Executive opinion - August 21

10 August 2021

What can your health and safety data tell you? Dr Helen Balmforth says we need to tap into this information to help us predict and mitigate risk.

IT’S NO secret that data is being generated at an ever-increasing rate. Data about us, our lives and our environments is being used to generate information and insights on an unprecedented scale. The Internet of Things is adding hugely to this, with predictions of 75 billion connected devices by 2025, many of them generating their own data streams.

The world of health and safety is no exception, with applications as diverse as simple record-keeping, sophisticated text mining or the use of wearable technology to collect new information. New challenges are emerging, and old challenges are being met in new ways.

The key to dealing with this wealth of information is to understand it and turn it to your advantage, gaining insight into the working lives of your people, your social and physical environment and, of course, your customers. The alternative is to become overwhelmed and increasingly inefficient.

At the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) we have always used information in the pursuit of better health and safety outcomes, collating and analysing data to understand incidents or gathering scientific evidence to underpin policy. Now, we are helping other organisations, whether it’s making sense of incident data to create a more effective safety campaign, modelling the lifespan of a nuclear reactor core or assessing sickness absence data to understand their underlying ill-health trends. We specialise in integrating data sources, combining them with our regulatory insight and world-leading science to deliver insights into your health, safety and wellbeing concerns.

We are committed to working with others to unlock health and safety data in order to build tools and new ways of working that will not just examine and learn from incidents, but predict risks and mitigate them. Discovering Safety is a programme of work funded by the Lloyds Register Foundation and delivered by HSE in conjunction with a range of partners from academia, industry and technology start-ups that does just that. The programme aims to use data and analytical techniques to provide new insights and data-driven approaches to improving health and safety performance globally, thereby helping to reduce injuries and fatalities from workplace activity. HSE's 45 years as the health and safety regulator for Great Britain brings a unique combination of regulatory insight, scientific expertise and real-world experience and data to Discovering Safety.

We have a wide range of technical work being delivered by the programme which is looking to expand its influence and membership and would encourage all interested parties to get involved.

More information is available on the Discovering Safety website. Recently we have introduced the key projects in the programme in a technical showcase of short videos that are available on YouTube.

How can you better collect data, effectively mine it to give you more information about the risks in your workplace, and then use data to mitigate risk?

Dr Helen Balmforth is the head of centre for data analytics at the Health and Safety Executive and also the Discovering Safety programme director. For more information, visit