Safety Data: The Game-changer You Might Be Ignoring
Oliver Stone’s 1987 Academy Award winning film “Wallstreet” had more than its share of controversial points. Business mogul Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, makes a fortune playing the stock market with insider information and is ultimately arrested for his crimes. In a pivotal scene, Gekko tells his protégé Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” While Gekko’s investment strategy was indeed both unethical and illegal, his advice is accurate in every industry. In the world of safety, information can be used to not only save money, but to save lives. We are living in a new era of safety, where safety data is being captured at an unprecedented rate, but how we organize, analyze, and use this data makes all the difference.
While daily safety processes may vary greatly from industry to industry and company to company, effective safety programs capture training records, audit information, safety meeting attendance, hazard identifications, and injury reports on a regular basis. This is easy enough. The application of technology in safety has effectively automated data collection via Safety Management Software, learning management systems, audit smart phone apps, and electronic roster sheets. However, simply collecting this information is not enough. Effective safety managers take the safety data they capture, analyze it, and use it to make improvements in their protocols and procedures that take their program to the next level.
Data-driven decisions for overall safety program improvements can range from simple to elaborate. Recognize that 60% of your recordable injuries are taking place on Fridays? Move your weekly safety meetings to Friday or add an extra meeting on Friday to keep safety on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Identify that one supervisor is responsible for the areas where incidents keep occurring? Change up supervisor responsibilities to identify if the issue is personnel-based. The value gained from gathered safety data is entirely dependent on how it is utilized to transform existing flaws in the overall safety program.
One problem that many companies face in gleaning valuable metrics from their safety data is a lack of communication. Just as open communication amongst members of your safety team is critical, open communication between data can greatly improve your safety program. If a company is using a hodgepodge of safety technologies, they often cannot correlate relevant data. For instance, if a company uses one technology for capturing inspections and another for logging incidents, they may never recognize that their recordable incidents are occurring at twice the rate in locations where inspections are performed half as frequently. Leaving safety data in isolated silos is a great way to under-utilize it’s potential. Where possible, comprehensive safety management systems are recommended.
Imagine having an incredibly valuable tool at your fingertips but never knowing how to use it. This is the position many companies across the US are currently in, and they don’t even realize it. Safety data is being captured at an expeditious rate, but once collected, it is largely ignored, forgotten about, or saved in isolated systems and its value is lost. If a company can apply the right tools and employ the right personnel to analyze and pivot accordingly, safety data can be an absolute game-changer for that company in terms of growth and profitability.