Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

July 21, 2016

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Safety intelligence – a data-driven approach to workplace protection

Business Trends and Monitoring Data as a Concept

Business Trends and Monitoring Data as a Concept


By Steve Ehrlich, Senior Vice-President, Space-Time Insight

When cars collide on the road, we civilians call it an accident. The UK Police Forces and DVLA, who study collisions, term this a road-traffic collision. The difference is that their definition considers that one or both vehicles were guilty of malpractice or malfunction of some description – in other words, accidents happen, but collisions are avoidable.

Workplace incidents are also avoidable. Slips and trips, which are seen as innocuous incidents that oft go unreported are not ‘just one of those things’ contrary to popular belief. In fact, a report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on the warehousing industry sees slips and trips as a serious problem, stating that most slips occur because the floor is wet or contaminated and most trips occur because of uneven surfaces and objects on the floor. These are all conditions that are avoidable.

Simply asserting that an incident is avoidable doesn’t help in actual avoidance. Managers and consultants pour a lot of effort into safety programmes and trainings that have limited impact on incidents. In this article, I will show how asset-intensive organisations can avoid incidents by applying visual analytics to data they already have.

Treading carefully

Statistics from HSE tell us that 8,500 work related incidents were reported from the warehousing and road haulage industries last year – almost 1,600 of these incidents resulted in major injuries such as fractures and amputations. The main causes of workplace injuries in the warehousing industry are slips and trips, manual handling, work at height, vehicles in and around the warehouse, and moving or falling objects. The direct solutions proposed to reduce injuries suffered as a result of these incidents include ensuring regular risk assessments of workspaces occur before work commences, that all staff receive training for activities such as manual handling, loading and driving vehicles in the workplace; and that equipment, vehicles and storage areas are regularly maintained and safety-checked.

Given that executives invest time and resources to ensure safety programmes and training schemes are implemented, this intelligence is vital to creating and promoting a safer working environment. Identifying trends regarding where, when, why, and how incidents and injuries have occurred provides much-needed insight to change the environments and practices that lead to incidents. What are the most common types of incident? Where are the majority of incidents happening? Are there any commonalities in the causes of incidents? Who is responsible for incidents and how can safety initiatives be targeted at certain departments, teams or positions? These are the questions that need to be answered.

Safety across the board

In large-scale operations with disparate departments and tall management structures, safety programmes and training initiatives can operate in isolation. This fails to promote a culture of safety across the entire organisation and can lead to conflicting attitudes and practices related to safety within the workplace. Furthermore, the volume of assets within a warehousing and logistics environment, all producing data in real-time, means the IT infrastructure underpinning these operations is vast. In most instances today, safety-related data is stored and analysed in siloed data systems that are scattered across the organisation.

Using the example of a distribution centre, storage requirements for hazardous materials may reside in an inventory system. The order-processing system assigns a place in the warehouse for hazardous materials, but may not know about the storage requirements. Information about workers trained and certified to handle hazardous materials may reside in an HR database. To ensure safe handling of hazardous, materials, the distribution centre manager would need to either have prior, tribal knowledge about materials, locations, and workers, or would need to manually cross reference three different data sources.

Advanced visual analytics solutions, such as Space-Time Insight’s Safety Intelligence, correlate data from multiple sources, analyse it, and present actionable results to users. This provides unique insights to safety professionals as to what, where, when, why and how incidents occurred or might occur on the future. By combining spatial, temporal and nodal analysis to give users a 360-degree actionable understanding of incidents that have occurred or might take place in the future, Safety Intelligence identifies patterns and anomalies that might indicate unsafe conditions and identifies what actions should be taken. This provides managers and executives with a contextualised understanding of safety incidents and concerns across an organisation, as opposed to isolated information that is difficult to correlate or act on.

Gaining a clear overview of the health and safety situation across the organisation and gathering data-led insights to help identify and solve potential hazards can make warehouses and logistics organisations safer places to work. This information can help to shape future training schemes, priority focus areas and the direction of change across the organisation required to make it a safer place to work.

Steve Ehrlich of Space-Time Insights

Steve Ehrlich is Senior Vice-President, Space-Time Insight


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