Driving Safety Excellence and Mitigating Corporate and Personal Risk with Next-Generation Technology

The days of managing health and safety programs using spreadsheets or disparate systems are quickly fading, if not long gone. As companies grow their businesses and requirements for transparency surge, it is becoming increasingly critical that they also bolster their information management approach to avoid risking non-compliance, the health and safety of its employees and profitability.

Create a Strong Safety Culture to Protect People and Profits
It is no secret that workers' compensation claims and health and safety violations can take a large chunk out of a company's profits. According to OSHA, "nearly 4 million workers are seriously injured on the job each year." This number translates into approximately $50 billion worth of annual claims and doesn't even factor in penalties, which can range up to $7,000 for each serious violation and up to $70,000 for each willful or repeated violation.

Today's progressive corporations are moving beyond attaining compliance and adopting a more holistic vision of creating a strong safety culture that not only protects its people, but also its profits. Awareness and visibility into operations must be raised to fully evaluate the impact of occupational injuries and illnesses. This enhanced, streamlined vision will not only help to identify patterns to prevent future occurrences by determining the root cause, but also serve to protect profitability.

Break Down Corporate Silos
While most organizations have a health and safety program already established, they are often managed at the business or site level. Moreover, the corporate functions of risk and health and safety are often siloed, creating inefficiencies and limiting the ability for corporations to make decisions based on the complete informational picture. They are unarmed without tools to correlate data and derive actionable insights; working across different, non-integrated systems; and are not effectively communicating with one another. In order for organizations to develop a strong health and safety culture, these functions must be connected.

In addition to functional alignment, companies can overcome this challenge by implementing an enterprise software system with the right analytics toolset to integrate data into a single platform. Unlike software systems of the past, these new technologies will not tax an organization's most limited resources – its people and IT infrastructure. They integrate with an organization's existing internal and external systems to deliver powerful data-driven dashboards, alerts and insights to help minimize financial risk exposure while preventing future incidents. An enterprise platform system also helps empowers companies to drill down into data to correlate factors such as employment tenure, location and age to identify patterns and move the needle on employee safety. 

Leverage Tools that Provide Information Any Time, Anywhere
With the advent of the cloud, real-time data has been made more accessible than ever before. Employers are looking for technology to support its business decisions and provide actionable insights. Additionally, there is more pressure on today's business leaders to publish their companies' health and safety metrics to investors, suppliers, and regulators. However, with organizations still heavily relying upon spreadsheets or disparate data sources for information that is not delivered in real time, there are issues of inaccuracy and timeliness.

Leveraging today's cloud-based systems, data can be accessed virtually anywhere, with mobility features; now, data input and audits can be conducted remotely from individual smartphones and tablets, allowing for a quick and easy exchange of critical information. By adopting one centralized, cloud-based platform to streamline data and provide real-time visibility to key metrics, business leaders will have greater insight into operations to better manage risk – ultimately creating a strong safety culture and improving their bottom lines.

When implementing software, it is important to adopt a solution that can be configured to the user's information needs – analyzing and correlating information from several vantage points. That way, all employees will be able to process and view key corporate data in a way that is meaningful and unique to their individual businesses. For example, at the plant level, operators can look at the number of incidents and where they are occurring; the facility manager can look at processes in place they might consider modifying or changing based on these incidents; and corporate leaders can view the data holistically, analyzing the broader trend of this incident-related data and how it impacts other operations and the company's bottom line.

In addition to rapid delivery of actionable business intelligence and easy configuration, cloud-based systems enable routine maintenance and continuous upgrades without business interruption.

Convert from a Reactive to a Proactive Mentality
Oftentimes, when companies look to strengthen health and safety programs, they are addressing a particular problem or trying to achieve compliance. However, to truly advance along the health and safety continuum, from data capture and reporting to predictive and preventative management, it is important to harness the power of big data to determine root causes and take preventative action to mitigate incidents.

Organizations need to move beyond just capturing and reporting data, but rather convert the information into actionable insights that will help optimize risk mitigation, drive efficiencies and achieve safety excellence. For example, in an Occupational Injury and Illness study conducted in 2013 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was revealed that musculoskeletal disorders (such as sprains or strains resulting from repetitive motion) account for 33 percent of all workplace injuries that result in lost workdays. By assessing the types and frequencies of injuries common to its business environments, organizations can then implement ergonomics programs that will introduce modifications to correct underlying processes over time. Additionally, big data can also help organizations conduct job safety risk assessments to fully analyze every job and their individual controls to reduce potential hazards and risk. 

Maintain Consistency in Regulatory and Corporate Standards
Last, but certainly not least, comes the challenge of upholding a consistency in standards. Many organizations now maintain an operational footprint overseas, in an environment where health and safety standards are not as strictly enforced. In the United States, OSHA normally conducts its inspections without advance notice, helping to keep companies on top of its recordkeeping and health and safety code so as not to fall in violation should a surprise visit occur. However, this practice is not commonly shared in other countries, making recordkeeping increasingly more challenging.

Barriers in distance, visibility and regulations are also presenting obstacles to business leaders, making it tougher to hold operations accountable to the same set of corporate standards while maintaining global compliance. To combat these challenges, organizations should consider establishing consistency in its health and safety program globally by implementing a cloud-based solution that provides insight and visibility across the organization to minimize risk, while ensuring compliance with geographic-specific regulations. Additionally, business leaders need to personally invest in fully educating its teams on the importance of protecting its employees and providing a safe and healthy workplace, regardless of location.

Tougher regulations are driving accountability – not just at the corporate level, but also personally. In many countries, not just companies, but its executives are being held liable for health and safety non-conformances, potentially facing jail time if willingly violating standards and/or showing gross negligence and disregard for an employee's safety.

As this new landscape of health and safety management emerges, organizations and their business leaders are facing a constellation of challenges. In order to be successful in this environment, keeping a pulse on their financial health, organizations must be nimble and leverage next-generation strategies and technology to drive safety and operational excellence.

Dave Rath is the Chief Executive Officer at ProcessMAP Corporation, the leading provider of cloud-based enterprise software solutions. Headquartered in Sunrise, Fla., with locations across the globe, ProcessMAP’s enterprise software empowers organizations in over 95 countries to manage risk in the areas of Employee Health and Safety; Environment and Sustainability; and Enterprise Compliance.

Posted by Dave Rath on Sep 08, 2015