Safety in the workplace is a top concern for both employers and their workers. Occupational hazards exist across all sectors and industries, no matter how safe they seem, and controlling them is a key business goal for many organizations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 1.2 million non-fatal workplace injuries requiring days away from work were reported in 2015. While complying with the strictest safety standards and regulations would certainly bring that number down, it won't entirely protect your workers from workplace hazards or work-related injuries. Recognition of that fact is the reason building a strong safety culture is at the forefront of every safety professional's mind right now. And for good reason: research has shown that organizations with the strongest cultures have fewer incidents (learn the Essential Elements for Creating a Workplace Safety Culture).

Despite this welcome shift in focus, there is still one important factor in improving safety outcomes and enhancing culture that many EHS leaders overlook: the power of their own data.

Using Data to Uncover Trends

Many organizations regularly produce safety reports and yet are unable to use this data to determine the frequency and likelihood of work-related injuries and illnesses. With the introduction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new final rule, which compels some employers to submit their injury and illness data electronically, organizations are now under more pressure than ever to make strategic decisions that effectively reduce their rates of workplace illness and injury. The best place to start when trying to achieve that outcome is understanding the root cause of workplace incidents. This can be done by analyzing your safety data to uncover trends and expose risk.

Analyzing data and uncovering the root causes of incidents are essential for ensuring the effectiveness of workplace safety management programs. An organization's data not only helps safety professionals gain valuable insights that allow them to create more effective prevention programs, but it also enables them to develop and implement better-targeted training programs. Pinpointing and responding to the exact training needs of the company's workforce will go a long way to reducing the likelihood of future incidents (find out why you should Invest in Employee Training).

Regularly analyzing safety data can help organizations:

  • Understand their safety issues and determine the impact these have on business outcomes.
  • See which factors are most responsible for driving safety incidents, whether it's lack of experience, lack of training, or the absence of supervisors on the job site.
  • Identify the groups of employees who are most at risk so that safety programs can be more effectively targeted.

Addressing Gaps and Improving Performance

Analyzing your organization’s historical data, including the longitudinal analysis of trends, ensures that business leaders, safety professionals, and workers know how they measure up when it comes to:

  • The gap between the organization's safety trends and industry standards and statistics.
  • The gap between the organization's safety trends and the outcomes of predictive models that provide forward-looking estimates based on historical performance (learn How Predictive Analytics Is Changing the Game for Safety Reporting Best Practices).
  • The impact of control measures designed to reduce the rate of safety incidents.

To address these gaps and improve performance, safety professionals should take actions designed to help both employers and employees engage in activities that systematically improve workplace safety outcomes. Here are a few simple but effective strategies that incorporate the use of data:

  • Train and educate safety professionals and company leaders in data literacy to ensure that all actions geared to improving safety are informed by evidence
  • Build and expand on the workplace's capacity to use data effectively. This can be achieved by establishing a clear plan for the use of data within the organization, including protocols for the use of data and for what purposes the organization’s historical data will be used
  • Foster a strong culture of data use to ensure that data-based decisions are made frequently and appropriately
  • Understand the organization's existing performance and use performance indicators to establish a baseline from which to measure progress and identify areas of concern

Building a Data-driven Safety Culture

Without knowing the root causes of workplace injuries and illnesses, it is difficult to put the right safety and prevention programs in place. Taking a data-driven approach enables safety professionals and company leaders to uncover the trends that result in work-related incidents, and suggests what can be done to address those issues and improve workplace performance. To protect our workers, producing the same ad hoc safety reports just isn't enough anymore. We must tap into all available data to proactively prevent incidents and eliminate workplace hazards.

Next Steps

To learn more about how you can use the power of your safety data, register for our upcoming webinar, How to Build a Stronger Safety Culture with Solid Reporting.