Image: Construction worker with Wearable Biometric Sensor that Brings Better Data on Heat-Related Illnesses (Source)
Historically, companies only analysed lag indicators to meet safety standards and determine safety performance. Before that, workplace safety data was simply collected with the aim of filing historical records of business transactions, finances, and human resources.
Today, however, Safety Management Systems (SMS) have evolved to digital cloud- or site-based systems that track safety incidents, monitor training, and regulate compliance. In other words, health and safety (H&S) professionals have more data than ever before. These state-of-the-art data safety systems provide prescriptive data from sensor technologies, and predictive information; all of which can be used to improve your company’s safety standards.
To demonstrate the value of good data collection and management, here are eight ways that simplified data tracking can create new opportunities to improve workplace safety.
#1 - Predicts Workplace Safety Incidents
Safety regulatory and enforcement agencies require companies to submit all kinds of worker injury and illness information. This also includes incident reports, investigations, and workplace inspection reports. With the help of SMS tools, all that data can further be integrated into company systems to develop predictive analytics. That way, a company could be able to identify potential safety hazards ahead of time before they can cause any damage.
#2 - Monitor And Benchmark Company Safety Culture
With data tracking and reporting, your company can look at a broader scope of incident information across many domains, which subsequently influences company policy.
For instance, data can be used to analyse a sequence of events and identify issues leading up to an incident, as well as highlight any outlying circumstances or any contributing factors. Furthermore, tracking tools can monitor and report on how frequently that incident occurs and classify it by type or severity of injury.
By linking the historical work safety data with HR information like worker experience, length of shift, and training, your company can meaningfully change safety policies and procedures or develop better practices.
#3 - Improves Compliance
The most ideal SMS software solutions, today, will integrate national H&S regulations into their systems, that way ensuring that there are no stones left unturned regarding compliance. Data can be used to remind workers and alert companies regarding compliance with their respective regulatory bodies, by linking workplace activities to the most cited workplace deficiencies or breaches of safety standards.
In the event of a compliance investigation or inspection, the availability of an abundance of workplace H&S information could potentially reduce the length of the investigation or even prevent a fine from regulatory agencies. The more safety and compliance information readily available, the faster investigations will conclude.
#4 - Identifies Root Causes of Incidents
From identifying a lack of managerial or procedural training, to human error, the practice of tracking, analysing and reporting on H&S data in real-time can help diagnose the exact reason and cause for an incident. By investigating historical incident reports, SMS tools can conduct a root cause analysis and pinpoint practical targets for safety supervisors to effect change.
It is much easier to implement changes and influence adoption of a new policy, which is essential to the safety among the staff, when the cause has been determined and evidenced by data.
Just as well, effective data management can be used to inform employers of ways to prevent illness and injury in the workplace.
#5 - Inform Safety Awareness Campaigns and Training Programs
A resulting benefit of being able to identify the root cause of incidents through data tracking, is that it allows your company to engage your teams in meaningful awareness campaigns that are based on their own experiences.
Data reporting tools help to determine skill gaps and training needs, enabling the advancement of focused training programs for employees to have the latest safety information, track training progress, and assess employee performance.
Creating awareness amongst employees about the company’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) is essential and can be ensured by linking corporate safety data with HR systems to justify the employee training and certification.
#6 - Improved Analysis of Working Conditions
The latest SMS technology has made it feasible to remotely monitor worker location and fatigue, facility or site traffic flows, even environmental and weather conditions.
The ability to gather and investigate data of workplace conditions and incident reports in real time provides any company keen on improving safety the opportunity to swiftly interpret the data and make informed decisions. Business managers can then make necessary changes to operational procedures, length of shifts, and the combinations of factors that could potentially lead to endangerment.
#7 - Real-Time Monitoring of Equipment Operations
Made possible by equipment and health monitoring technology, tracking real-time data provided can help make timely safety decisions and send out alerts. Mostly through wearable devices an emergency alert about a staff’s current state, or even equipment's current operational status and any required maintenance can be made when tracking data.
For instance, wearable devices with operator monitoring & intervention sensing technologies can send alerts to work supervisors when a safety threshold is reached on worker-fatigue levels or heart rate that could lead to stress.
In emergencies, supervisors can contact workers who are in close risk of getting into an incident when operating certain machinery. A clear example of this benefit is Seeing Machines safety sensors which track eyelid movement of truck drivers to detect how tired they are and notify their supervisors when there’s a need for alarm.
