Data collection can play a crucial role in identifying and mitigating environmental, health, and safety (EHS) risks in any organization. Collecting and analyzing data can help businesses to identify areas of concern and opportunities for improvement. This, in turn, enables the development of more effective EHS strategies for protecting workers, the environment, and the community. By collecting data on EHS performance and using this information to identify areas for improvement, organizations can create a feedback loop that drives ongoing progress. This virtuous cycle begins with the collection of data from a variety of sources (i.e., inspections, audits, monitoring systems, and incident reports).
To be effective, data collection must incorporate the following principles:
1. Involve All Key Stakeholders – Effective data collection for EHS programs requires involvement from all stakeholders (e.g., employees, supervisors, safety professionals, and senior leaders). Each group has a unique perspective on EHS performance and can provide valuable insights into potential hazards and ways that changes could help. By involving all stakeholders, companies can create a culture of safety that prioritizes EHS performance, promoting data collection as a critical component of the EHS program. To enforce this, companies can establish data collection committees or teams that are responsible for collecting, analyzing, and reporting EHS data. These committees should include representatives from each stakeholder group and should be responsible for communicating data collection goals, metrics, and progress to all stakeholders. By involving all stakeholders in the data collection process, companies can ensure that data is collected consistently, that it accurately represents operations, and that it is used in the most valuable way.
2. Leverage Technology – An organization’s level of investment in advanced tools is another critical component of effective data collection for EHS programs. Modern software can help automate data collection processes, reduce errors, and provide real-time data insights. There are many EHS software solutions available that can help companies manage incident reporting, hazard identification, risk assessments, and other critical EHS data. To leverage technology effectively, companies should select an EHS software solution that meets their specific needs and requirements. To encourage the adoption of the software, it should be user-friendly and configurable to the organization’s workflows. Companies should also provide training and education to employees on how to use the software and ensure that it is integrated with other EHS processes and systems.
3. Embrace the Findings – When presented with truths that are difficult to swallow, responding properly ensures information continues to be shared. Venting frustrations on the messenger or ignoring the message altogether can quickly lead to appearance-based safety where the recorded version of operations dresses up what is really happening in the field. Risk identification should be received positively (as opposed to with retaliation) to encourage the identification of improvements where they are needed. It is important to always remember, that risk cannot be managed if it is not first identified.
Once the collection of data is complete, it can be analyzed to identify patterns, trends, and areas of concern. This analysis helps organizations to understand their EHS risks and prioritize efforts to address these risks. For example, data may reveal that a particular task or hazard is showing a high number of at-risk findings. Armed with this knowledge, the organization can focus its resources on improving either the safety controls in place or the process of operations to reduce the overall risk.
As improvements are made, organizations can continue to collect and analyze data to measure the effect that these efforts are having on producing the desired change. By tracking EHS metrics over time, organizations demonstrate their commitment to safety and sustainability and continue to identify areas or processes that require enhancement.
The virtuous cycle of data collection for EHS is driven by several key factors:
- Visibility: Collecting data on EHS performance provides organizations with visibility into their operations and the risks associated with their activities. This visibility is critical to the identification and prioritization of improvements and strategic use of resources.
- Accountability: By collecting data and tracking EHS metrics, organizations can encourage accountability for safety performance. Designating and diversifying roles and responsibilities related to data collection and analysis instills a sense of ownership for acting safely, without cutting corners.
- Transparency: Sharing EHS data and metrics with stakeholders, including employees, creates transparency and fosters trust. This can strengthen a business’ reputation and demonstrate a commitment to safety and sustainability.
- Innovation: Data collection and analysis can also drive innovation through the continual identification of aspects for advancement. For example, data may reveal that a particular process or material is causing environmental harm or posing a health risk to workers. Once this is understood, organizations can explore new technologies, materials, or processes for reducing these risks and improving EHS performance.
The virtuous cycle of collecting EHS data is a powerful tool for driving continuous improvement and reinforcing safety efforts. By collecting and analyzing data on EHS performance, organizations can identify areas for improvement that lead to effective changes that mitigate risk and reduce injuries. Companies that prioritize data collection and leverage technology to automate the process can create a virtuous cycle that motivates engagement in EHS activities and furthers the protection and well-being of employees, communities, and the environment.
Cary comes to the SafetyStratus team as the Vice President of Operations with almost 30 years of experience in several different industries. He began his career in the United States Navy’s nuclear power program. From there he transitioned into the public sector as an Environmental, Health & Safety Manager in the utility industry. After almost thirteen years, he transitioned into the construction sector as a Safety Director at a large, international construction company. Most recently he held the position of Manager of Professional Services at a safety software company, overseeing the customer success, implementation, and process consulting aspects of the services team.
At SafetyStratus, he is focused on helping achieve the company’s vision of “Saving lives and the environment by successfully integrating knowledgeable people, sustainable processes, and unparalleled technology”.