THE BIG ASSIST: How Technology is Expediting the Sourcing and Collection of Data That Impacts Safety Performance

Jessica Shields, Product Marketing Manager at Cority

While hockey is not really my thing, I have a strong appreciation for how the professionalism of the players, dedication to training, investment in equipment and human performance technology all come together for a player as he or she scores a goal. The last two players of the scoring team who shot, passed or deflected the puck towards the scoring teammate are given an “assist.” I see technology providing that big assist to you, the safety leader.

As a safety professional, you have the same type of infrastructure available to assist you in your role. You’ve always been collecting data, and lots of it. The main difference now is the velocity in which technology is being deployed to provide even more data with increased frequency that can assist you in reducing the frequency and severity of workplace injuries.

Today, safety professionals have access to a wide array of data coming from an even greater number of connected devices and software applications, such as in-vehicle telemetry, wearables and smartphone applications. This data can then be used to develop policies, procedures and processes designed to help companies avoid, minimize and mitigate high-frequency, low-consequence incidents, minor injuries and major incidents.

If You Aren’t Piloting or Implementing These Devices Now, You Will Be

Verdantix, a leading research firm, asked EHS professionals[1] to what extent they will be using certain technologies in 2018. Those being most quickly used or piloted include:

  • mobile apps for audit and incidents (57%)
  • protective clothing with digital sensors (46%)
  • vehicle safety monitoring systems/telematics (42%)
  • smart sensors for air and water (39%)
  • virtual reality training systems (31%)
  • drones /unmanned aerial vehicles (24%)

These technologies are driving relationships that allow for the connection to a device which leads to the analysis of its data to enable actions that drive efficiency, productivity and improve worker safety.

In a recent survey[2], safety professionals said they would like to be able to use their safety data to improve their safety performance. Resoundingly, they’d like the ability to better predict workplace injuries (described as caught-in-between, slips/trips and falls, struck by object, etc.), which was quickly followed by the ability to monitor and benchmark safety culture.

Combining Human-Captured And Device-Generated Data

While the value of employee participation in your EHSQ program cannot be understated, poor occupational health and safety practices are estimated at 4% of global GDP each year, according to the International Labor Organization. This means that safety professionals can’t just rely on observational data and gut instinct to prevent workplace incidents; they need to leverage technology from a variety of devices that are available today.

The real value of these new technologies comes from the ability to see and view information in near real-time. By eliminating paper-based forms and incorporating front-line, employee-generated data captured by smart devices automatically or by employees on their smartphones or tablets, safety professionals can quickly identify trends and act to minimize or mitigate risks to employees and the company. These proactive measures can be modified as the data changes.

Who is Most Likely to Be Injured?

In the above example, the combination of human-generated data (such as training, behavioral-based inputs, observations, length of service and incident investigations) with device-generated data (such as fatigue levels, weather data and slip detection in footwear) can provide a much more accurate prediction of the propensity of future accidents. Based on these predictions, the safety manager will be able to implement new training initiatives, shift changes and process improvements to mitigate future risk.

Technology can help standardize, cleanse and interpret the vast amount of data available to you. With clean data at your fingertips, you can leverage solutions that will support you in determining what to action first. Based on this prioritization, you can move beyond relying on lagging indicators and observation-based processes to identify a risk and prevent an incident.

The role of the Safety lead then becomes more about fostering and championing a strong safety culture across the organization. Talk about an assist!

Planning with Privacy Top of Mind

Your programs and policies are designed to support and ensure the overall health and well-being of your workforce. They are not created to identify and punish individuals. This needs to be at the foundation of your technology solutions. To maintain employee privacy and ensure a fair workplace, software companies must remove all Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from a set of data prior to its use.  Fortunately, technology providers are designing their solutions with this in mind and leveraging technology, such as Differential Privacy, to protect workers.

Summing Up

Technology should be viewed as a set of tools that help make getting work done more efficient and accurate. From wearables to smart PPE to mobile devices, safety leaders are increasingly leveraging mobility, Internet of Things, and safety management software to collect data on how employees are working and analyzing this data and make improvements to their programs. Safety professionals can also utilize this newly available data to identify previously unknown safety risks and take proactive measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate these risks to keep workers safe while on the job.

The advancement of these solutions and analytical capabilities is helping drive improved safety programs across the globe. For example, today, IoT solutions are being used to help identify when employees are distracted or drowsy in real-time and take measures to prevent injuries before they happen, based on predictive analytics. These advancements are particularly useful for workers who are performing repetitive work or highly technical work that requires attention to detail.

It’s the beginning of a new era for EHS professionals. By leveraging mobility, IoT and analytics for big data, EHS departments are able to lead continuous improvement efforts at their companies; improve employee safety programs; and demonstrate that there is tremendous value in the work they do. Technology is also helping to drive proactive decision-making throughout operations, which can reduce or eliminate costly errors that could have led to injuries or fatalities. WMHS

Jessica Shields is the Product Marketing Manager responsible for Cority’s platform, Business Intelligence, Analytics and Mobile initiatives. To learn more about Cority’s integrated environmental, health, safety and quality (EHSQ) SaaS solutions, visit www.cority.com.

[1] Verdantix, MARKET OVERVIEW: EHS MOBILE APPS, April 2018

[2] Safety Data Survey, Cority Inc., June 2018