Author Bio ▼

Scott leads integration of the EHSQ Alliance in thought leadership and building partnerships with key clients and other top influencers in EHS. He is responsible for the engagement of EHS professionals across the globe to provide a platform for sharing information and collectively driving solutions that mitigate workplace loss. Before joining Intelex, Scott was Vice President, Global Environment, Health, and Safety for Coveris High Performance Packaging Company, Executive Director of Global EHS for Bristol-Myers Squibb, Global Director of Occupational Safety and Health at Kimberly-Clark and GE Company as EHS Director. Mr. Gaddis has been published in various EHS trade journals and has lectured at National and International EHS conferences. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree in Occupational Safety and Health from Murray State University in Murray, KY.
August 14, 2023

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The five elements of a successful data-driven safety culture

A recent webinar with Scott Gaddis at Intelex on implementing a safety culture through data garnered many questions, some of which we were unable to answer at the time. Here, Scott picks and responds to some of those queries.

Q: Does anyone use task-based safety checklists prior to staff undertaking reactive maintenance, and do you have any suggestions on how to encourage staff to see these as a process for their safety?

Scott Gaddis (SG): Implementing a Permit to Work (PTW) System requiring authorisation to do such work should be considered. This system is commonly used to manage high-risk activities in the workplace; however, reactive maintenance and repair work often warrant such action because such work poses a risk of injury or harm to workers. The PTW system helps ensure that activities are carried out safely and with necessary precautions, and it’s authorised by the right personnel that can review the job, its hazards, and its risks.  After such work is ended, a formal Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) may be considered to standardise any future work.

Q: What are your suggestions for combatting differing data formats across different platforms to achieve easy and efficient comparisons, without having to change all of the data, into a manageable format in Excel?

SG: Extract, transform, and load (ETL) is a common method that extracts data from multiple sources, transforms it into a unified format, and loads it into a destination system such as a database. At Intelex, we do this for our clients to ensure they have a full view of their information in a concise format so that important programme decisions can be made in a timely manner.  There are also several others, such as Tableau and Power BI, that may be a consideration if you are not yet on an EHS software journey.

Q: How would you begin to implement a data-driven system into a workplace that historically has not used much data?

SG: I would begin the journey with a small number of meaningful performance indicators that have a programme impact. I suggest starting with participation indicators for all employees, such as safety concern reporting, near-miss reporting, safety training attendance, safety meeting attendance, hazard identification, and inspection participation, to name a few.  I would also include management indicators such as the number of open items versus those closed, positive management interactions, and incident investigations. Every organisation is on its own journey, so your indicators may be different, but aligning to a critical few that can show value through participation and management value always wins in the end.

Q: When thinking about changing safety culture, do you think it is important and/or helpful to use data to spot trends to be proactive instead of reactive?

SG: It is important to spot trends through data. Reactive trending seeks to understand data after something has happened, and that’s important and can be turned into very positive work in preventing future events. However, much of our work is better positioned to change safety and culture by understanding proactive data and trends by looking at organisational behaviors before a loss occurs. I would recommend increasing employee participation and gathering data on how people act while working.  Frequently used proactive indicators are safe behaviors, housekeeping, hazards, and concerns reporting, following rules and SOPs, attending training, and performing inspections. Again, every organisation must define its own leading indicators, but trending participation in the work system is a cultural driver and can mitigate future events.

ESG is ushering environment, safety, and health programmes to the forefront to show senior leadership, the investment community, as well as the public that our programmes and their governance are strong and growing

Q: How can we address Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprise HSEQ issues where solutions may be technically simple but human and financial resources to implement those are lacking?

SG: When resources are lacking, it’s important to build a safety management plan by hazard ranking to ensure you manage against the severity of loss potential first in the work environment. This is commonly referred to as “worst-first” management. This work should be done through hazard identification and assessing loss potential.  The caution is that this style of managing safety is not optimal, and it’s highly unlikely an organisation can stem loss or its severity from occurring over a long period of time. In addition, in the US, EU, and UK, there is a common duty of care and an obligation to provide a safe working environment that should not be ignored.

Q: How do you deal with those staff who are digitally excluded? For example, frontline workers who are not using devices in their day-to-day?

SG: The use of mobile devices for work is still generally new in a multitude of organisations. If technology is not well-established in your organisation, my recommendation would be to consider an employee self-service device such as kiosks located centrally to the frontline where work is taking place. Starting small with a few applications and simple templates for data entry and gathering is key to success. In addition, the system should provide easy access to information that is needed now, such as Safety Data Sheets (SDS)s, SOPs, JSAs, etc. The value for technology at the frontline, or those that may have been excluded, is the simplicity of use and the value of participating with the software system.

Q: Do you think creating data transparency and awareness (be it through business reports, dashboards, for example) is helpful in allowing other areas of the business to understand the role of health and safety?

SG: In short, yes. It is critically important that organisations understand the role of health and safety, and it’s growing more important now than ever. First, organisations should understand that health and safety is a vital part of the business plan. It’s impossible to lead one functional part of the business without it interacting with other functional support areas like quality, maintenance, production, and finance, to name just a few. Safety and health affect every other part of the overall business system. In addition, ESG is ushering environment, safety, and health programmes to the forefront to show senior leadership, the investment community, as well as the public that our programmes and their governance are strong and growing.  In essence, ESG is or will, become a living report card that shows data across much of the business work system and that helps companies identify areas of improvement, increase organisational efficiencies, and develop stronger programming.

Q: What do you think are the main health and safety Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?

SG: There’s much debate on what safety KPIs should be measured. I think it’s a blend of lagging and leading indicators that tell the best overall performance story. In essence, if your lagging indicators don’t improve, you may not be promoting the right leading indicators. That said, I believe it is important to understand work-related injury and illness and total incident rate, lost time incident rate, days away and restricted rate, and the number of incidents and near-miss events, which are often on my own list of KPIs. The rest are leading and designed to engage worker participation. These include the percentage of health and safety training and skills development to plan; the number of safety and health audits and inspections performed along with the number of issues open or closed; the frequency of observed behaviors; the frequency of leadership-worker interactions; and the percentage of EHS suggestions or concerns addressed. Again, I do emphasise that it is important to consider your current management system in its present state to understand what KPIs will work best for your organisation.

Discover more…

  • Read an article from Scott on why embracing new technology can enhance tired procedures here.
  • You can listen to the webinar, The five elements of a successful data-driven safety culture, here.
  • Scott will also be part of the upcoming webinar, Increase safety engagement for frontline workers: How to unlock a culture of safety with mobile digital devices, on 12 September. You can sign up for this digital event here.

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Maurice Jjumba
Maurice Jjumba
10 months ago

Real informative response. Thank you!!