Go Digital: How Technology Can Help Prove a Return on Safety

Dec. 7, 2015
When you dive deeper into the challenge, it becomes clear why so many are struggling to prove a return on safety. Unlike most departments, safety is still typically managed on pen and paper.

One of the most prominent challenges facing safety leaders today is proving a return on safety to executives. In fact, 42 percent of safety leaders find it difficult to measure the return on safety and 23 percent report having trouble getting executive buy-in for new initiatives, according to the Aberdeen Group.

Many executives of at-risk organizations still view safety as a business cost rather than a revenue driver. This perspective becomes particularly salient if a company only tracks lagging indicators and has a low incident rate as executives tend to mistakenly view the above key performance indicators (KPIs) as evidence that their EHS program is successfully reducing risk.

When you dive deeper into the challenge, it becomes clear why so many are struggling to prove a return on safety.  Unlike most departments, safety is still typically managed on pen and paper, supported by Microsoft office. This outdated system has a negative impact on safety management. First, the system limits the company’s ability to collect meaningful real-time data; and second, it creates an abundance of administrative work.

The famous Scottish mathematician and physicist, Lord Kelvin famously said: “What gets measured gets managed.” In order to measure something, you need insightful data, which many safety leaders lack as paper systems make real-time data collection problematic.

Even the most efficient administrative teams experience a delay between when safety activities are performed and when results are submitted. This means that safety leaders have a limited understanding of how their program is performing in real-time; they only have an idea of how it has performed.  This makes it difficult to track leading indicators, make meaningful changes and monitor the results.

Data entry and formatting poses another barrier. The time it takes to do this coupled with human error can make it difficult for a safety leader to understand safety performance and report on it to executives in an accurate and timely manner. This problem becomes exacerbated if a company is managing multiple job sites simultaneously. So much time is spent preparing reports that the safety leader has limited time to analyze these results, let alone determine a return.  

Turning to Tech

This is where software comes into play. Best-in-class safety companies are 50 percent more likely to use software to manage all of their safety activities, according to studies by the Aberdeen Group.  This is because safety software provides the tools necessary to collect meaningful data. For example, it allows all safety activities to be performed electronically and submitted immediately, creating real-time visibility that allows management to evaluate safety performance. 

Software also allows safety leaders to spot problem areas easily, assign corrective actions immediately and monitor their progress. This increases accountability and often results in corrective actions closing faster. For instance, Surespan Group of Companies has reduced their time to complete corrective actions from over one month to same day within six months of adopting safety software, according to the company’s corporate health, safety and environmental manager Bruno Accili.

Technology also simplifies the safety data collection process, allowing safety leaders to easily track more leading indicators. This provides both more information to analyze and more proactive KPIs to share with executives: safety meeting attendance, completed inspections and corrective actions, and the average time to close corrective actions.

For example, Emmitt Nelson, a safety consultant at Zero Injury Institute, measures and uses 131 leading indicators as a performance metrics for his clients. In a McGraw Hill report, he states: “Safety knowledge correlates with safety results. If you want results you have to focus on the executive gap.”

Dedicated safety software not only provides more information but it also automatically formats the data, allowing safety leaders to quickly pull all of their KPIs. This significantly reduces the administrative burden of reporting and frees up time for analysis.

In fact, Stewart Day, health and safety manager of Amico Infrastructures, estimated that it used to take days to prepare year end reports. “Now that we’ve transitioned to safety software, I can pull all of my KPIs immediately, which cuts down my reporting time to 20 minutes,” said Stewart.  

Paper management systems are becoming obsolete in every department because of the inefficiencies and inferior data they produce. If safety leaders want to be able to report on KPIs other than lost-time and injuries in a way that proves a return on safety, they need a management system that can support real-time data collection and tracking, creates management visibility and simplifies the reporting process – all of which can be accomplished more efficiently and effectively using technology.    

Vicki Formosa is the content writer and digital marketing strategist at eCompliance, an occupational health and safety mobile and web-based software solution. At eCompliance, she writes educational content on both safety software and trends in the safety industry. She is also a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) nerd who uses her four years of experience running SEM campaigns to help build brand awareness and lead generation.

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