1. Technology Allows for a Seamless Capture of Information

Ultimately, technology improves the speed, accuracy and ease with which information is communicated. It is vitally important to capture accurate information, and to do so in real time. As Neil deGrasse Tyson points out regarding the framework for making decisions, “the ability to analyze information is imperative. Otherwise, you are merely guessing.” So, every company that is making a decision based on health and safety based on the information that they have with respect to health and safety, must understand that if the information is incomplete, or even inaccurate, they are, in effect, guessing on what is going to reduce the risk of their employees.

If you do not have the same information as another individual, you are never going to be able to come to hold the same logical position as a result of the asymmetry in the information possessed. Furthermore, the information gathered cannot be left to get stale. The Internet and portable technology has allowed us to access, share, and keep records in ways that we have never been able to do before. The ease with which information is communicated using technology is changing the way that we do things, specifically within the health and safety industry.

2. Use Systems to Process Information Instead of People

The traditional method of pen and paper transmission of information leaves itself open to error and inaccuracies. The data that is gathered needs to be entered at some point, which, essentially, requires the information to be captured twice. If the data is being entered using technology initially, this reduces cost in that there is less time spent doing data entry. Using technology, like mobile devices, to enter data initially reduces inaccuracies due to the fact that the data is entered one less time and does not have to be transcribed to a different platform or system.

Most employers cite productivity concerns when it comes to implementing a mobile device system to assist with collecting health and safety information. However, within the health and safety industry, smartphones and other mobile devices are used as a tool, not a personal toy. If they are managed in this fashion, then the most common complaint of employers is effectively eliminated. When management establishes that mobile devices are to be used as tools, not toys, there are many benefits that new technologies can offer employers.

Smartphones can capture and provide the following types of information:

  • Inspections
  • Audits
  • Safety meeting information and minutes
  • Obtain evidence with regards to hazards Incidents or other on-site concerns
  • Provide or access training documents or information

The goal of inspections and audits is the output of actionable and accurate information. The reality of a traditional inspection is paperwork that needs to be processed, which limits its ability to achieve this goal. Technology, on the other hand, allows for a more accurate, faster transmission of information. The more accurate the information is and the faster the information is made available, the easier and faster it is to identify and implement risk reduction strategies.

3. Technology Requires HSE Leaders to Adopt Change Management

The fact is that 70% of corporate change management initiatives fail due to a lack of four basic conditions necessary for successful change management. In today’s technology market, changes in process are less about the technology being introduced and more about how companies are going to manage the change. Most often a change in processes will occur in order to adapt to the new technology. Successful change management is comprised of the following four conditions:

  1. The product requires a compelling story. Simply put: people need to buy into the change. If people don’t believe in the product or method that is replacing the old, the change will never be successful. Furthermore, anxiety often results in inaction. If the true reasons behind the change are shared, the change will be met with more openness
  2. Role modeling. In its simplest form, role modeling can be described as leading by example. If you are a person of authority within the workplace and you are not leading by example, you are likely to lose the trust of your employees. The three keys of role modeling include action, attitude and activism on behalf of the individuals of authority
  3. Reinforcement mechanisms. Effective change management will focus on the encouragement or reinforcement of good or positive behavior, and learning from negative behavior rather than punishing it. Positive reinforcement has been shown to be more effective than punishing negative behavior, and understanding unsafe decisions is more valuable than punishing negative behavior
  4. Capability building. When you have a change and you have an area of your business that is going to be changing processes, the skill set of the person that is going to be making the change has to match that change process. The organization must continuously improve to adapt, to scale, to grow as an organization in order to be competitive in the market. Ultimately, you need to upgrade those skills, your training and other mechanisms or hire more or better talent

4. Technology Promotes Focus on Leading Indicators

80% of companies want leading indicators tracked within their organization. The flip-side of this is that only 15% of companies are actually tracking leading indicators within their organization. This begs the question as to why.

Lagging indicators:

  • Don’t help prevent future incidents
  • Show you trends, but not contributing factors
  • Poor at giving you an indication of the level of risk in your company or organization

Lagging indicators are simply statistics that are born out of situations that occur. You can track them quite easily, you can aggregate them, you can analyze them and you can prevent them very, very easily. So, what you need is a new way of gathering that information and that is why new technologies can be really beneficial for an organization. We can use technology to gather leading indicator information as opposed to relying solely on lagging indicators.

Leading indicators:

  • Require keeping track of activities
  • Require that the results of tracked activities are analyzed
  • Require the results be used to identify and implement new safety initiatives

Leading indicators are activity and behavior based, which makes them hard indicators to measure because they require human intervention beyond making a simple calculation.

5. Driving Transparency to Improve Culture Within the Organization

If we think about transparency within an organization and how technology drives transparency to improve culture, we are in a time where a big shift is occurring. Through the use of technology, we are able to become more transparent with how we are dealing with risk management within a company. It used to be that we kept everything close-to-chest, which happens a lot in the safety world.

Culture is built from the top down, which means that building a safety culture within an organization begins with management. Transparency with regards to safety initiatives will create a certain type of trust between employers and management with the employees. Once they believe that their health and safety actually matters, that buy-in factor increases. Moreover, if the employees realize that they have a voice and can contribute to improving the safety culture of their organization, this also transfers to other areas aside from safety where employees can contribute their ideas.

New technology allows us to be more transparent about the types of things we're doing to reduce risk within organizations. If you are more transparent with your employees, you are guaranteed to increase the culture within your company.