Using Data to Drive the Design of Health and Safety

Workplace health and safety is at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, with technology solutions now being readily deployed to close the gap in workplace behaviors, incidents, and injuries. Digitization brings both new ways of completing work and new challenges from a health and safety perspective.

April 11, 2024
5 mins
Using Data to Drive the Design of Health and Safety

Workplace health and safety is at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, with technology solutions now being readily deployed to close the gap in workplace behaviors, incidents, and injuries. Digitization brings both new ways of completing work and new challenges from a health and safety perspective.

Advanced technologies, such as computer vision, IoT, and virtual reality, are being leveraged by organizations to improve workplace health and safety. When deployed, implemented, and embedded, technology solutions can create efficient and effective operations, reducing operational and safety risk, and improving operational health and safety. When deploying a technology solution, some workplaces focus more on what the solution will resolve, and not necessarily the metrics and data that it may generate, and how that data can be used. To unleash the full potential of digitization in the health and safety arena, organizations should focus on adopting a more data-driven methodology and develop a strategic approach to collecting, managing, and using data.

The key components to using data to drive to scale the performance of occupational health and safety systems beyond a site and across an organization:

  1. Set Clear Objectives
    Clearly outline and articulate the role of data within the Health and Safety Strategy and the broader business objectives. Be clear on the role of data, how it supports business objectives, and how it is used to progress current and future objectives.
  2. Identify Performance Metrics
    For each objective or goal that is set, a performance metric should be aligned with this – this is essential for measuring status and failure or success. Identifying the metric is fundamental to highlighting what data points need to be tracked and how often they should be monitored and reported on. Moving from compliance to commitment and measuring safety in a contemporary way involves a holistic approach that considers both leading and lagging indicators. This is critical when understanding and using unstructured data in the health and safety arena. To effectively impact safety performance and culture, we must move from lagging indicators and structured data to leading indicators and unstructured data.
  3. Establish Data Collection Methods
    Data collected through technology and digital means comes in two forms, structured and unstructured. Most data that exists is unstructured data; by 2025, 80% of global data will be unstructured, with 95% of businesses prioritizing unstructured data management. Having a systematic and standardized approach to collecting data in all different forms is key to making effective and impactful use of the data in the long run. The collection process for consuming data should be consistent, designed, and well thought out, in particular, where the data is being stored (in a data lake, for example), who can access it, and how it is accessed.
  4. Data Review and Integrity Governance
    Credibility is everything when it comes to data. Collecting data comes with risks and challenges, and legal requirements, as well as ethical and human rights considerations. Business governance should be established around data security, privacy, and integrity. Businesses should routinely audit and validate the data that is collected to ensure it is accurate and remains reliable and stable over time. Businesses should also be prepared to handle and address situations where employees may object to data collection and have processes in place to respect, address, and manage this.
  5. Analyzing Data
    With such large volumes of data being collected, they are only useful if analyzed, understood, and broken down into meaningful insights. There are various ways and speeds at which data can be analyzed; both of these are determined by resources, costings, and tools available to the business. When developing a data plan, businesses should consider what data types and the volume of data that need to be analyzed, how it can be analyzed, and what they want the data to tell them. Such tools include Business Analytic Dashboards, through to advanced solutions such as generative AI.
  6. Analyzing the Impact
    Once data has been collected and analyzed, it is important to link the data and insights back to the performance metrics. Is the technology solution driving change, is it having an impact at a local site level or across an enterprise? Is that data useful and providing insights that shape safety conversations, identifying future trends and informing future health and safety programs, strategies, and ongoing digitization?
  7. Effectively Communicating Data
    Collecting data is sensitive and is something that must be taken seriously and handled with care. Clear communication about health and safety data is important to ensure that those use the technologies have trust. To create a culture of transparency, organizations should be deliberate in communicating the outputs and insights from the data collection and analyses. Organizations should create forums to share insights on how the data collection is being used to drive health and safety improvements now and in the future.
  8. Build data literacy skills and analysis capabilities within the HSE team.
    Emerging technologies and data are shaping the future of health and safety, and they continue to evolve at a rapid rate. Data science and analytics play an important role in enhancing the design of the future of work, in particular, health and safety outcomes. Health and Safety Teams should set out to educate themselves and their teams on data literacy and analytical skills. This is another tool in the tool belt that will help with communicating the impact and value of technical solutions and improving health and safety.
  9. Using data to inform future trends and the health and safety landscape.
    Over time as the data set matures and becomes reliable, health and safety leaders can use this data proactively to anticipate emerging trends and issues across the workplace. This can be used to inform future health and safety strategies, upgrading technology solutions, identifying capability needs, and ensuring the business remains adaptive to changing operational demands.
  10. Consolidate your approach.
    Collecting and using data may happen at a site level, but it must be an enterprise approach to problem-solving and strategic thinking. Organizations should integrate the above steps into the health and safety strategy and business strategy; it should not be standalone, enable system-wide changes, and long-term health and safety improvements.

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