Given that construction continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations, EHS Today asked Dag Yemenu, executive vice president of products at ISN Software Corp., how companies can better protect employees.
EHS: What can employers do to better understand the incidents occurring and craft solutions to better protect their employees?
DY: Noticing and identifying trends from potential and actual incident data is the first step when it comes to understanding serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) in the workplace. Industry-wide, fatality rates are holding steady, so employers should already be on high alert.
Taking a step back to examine the precursors and causes of incidents can help companies identify the root causes of SIFs and then take action to mitigate them. In industries like construction or manufacturing, SIFs are often caused by workers coming in contact with machinery or other equipment.
With further analysis, companies can then pinpoint specific activities or equipment that are putting their employees in harm’s way and mitigate risks to employees and third-party contractors involved in work activities. Data can be an immense help for identifying trends and creating predictive models. To better protect their employees, capital-intensive workplace managers should begin by collecting relevant data and establishing an analytics initiative to identify and stop SIFs in the workplace.
EHS: Over 20% of the victims of fatal incidents were contracted workers, where is the disconnect between full time and contracted employees when it comes to employee health and safety?
DY: Hiring contracted workers comes with more variables for employers than full-time employees -- especially when it comes to workers’ health and safety. Full-time employees usually undergo onboarding at the start of their time at the company, continuous training and recertification and transparent communication from their management.
However, contractors may be hired and engaged in high-risk work activities for a week or several years. Using a digital contractor management system allows companies to connect with contractors in a more organized and efficient manner. These systems can house, among others, training records and certifications and facilitate communication in a way that is easy to track and maintain. By bridging the gap between contracted and full-time employees, employers can improve their visibility into potential risks, drive alignment across the entire workforce and reduce serious injuries and fatalities across their organization.
EHS: What do employers risk if they don't strive to improve EHS incident rates?
DY: Safety is a core value that drives the decisions and actions of many leading organizations. Improving employee health and safety performance is crucial to maintaining a safe environment for all stakeholders who enter a company’s facilities or worksites. By failing to improve safety and health performance rates, employers also risk significant financial, legal and reputational consequences in addition to the loss of workers and reduced productivity.
Conversations and commitment around safety and risk management must be elevated to these higher-level stakeholders to improve overall business outcomes. C-level executives should also be collaborating with others in the same industry to establish safety performance benchmarks and work together to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses, including SIFs. Taking this step will require financial and time investment from the C-suite and board members, but prioritizing safety as a core value will help improve profitability, employee/contractor attraction and retention and minimize resources devoted to liability.
EHS: Analytics tools are on the rise when it comes to assessing and mitigating risk, what options are out there for companies to use to improve safety?
DY: Depending on the size of the company, there are various analytics tools available to help assess and mitigate risk where SIFs are concerned. In the construction and manufacturing space, companies are usually well-established with sophisticated employee health and safety standards in place. For these firms, having a tool that analyzes performance data, incident data and field observation data, among others, will help lead to the greatest insights for reducing and eliminating incident rates. Tableau, an interactive data visualization software, is becoming a widely used tool for companies of all sizes. Power BI from Microsoft is another option, typically a better fit for larger more sophisticated organizations.
For contractor companies, it can be a bit more difficult. The majority of these organizations are small- to medium-sized companies with 10-100 employees working and providing services in high-risk industries. This is another area that purpose-built contractor management platforms can be very helpful for companies. Contractor organizations can access aggregate data for a company or industry to see dashboards and benchmarking data in a more digestible and useful way.
EHS: How can analytics help companies build predictive models to better understand the events related to serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs), where they’re happening, the type of contractor that is typically affected and then use this information to better train workers and reduce SIFs?
DY: It all goes back to accurate and well-analyzed data collection -- including safety and health data from contractor companies providing services to a client organization. With clean and timely data, companies can pinpoint specific activities or processes that are harming or exposing their workers to risks, rather than trial and error testing. Once companies understand problem areas and factors correlated to incidents, it will be easier to generate predictive models to better prevent future injuries and fatalities. For instance, companies can better identify the types of internal processes, activities or machinery causing actual or potential incidents through advanced analytics methods and, using the data-driven insights, controls and investments can be directed to mitigate the risks proactively.