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With the rapid development of data driven technologies in the 21st century, there is now more quantifiable workplace safety information in the form of data than ever, according to EHS Today.
In the past, workplace accidents involving injuries and fatalities were almost always associated with human error due to the lack of data and sophisticated analysis methods needed to identify root causes and causation analyses that were “subjective in nature,” per EHS Today. With the abundance of data available today, safety managers and other professionals can now more accurately identify causes and trends to in turn, implement proactive safety measures.
In one recent study, environment, health and safety managers stated that the most important reasons for using data and analytics to improve safety include the ability to predict workplace injuries, improve compliance and monitor and track safety culture. Using Environmental, Health and Safety software and other tools, organizations can gauge safety-related data metrics and key performance indicators. These tools can garner metrics like the number of reportable incidents, audit findings and lost-time injuries, as well as traditionally non-quantified aspects of safety culture, such as the numbers of senior leadership safety visits, for example.
While similar at face-value, safety culture and performance are both separate in terms of the conclusions that can be drawn from their associated metrics. Based on the information in these two datasets, organizations should be able to mine other data to create their own respective safety climates divided into three focus areas: employee engagement, management commitment and overall safety management systems. “By putting these together, you can model and determine the leading indicators impacting workplace safety at your organization,” Paz writes.
“[Safety managers] need to become better at what they took that job for: To develop culture, keep people safe, and develop an appropriate environment and the appropriate type of organization to reduce incidents,” Bowers Management Analytics founder Keith Bowers told Safety and Health Magazine.
While some of the safety metrics used today have been used in the profession since it first became widely used in the late 19th century and turn of the 20th century, today’s safety professionals now have other 21st-century “internet of things” tools at their disposal. IoT technologies include wireless interactive sensors, touch-screen tablets and wearable devices that can yield even further information that can be used in developing an organization’s safety “climate.”
Some data metrics have already been used by safety professionals in the many years since the role was first devised in the early 1900s in response to changing laws that held workplaces (mainly factories using then-high-tech machinery with dangerous moving parts) liable for any workers’ injuries or fatalities, according to Safe Work in the 21st Century, published by the Institute of Medicine’s Committee to Assess Training Needs for Occupational Safety and Health Personnel in the U.S. in 2000. Even in 1996, the specified role and duties of a safety professional by the then-American Society of Safety Engineers (the word “engineers” was officially replaced with “professionals” in 2018) were still very similar to that of those working in the profession today:
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