It's a new year and a time of new opportunities for safety professionals. Not only are many companies working to differentiate themselves from their competitors by giving greater recognition to workplace safety, they are also making efforts to reinforce a culture of engagement with their staff (learn about The Importance of Employee Engagement and Its Impact on Your Bottom Line).

2016 was an exciting year for those involved in health, safety, and the environment, especially where new technologies are concerned (see Using Online Safety Management to Transform On-site Processes for some examples). The current wave of technological innovation, from mobile to the Internet of Things (IoT), is creating new opportunities to take safety to the next stage of its evolution. Mobile adoption is at its highest rate and shows no signs of slowing and big-data-driven decisions have gone from theory to reality across many industries.

What are the next step for EH&S? Here are 5 predictions about what might have an impact on the world of safety in 2017.

1. Increased Focus on Data in Decision-making

Data derived from OSHA recordables, such as incidents and near misses, as well as employee training and education information provide new opportunities for organizations and health and safety professional.

If this information is reviewed in combination with other sources of corporate data, including sales and logistics, this could be the tipping point for health and safety: safety professionals will go from just reacting to hazards to proactively creating a safer and healthier work environment (find out How Proactivity in the Field Improves Worker Safety).

2. Gathering Better, Higher Quality Safety Data

There are four key features that differentiate high quality data from ordinary data: volume, velocity, variety, and veracity.

When it comes to health and safety, the most important of these four features is veracity. Veracity refers to the data's accuracy. To ensure that the data collected from the very beginning of a business process is completely accurate, employees should be provided with the right tools and the right measures should be in place. For the EHS field, this means that employees will be able to immediately, easily, and accurately add data, such as from inspections, audits, incidents, and near misses, directly into the organization’s data management system.

Measures and tools can include new sources, such as workers in the organizations who have not yet been involved or even IoT devices.



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3. Executive Level Input into Safety Initiatives

Most strategic decisions regarding day-to-day operations are primarily handled by the CEO and the executive board. These include business processes operations, sales, and marketing strategies.

2017 could be the year health and safety finally gets to be regarded as a core component in the day-to-day operations of the organization. This is no small matter: obtaining management buy-in is a crucial factor to the success of any health and safety program. Thankfully, there is increasing awareness at the top level that safety—be it worker safety or product safety—is an issue that, if not addressed, can have severe negative impacts for the organization's brand and how the business is perceived by the general public (learn how to Get Your CEO to Support Safety with the Curve Approach).

4. Better Sharing of Safety Data and Safety Decisions Throughout Organizations

One of the key reasons businesses fail, especially as is it relates to big data discussions, is that they tend to act as discrete and separate departments or functions rather than one unified establishment.

Operating as separate entities, especially where big data is concerned, can lead to the breakdown of close cooperation and the creation of communication silos.Operating as a unified whole, on the other hand, is beneficial for health and safety professionals because it allows management's perception of safety to change. And that kind of communication and cooperation is key to making safety a core part of the company's strategic goals and its corporate culture.

5. Accelerated Adoption of New Technologies to Aid Safety

We live in an increasingly mobile and connected society. The majority of employees now own smartphones, which can be very advantageous to businesses (to learn more about BYOD—"Bring Your Own Device"—see Technology Adoption in the Workplace: Top Three Myths Debunked).

For health and safety professionals, mobile technologies not only helps with gathering top quality data, but also provides the opportunity for effectively disseminating that data. The data can then be analyzed and used to construct workplace safety models, provide instantaneous feedback to employees, and track leading indicators—just to name a few uses.

So What Will Be in Store for 2017?

Technological innovation, along with new organizational thinking, can help companies get one step closer to achieving the goal of a zero incident workplace (see The Journey to Zero!). Mobile applications and the use of big data, therefore, will shift the focus from employees being the center of safety initiatives to employees being social enablers of a safety-oriented culture within their place of work.


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