Can Technology Help to Build a Culture of Safety?
When workers are pressured by many — and at times conflicting — priorities, companies are striving to help the workforce internalize safety as a value and as a way of working. Programs focused on leadership, teamwork, wellness, and psychology are rolled out to achieve workforce buy-in for safety programs.
How does technology help build a safety culture?
Technology is sometimes mistakenly seen as a barrier or an alternative to safety culture programs. It is also sometimes seen as a tool for corporate control which would undermine personal responsibility, or as an alternative to a focus on desirable behavior. In fact, technology is a great force multiplier, and can help drive strong engagement in behavioral safety programs. Here’s how:
Worker-Centric Safety Technology
What is worker-centric safety technology? This approach allows EHS to move out of the office and on to the shop floor or site where it can be most effective. It takes the tremendous organizational expertise, experience and know-how embodied within EHS software systems, and places it in the hands of the workers, providing a channel for institutional knowledge to be effectively used.
Gensuite achieves this by providing a range of tools and technology so workers get the information they need, when and where they need it. Below are examples of worker-centric safety technologies that Gensuite uses to help our subscribers establish a culture of safety excellence.
Cloud-based solutions allow information to flow freely, crossing functional and organisational boundaries, and delivering the greatest value from the investment embedded in a database. Information can be made available to people and devices anytime, anywhere, ensuring the workforce always has access to the information needed for the task at hand. Information becomes real-time, and localized, and everyone is working from a single, consistent version of the truth.
While software is often considered and used in terms of functional silos, e.g., Incident Reporting, Document Management, and Action Management, the real world does not operate in such a disjointed manner. A typical EHS task will usually involve a combination of observation, referral to reference documents, data capture, collaboration, analysis, and reporting. An integrated platform is essential to ensure preferred processes can be implemented without friction, confusion, and frustration caused by switching between devices, packages, interfaces, etc. Only when the EHS platform is integrated across the functions, and offers the user an intuitive and consistent experience, will it become an aid in the development of safety culture rather than a burden.
Mobile capability ensures personnel can take their EHS resources with them, wherever they go. Whether it’s undertaking an inspection, capturing data such as incident reports or observations, working to an agreed procedure, managing open actions or checking site history, all the data needed is available in real time, quickly and easily in the palm of the hand. Mobile improves data flow by extending the enterprise platform out of the office and onto the site, and improves efficiency by facilitating on-the-spot data capture, straight back into the Cloud.
Building on the foundation of the mobile platform, Edge technology is being used to further enhance information flow to, from and around the worker. A range of technologies are available, including smart glasses, wearables, bluetooth beacons and virtual assistants, which work to extend the reach of the enterprise platform, place intelligence at the edge of the network, and facilitate data capture and reception. As part of its Frontier Technology program, Gensuite is developing Edge technology in the following ways:
- Voice-activated technology, allowing workers to interact directly with the enterprise platform by voice, providing updates on status, look up reference information such as SDS or regulatory standards, or launch a process such as an observation or incident report.
- Deliver location-sensitive data from the enterprise platform, alerting workers as they approach specified areas with information such as risks, open action items, training and PPE requirements, etc.
- Connecting site workers with remote colleagues through smart glasses, providing real-time audio and visual sharing to support activities such as specialized maintenance procedures, or collaboration on audits, connecting the on-site operator with an off-site specialist or manager.
- Wearable sensors monitor workers activity and health to capture information on both chronic and urgent health issues.
In summary, Edge technology can establish a pervasive data presence on site, providing the worker with full information at the right time and in the right place. Supported by Frontier Technology such as data analytics and machine learning, an organization can turn its EHS data into a powerful tool for performance improvement.
For more information on Gensuite’s Frontier Technology, click here.
So how does this technology help develop and enhance safety culture within an organization?
Using the capabilities of Frontier Technology, supported by an appropriate data management strategy, organizations can leverage their data assets to offer an optimal level of support to its workforce. EHS data management becomes not just a compliance and management tool, but a pragmatic means to optimize day to day business processes. It draws its strategic direction from the needs of the worker, making them central to the IT and EHS mission, and helping to build a safety culture. It also ensures that design and investment decisions are tightly focused on real business requirements.
Using this worker-centric approach, workforce experiences are collected and used to drive change. Organizational resources are mobilized to focus support where it is most effective, and are tightly aligned with organisational EHS objectives. Technology operates not just top-down but also bottom-up, and empowers workers by helping to foster a culture of personal responsibility and performance excellence.
About the Author
Peter Walsh is an EHS and Sustainability professional with 25 years’ experience across a diverse range of geographies and roles. His expertise encompasses the full range of EHS&S aspects, including socio-economic planning, environmental management, and corporate sustainability performance. He has developed specialist expertise in the use of technology to drive operational excellence and resource efficiency, and has implemented data and process management systems for numerous global clients. Peter has worked for a range of clients across Australia and Europe, in the industrial, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, resource and consumer goods sectors. His professional focus is to help companies use EHS&S technology to drive improved business performance.