The safety professional’s goal in an organization has not changed significantly since its inception. The mission of the safety professional is to safeguard workers and contribute to the goals of the organization by anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace hazards. What has changed is the way we collect data and the data we collect.
Organizations always have tracked data, looking for trends. Your organization may be most interested in tracking market and economic trends, but you probably focus on data related to leading and lagging indicators, such as near misses, audit reports, training records, and injuries and illnesses. Until very recently, tracking leading and lagging indicators of safety performance has been a matter of paper documents that either were filed in a cabinet or entered into a spreadsheet or rudimentary software program. The process of collecting the information was time-consuming, and the amount of information that could be collected was limited by available resources, namely, how much “spare” time the EHS staff could devote to it.
Once collected, the analysis of the information – sifting through it to identify areas or jobs with higher injury rates or other issues that might need to be addressed – also was at least partly manual, with the safety professional telling the software what to chart and how to chart it. So, beginning with a limited amount of information that came in on paper, safety professionals would use their time to sift the data for trends that could inform and improve their programs.
The data revolution – the wildly expanded ability of organizations to collect information about their own inner workings using the internet and everything to which it’s connected – will not change these goals but will change how the goals are achieved. Safety professionals who master the tools of the data revolution will be able to do more than their predecessors, more effectively, and in less time. That is easier said than done; they will need to learn how to collect the data they need, analyze it in ways that they never could before, and then utilize it to achieve EHS goals. As we’ll see, safety professionals need both the latest software and connected-workplace tools, as well as strong interpersonal skills, to transition smoothly into the data-driven economy.
In order to get the most from the data you collect, you need to know:
- Where’s your data? Are you collecting it in unwieldy Excel spreadsheets? If so, there are a number of software tools and options that not only can help you collect it, but can categorize it and analyze it as well.
- How to collect your “big data.” Collecting information utilizing software solutions is easier, more automated and more streamlined than ever – giving you access to information that previously would have been time-consuming to collect.
- What to do with the data you collect? Collecting all that data is just step one – and it’s a step that OSHA has required every employer to perform, to some degree, for almost 50 years. Instead of deciding what raw data to process, what charts to prepare, and what numbers to run, the same recordkeeping system that collects your data can perform the initial analyses automatically.
Don’t be afraid of Big Data! Learn more by downloading How the Data Revolution is Changing the Safety Professional’s Role.