The 1987 film Wall Street depicts a business mogul, Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas), who makes a fortune playing the stock market using insider information before ultimately being arrested for his crimes. In a pivotal scene, Gekko tells his protégé Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”
Gekko’s investment strategy may have been both unethical and illegal, but this piece of advice is sound an applies to every industry. In the world of safety, information can be used to not only save money, but to save lives.
Safety in the New Information Age
We are living in a new era of safety, where safety data is being captured at an unprecedented rate. But it's how we organize, analyze, and use this data that makes all the difference.
Capturing Safety Data
While daily safety processes may vary greatly from industry to industry and company to company, effective safety programs capture training records, audit information, safety meeting attendance, hazard identifications, and injury reports on a regular basis.
This is easy enough. The application of technology in safety has effectively automated data collection via safety management software, learning management systems, audit smart phone apps, and electronic roster sheets.
Simply collecting this information, however, is not enough. Effective safety managers go one step further. They take the safety data they capture, analyze it, and use it to make improvements in their protocols and procedures that take their program to the next level.
Data-Driven Decision Making
Data-driven decisions for overall safety program improvements can range from simple to elaborate.
Do 60% of your recordable injuries take place on Fridays? Move your weekly safety meetings to Friday or add an extra meeting on Friday to keep safety on the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Have you identified that one supervisor who is responsible for the areas where incidents keep occurring? Change up supervisor responsibilities to find out whether the issue is personnel-based.
The value gained from gathered safety data is entirely dependent on how it is used to transform existing flaws in the overall safety program.
One problem that many companies face in gleaning valuable metrics from their safety data is a lack of communication.
Just as open communication among members of your safety team is critical, open communication between your various sets of data can greatly improve your safety program. If a company is using a hodgepodge of safety technologies, they often have no way of correlating the relevant data.
For instance, if a company uses one technology to capture inspections and another for logging incidents, they may never recognize that their recordable incidents are occurring at twice the rate in locations where inspections are performed half as frequently.
Leaving safety data in isolated silos is a surefire way to waste much of its potential. Where possible, using comprehensive safety management systems is recommended.
Get the Most Out of Your Data
Imagine having an incredibly valuable tool at your fingertips but not knowing how to use it. This is the position many companies across the U.S. are currently in, and they don’t even realize it.
Safety data is being captured at an expeditious rate, but once it's collected, it is largely ignored, forgotten about, or saved in isolated systems and its value is lost. If a company can apply the right tools and employ the right personnel to analyze and pivot accordingly, safety data can be an absolute game changer for that company's growth and profitability.