#8 - Expedites Incident Reporting
For tedious and repetitive processes of reporting, data tracking technology is automated to instantaneously update your company management and the safety data management system.
With mobile reporting systems like wearable devices, smartphones, and tablets it is possible for workers to provide real-time incident and compliance reports without the delay of having to get back to the office to deal with exhausting paperwork. Naturally, it allows supervisors to have more time monitoring the workplace, and less time having to ask workers to complete paperwork.
Digital data tracking safety solutions like these, save time and money that would otherwise be spent on handling paper printed reports and safe record keeping. Not to mention that cloud-based SMS systems provide scalable storage services that safely store data to prevent the transactional records of incidents from being lost or forgotten, and yet easily retrievable.
Now that we have explored the value of data tracking, let us look at how to make sure that data collected is lowering risk and improving performance & compliance.
The AI and Machine Learning software that supports today’s best SMS services is incredibly efficient at collecting a lot of data. And while trained safety managers or recruited consultants can be relied upon to interpret the data it is important to be specific beforehand on what to prioritise. Understanding what kind of data will be beneficial to your company's safety programs can guide efforts and resources to where change will have the most impact on improving safety and compliance.
For your company’s data to be practical, meaningful, and actionable you will have to follow these four steps:
STEP I: Decide What You Want To Know Before You Start Measuring
They say too much data is as bad as no data; a problem business manager who often ends up with reports filled with data they cannot use, relate to. It is therefore helpful to plan and define which metrics or measures you will be paying attention to. Test and make sure that you are able to measure what matters and will actually change safety behaviour.
STEP II: Give Context To The Data Being Collected
After defining the scope of the data being collected, it follows as a matter of vital importance to educate leaders and individuals on what the numbers you are measuring mean, why they matter, and how they can impact future safety decisions and behaviours.
To do that, it helps to have a target, or a baseline, or evidence and date how safety behaviour had been in the past, to compare the incoming data to. This part is fundamental to interpreting the data and creating the context that is necessary when informing supervisors and workers on the cause behind collection of specific data and what happens thereafter with it.
STEP III: Use Different Metrics At Different Levels
Business units, departments, and/or teams should also be able to have their own data that can help them focus on their separate objectives. A company could have a set of overarching metrics to monitor safety performance, however, that does not mean that those same metrics should automatically be adopted on a team level.
Thus, understanding when to use different metrics is key at this stage. Empowering your teams and departments to have their own measurements ensures better targeted impact.
STEP IV: Use Data in Report To Tell A Story
Most SMS data collecting tools have dashboards that generate safety data reports. However, when going further to break down the relevance of the data collected to workers and leaders, it helps to have eye-catching information that clearly summarises the most vital details of answering why and what lies ahead for the company’s safety culture.
The process of these four steps must be executed correctly, from beginning to end. Many business and safety managers get stuck at defining what data is important to pay attention to. However, the key lies in being able to use leading and lagging indicators to avoid measuring too much.
If safety data management is still unclear in your business, it may be time to take another look at your business analytics. Feel free to ask us any questions you may have, by reaching out to us here.
Or give us a call today and get a free consultation!
Find out how to manage your business' health and safety better
Many employers are concerned about their reporting obligations for COVID-19/Coronavirus/SARS-CoV-2 under RIDDOR in the ongoing pandemic. You may be pleased to know that you do not have to report everything to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). We'll provide more info about when, what, and how to report.
The most common concern we've seen recently from employers is whether they need to report all COVID-19 and coronavirus testing results to the HSE. The short answer is no. According to the HSE: “There is no requirement under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) to report incidents of disease or deaths of members of the public, patients, care home residents or service users from COVID-19. The reporting requirements relating to cases of, or deaths from, COVID-19 under RIDDOR apply only to occupational exposure, that is, as a result of a person's work.”
Generally speaking, the ordinary RIDDOR rules already cover COVID-19. You should only make a report under RIDDOR when one of the following circumstances applies:
• an accident or incident at work has or could have caused the release of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). (Report as Dangerous occurrence)
• a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19 due to occupational exposure. (Report as Disease)
• a worker dies because of occupational coronavirus exposure. (Report as Work-related death due to exposure to a biological agent)
The bottom line is that existing rules cover most COVID-19 measures, and most of the COVID-19 guidance comes from public health authorities rather than the HSE. The environment remains chaotic, but you can minimize your legal exposure by continuing your existing compliance steps. This will include communicating with your insurer about risks, following public health guidance, and communicating regularly with your workers or unions on any of their concerns.
© Gavin Coyle, 2021
© Gavin Coyle, 2021