Reduce workplace safety incidents with data-driven insights

Occupational Health & Safety’s Five Ways Streamlining Risk Management Can Reduce Workplace Safety Incidents shared how companies can deliver on safety as job one with an integrated risk management program.

One of the five ways the article mentions, centralized data yields predictive insights, caught our attention. The point made was that centralizing data from “workplace accidents, near misses, remediation efforts, policy adherence, training efficacy, etc., enables health and safety risk leaders to identify trends and patterns.”

By spotting a trend or an anomaly, you can make predictive insights, like seeing the relation between a cause and effect. From insights, you can see how changes in process or policy could reduce workplace safety incidents. But how does this work exactly?

Meet Antonio
Antonio is a baggage handler for a major airline. If you’re boarding a plane, you might see Antonio wearing noise-reduction headphones and loading luggage onto the conveyor belt. The first few months were great, but now Antonio is starting to experience back pain. At first, he took Ibuprofen, but the condition became unbearable and Antonio let his supervisor know. The supervisor reported it to HR who relayed it to Health and Safety.

This isn’t isn’t the world of the Jungle and Antonio isn’t Jurgis. The airline values its employees and their contributions to passenger satisfaction. Antonio is now receiving treatment and training to help prevent muscle strains and will be back to work in a couple of weeks.

Muscle strains like Antonio’s are one of the most common work-related injuries. What’s notable here is how the data on Antonio’s injury was recorded and shared across departments at the airline. Anthony’s data, along with other health and safety data collected, can be analyzed for trends and insights. However, that’s getting ahead of ourselves. If data is gold, how do we go about collecting and sharing it with stakeholders?

Organizational challenge: centralized data
Many organizations are structured in individual departments, in essence, silos. For data management, a good number rely on spreadsheets, with programs like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. One department records data in a spreadsheet and then emails it around as needed. It works, sort of. It’s just horribly inefficient in our digital world that demands speed. It’s 2017, not 1995. To leverage data, the trusty spreadsheet just isn’t up to the task.

What you need is an integrated system for data collection and sharing across departments. In the example of workplace injuries with airline baggage handlers, data recorded at the business unit level automatically notified HR, which set up a workflow with health and safety and reported to management. That’s a simple process when departments are using one integrated platform that excels at consuming and correlating disparate data and then centralizes the data in a repository for accessibility by stakeholders.

Even better, organizations don’t have to change their processes. An integrated, cloud-based platform connects silos and allows cross-departmental teams to communicate and collaborate, while using centralized data. It’s streamlined and efficient.

Analyze data. Deliver insights
Collecting and correlating data on workplace accidents, near misses, remediation efforts, policy adherence, training efficacy, etc. is step one. Step two is analyzing the data and discovering insights — the needles in the haystacks.

Insights are where solutions to problems are found, or problems are revealed that you didn’t know existed. The fact you’re now aware of previously unknown problems is huge news for solution seekers.

For example, consider Antonio and his fellow baggage handlers at the airline. With baggage handlers in airports across the country, a trend toward increased muscle strains and lost work hours could warrant investigation. Maybe baggage handlers need training on lifting bags more ergonomically, or handlers should be incentivized to take yoga. Data collected can yield many insights that result in plans and programs or changes in processes and policies.  

It’s not hard to envision where all this leads. It’s fewer workplace safety incidents–the objective of the Occupational Health & Safety article. The kicker: centralizing data yielding predictive insights is just one of the five ways how streamlining risk management can reduce workplace safety incidents. Read the article at your leisure.  

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