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"Safety is not a gadget but a state of mind”

22 May 2018

There are a number of ways in which technology can help your organisation's safety culture. Ian Cohen, product marketing manager at Cority, explains how

Embedding a safety culture into your organisation is a challenging task that takes time, resources and requires effective communication. Once embedded, the effort doesn’t stop there. The organisation must focus on continuous improvement and employee engagement to build upon the work that’s been done to maintain and evolve the safety culture. 

Over the years, several strategies have come about to help companies embed a safety culture. Behaviour-based safety (BBS) has been one of the most popular programmes. BBS attempts to foster partnerships between management and employees while getting individuals to switch to an ever-present safety mindset. Now, companies are turning to technology to help them institutionalise their safety culture, which presents an opportunity to revisit how BBS and similar programmes can be implemented effectively using technology.  

Drive adoption 

Software solutions make it possible to streamline and standardise the entire BBS or audit process with key aspects being automated to improve efficiencies, and results are immediately available for others across the organisation to view. Safety professionals should select solutions that are easy to use, readily accessible, and mobile. Mobility provides added benefits, such as collecting data in the field to eliminate paper forms and double entry and breaking down participation barriers since most people already carry a smartphone with them. 

In addition to software solutions, companies are utilising Internet of Things (IoT) technology, such as wearables and smart PPE to gain new insight into how employees perform their jobs, which goes beyond the standard BBS check sheets. With IoT, HSE professionals have more data than ever before to analyse behaviours, processes and adherence to procedures. 

Manage and mitigate risks

Risk management is a foundational component of any safety programme and should be the starting point for any organisation that is trying to improve their safety culture. When employees are made aware of job hazards, they are more likely to take precautions to prevent injuries and illnesses to themselves and their coworkers. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, most workplace injuries, illness and fatalities are preventable when people are made aware of the risks and take proper precautions. This is where technology can help with alerting the right personnel to certain dangers and reporting data from multiple programmes to analyse effectiveness of programmes.  

Unlike spreadsheets, EHSQ software solutions ensure that employees have access to the most current safety information and safety professionals can build better programmes to identify risks, put controls in place to avoid, minimise or mitigate risks, share information quickly with employees, ensure proper training, and benchmark their programmes using observational techniques like BBS. Additionally, HSE managers can leverage technology to track incidents that involve an injury, illness or fatality and use this information to revise their risk assessments to prevent future incidents.   

Improve HSE data quality

Andreas Bitterer, VP research at Gartner, said: “Data quality is not an IT problem. IT can help fix it, but the business must own the problem. For example, company culture can have a significant influence. Organisations need ‘data stewards’, people within the business who are responsible for the quality of the information. However, technology will play a role in fixing many data quality issues.” 

To ensure your safety programmes, like BBS, are working as intended, you need data and that data needs to be reliable and easily accessible. While we all love spreadsheets, they are not easy to share with colleagues, are subject to data integrity issues, and are generally not standardised across an organisation. Utilising an off-the-shelf solution can improve the flow of information, standardise the data collection process, and help HSE managers identify previously hidden trends in their data – all within a single platform. This can, and does, lead to improved safety programmes and better communication between management and front-line employees – helping you to realise your goal of an embedded safety culture.  

Summing it up

Safety culture isn’t built overnight, but with the right technologies, your organisation can close the gaps to excellence quickly. Technology makes it possible for safety programmes to be effective, efficient and responsive to changing dynamics. Lastly, technology helps improve the value of safety programmes, like BBS, layered audits and 5S audits, by making management simpler and providing HSE professionals with high-quality data to determine what is and isn’t working. 

Quote: “For safety is not a gadget but a state of mind” - Eleanor Everet, safety expert.