spent a considerable amount of time researching scanning gear for temperature checks as well as rapid tests for worksites.

"Safety professionals are adept, flexible, learners, and ready to rise to any challenge," said Julie Anderson, a safety professional in Pennsylvania.

"That new sitewide safety policies can be swiftly implemented and followed if management wants them to be," said Christie De Vito of Northrop Grumman in California.

Safety Plan Solutions

Facing uncertainty and complex situations require quick thinking and smart safety solutions. Having the right tools and strategies in place to manage workplace risks are critical to helping businesses stay resilient amid change. One way to achieve this is by creating a solid safety management plan that is based on current workplace hazards and specific conditions workers might face. Take a proactive approach to safety for current plans and those into the future through tools such as signs, labels, and floor markings. Go over safety plans with workers as part of their training and ensure each worker understands their responsibility.

We've got a free guide to assist you with your safety inspection and audit program. Download it below.