IIoT and the Continuing Evolution of Safety Management Systems

Safety management systems, like other performance-based systems, have evolved over the years. The establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1971 was a catalyst for a renewed emphasis on health and safety in the workplace, driven mostly by compliance. As a result, the 1970s saw a focused drive toward compliance and physical controls for hazards in the workplace. 

As EHS programs began to mature, the 1980s saw an evolution of behavior-based safety, which utilized a scientific approach based on the theories of Herbert William Heinrich in his definitive book Industrial Accident Prevention, A Scientific Approach. (Heinrich, 1941) Behavior-based safety is a broad term used to describe everything from employee behavior audits and feedback to a comprehensive safety management system designed to change a company’s safety culture. 

The 1990s saw a resurgence of knowledge and capability training combined with new methods of transferring information, such as online training. It could be argued that this was the start of Safety 4.0, though few realized it at the time. The 2000s saw EHS professionals layering on compliance objectives by examining how behavior played a role in compliance and performance growth. They also worked to improve knowledge transfer and skills development through better training methods that utilized research about different learning styles. 

We’ve been hearing a lot about “Industry 4.0.” Industry 4.0 describes the fourth industrial revolution, which includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud and cognitive computing, wearables, and more. As part of Industry 4.0, “Safety 4.0” is a term that defines the current state of safety technology and processes, as well as the specific ways EHSQ management systems are advancing with the help of digitalization. 

As we enter the 2020s, all of the knowledge we’ve gathered about safety management systems—observations, audits and leading indicators such as training and employee engagement, trending patterns of injury and illness rates, tracking near misses—can be collected, stored, evaluated, sliced, diced, and used to drive EHSQ performance using the tools found in Industry 4.0. These tools include cloud computing, predictive analytics, wearables, and machine learning.

As an EHSQ practitioner, it is incredibly difficult to separate the management system from performance. To ease that difficulty, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) provides tools that can help you drive and deliver the EHSQ performance that you desire and that your CEO expects. 

In the future, Industry 4.0 and Safety 4.0 will not require manual gathering of data from the workforce. With the right device, hub, and platform ecosystem, monitoring of the safety management system will be done in real-time or near real-time. Safety 4.0 is the key to advances we are making as we help EHS professionals in their digital transformation of safety. It’s about process, engagement, culture, and mobilizing data, and we are only beginning to understand the potential ahead of us. 

Download “IIoT and the Continuing Evolution of Safety Management Systems” to learn more about Safety 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things. 


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