Cultivating a company culture that champions worker safety is an easy thing to say, but a difficult thing to do. Posters are passed by without a second thought, left to fade and eventually peel off the wall. Morning stretches are good for morale but likely won't prevent a muscle tear. A well-meaning EHS manager needs more than a clipboard and a good heart to be effective. With reliable workers increasingly difficult to find and labor and supply chain demands soaring, it’s never been more important to invest in the safety and well-being of your collective workforce.
But where to begin?
The key is capturing individual worker data that paints a picture of your facility's operational efficiencies—and lack thereof—as a whole. Watercooler chitchat and outdated anecdotes simply aren't enough anymore. If the cornerstone of your company's culture is workplace safety, then productivity, satisfaction and optimization will naturally follow.
Here's a closer look at how forward-indicating safety data can unlock a whole world of operational efficiencies, no matter your industry, output or head count.
1. Facility Benchmarking
Deploying safety wearables across your workforce provides more than real time injury prevention and risk feedback. The insights provided give safety supervisors an immediate benchmark that individual, shift and industry standards can be applied and acted upon. This provides an essential point of reference to learning more about where and how you can improve.
Knowing your average forward bend angle is one thing. Knowing how it compares to other people and shifts in your facility as well as how it ranks among the safest facilities in your industry makes this data exponentially more powerful. There are tens of millions of hours of safety data; facility benchmarking unlocks the full potential of it.
2. New Hire Training
New hires are significantly more susceptible to serious strains and injuries as they often sacrifice form for output, hurting themselves and the company in the process. Data insights into work patterns and friction points put them on the same operational footing as more tenured workers, elevating the performance and overall safety standards of the entire facility. Furthermore, safety wearables enable new hires to constantly use proper lifting techniques, ensuring safety remains a personal priority.
It’s pretty intuitive, right? The new kid on the block is eager to make a big impact on productivity as soon as they can. Sure, they’ve watched a few tips and tricks videos on technique, read a few pamphlets or participated in some group stretches, but as soon as they’re off on their own, safety falls by the wayside.
Wearables and data insights ensures safety remains a top priority, even if it’s not top of mind. Safety wearables on their own offer a constant reminder to maintain safe posture and proper lifting techniques when lifting. With smart sensors capable of detecting potential ergonomic risk and haptic alerts to notify the employee, wearables can make a significant impact on the safety habits of new hires.
The data they collect amplifies this impact. Data insights shine a light on emerging patterns and locations in a facility that present the most risk. By increasing the awareness of these risks and presenting simple solutions to them, safety data is capable of optimizing a facility so both new hires and experienced employees operate in the safest environment possible.
3. Micro Intervention Moments
Safety data flowing into a central management dashboard is the new supervisor clipboard: forward-indicating, proactive and specific down to job types, times of day and environmental factors. As a result, more intervention moments are revealed based on proactive measures rather than punitive ones.
Gone are the days of the safety supervisor circling the facility trying to catch employees acting unsafely, an inefficient strategy for a number of reasons. For one, it’s easy to pass over frequently occurring ergonomic risks when employees know they’re being monitored by a manager and instinctively change how they move. More importantly, though, there’s only one supervisor. It’s impossible to understand all the risks when there’s only one set of eyes attempting to do so. Data can do this work for you, both more completely and more efficiently.
Safety wearables essentially act as an individual safety supervisor for each employee, monitoring every movement to ensure they are safe. When they aren’t, wearables record why and how these risks emerge. Then, when the data is uploaded, intervention moments are revealed.
If, for example, you discover an employee who continues to bend at dangerous angles or twist at dangerous speeds, and you know from facility benchmarking that this is not a recurring trend with other employees in this job type, then you know that the most effective solution is for this employee to be coached individually.
Data insights can offer very broad, all-encompassing solutions to optimize facilities, but sometimes all that’s necessary is a little intervention. So it’s important that these insights are capable of identifying when that’s best.
4. Understanding Job Type
It’s important to keep in mind that there is no single solution for every employee. Just like different job types require different training, skill sets and knowledge bases, they also require different safety protocols. Parsing the data by job type will reveal what’s working and what’s not to help you and elevate your workflow.
Without data, it can be difficult to ensure the safety protocols in place are doing what they’re intended to. Stretching might benefit one job type but not another. Likewise, a safety tip/trick could be extremely relevant to the requirements of one routine and completely irrelevant to another.
Data insights provide the answer to these uncertainties. You easily learn whether or not a safety effort is working, and you have the capability to discover exactly who it’s working on and who it’s not. Most importantly, you’ll know what needs to be done to ensure that every job type functions safely.
5. Engagement is Personal
Gathering safety data from your workers isn’t about tracking their productivity or their time off task; it’s about well-being and ensuring they return home safely after every shift, free of aches and pains.
Transparency about what you’re collecting and what you’re doing with it enables a comfortable environment where employees aren’t afraid to make mistakes. Ultimately, just as it is critical that this data be used for their health and safety and the betterment of their facility, it’s critical that employees understand this is all the data is used for.
An environment of constant monitoring is not a healthy one when punitive action can be taken. Transparency in what you’re collecting and why puts the power of data in your employees’ hands to contribute toward a safer workplace. It also makes every moment of engagement meaningful.
As novel as it might seem to implement into your workplace, the benefits of safety data pay dividends toward ingraining safer habits and a culture around them into your operation. In the future of work, safety should be central. Integrating data is the first step to realizing this reality.
Lindsay Catsavis is senior director, success with StrongArm Technologies, a provider of wearable devices.