Each year, with the advancement of data collection methods and tools, more and more safety data is available to safety professionals. But when you’re flooded with information, it can be challenging to decide what metrics are worth tracking.
To take some of the guesswork out of evaluating your organization’s EHS performance, here are five safety data sets that deserve a closer look.
You can also see the how proper safety data analysis plays a vital role in improving worker safety in this case study on Rockline Industries.
During an incident investigation, EHS professionals must determine what factors contributed to an injury or illness. It's often easy to identify the immediate causes of an incident, such as faulty equipment or oil spilled across a plant floor.
Correcting these immediate issues is obviously important. But addressing immediate causes will only eliminate the symptoms of a problem—it won't solve the problem itself. That's why both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourage employers to conduct a root cause analysis during incident investigations.
OSHA defines a root cause as "a fundamental, underlying, system-related reason why an incident occurred that identifies one or more correctable system failures."
A root cause analysis will help you answer 4 important questions:
Conducting a thorough root cause analysis will help to prevent similar incidents from happening again. Also, by successfully getting to the root cause of one problem, you may have solved several others along the way.
However, one roadblock that many organizations face when conducting these analyses are cumbersome business processes and reporting workflows. It's difficult to identify trends in incident causes if employees aren't able to document events in a meaningful and timely way.
Using Incident Management Software can help you simplify and streamline the root cause analysis process. Incident management software ensures data is collected consistently and stored in a single location. Automated reports and emails can compile all identified root causes of incidents at a single facility, or throughout the entire organization, so you can review all areas that need improvement at a glance.
While it’s important to pull as much insight as you can from incident metrics, only examining injury and illness data leaves you with just a small snapshot of your safety performance.
Inspections are your first line of defense in proactively preventing workplace injuries and illnesses. If employees aren’t regularly checking their surroundings and equipment for defects or potential issues, you’re practically begging for incidents to occur.
It’s a simple place to start, but the first key inspection indicator you should track is the number of audits that are being completed at your location. This metric is pretty self-explanatory, but what it indicates is whether or not employees are carrying out scheduled inspections. If you have 50 forklifts used by operators each day, but are only seeing 35 forklift daily inspections reported, you have a problem. In terms of compliance alone, OSHA requires a forklift inspection be performed before every operation.
Each organization will have a different number of inspections that they’re looking to complete on a regular basis, but everyone will be reaching for the same goal of a 100% completion rate.
Once you’ve calculated how many inspections are being completed on schedule, you can start to push deeper into inspection results. One indicator that’s helpful to review is which locations have identified the highest number of deficiencies. This handy metric tells you which locations have the highest percent of safety issues that will need to be addressed, and as such, which facilities might need a more in-depth evaluation.
Of course, the more facilities there are the harder it becomes to collect and manage the inspection data necessary to calculate these metrics. When managing this data becomes too cumbersome we recommend you turn to safety management software to make your life easier. Our Inspections module will allow workers to record inspections, and manage them in a digital environment for easy retrieval, analysis, and reporting.
Just like conducting regular inspections of worksites, performing frequent observations of employees’ safety behaviors also goes a long way towards eliminating preventable injuries.
Behavior based safety data is especially useful to monitor because it allows you to learn how workers act on a daily basis and respond to this information constructively. For example, by looking at this data, you can start to pinpoint the work procedures that would make employees safer, measure the use of safe behaviors among employees, and give positive feedback to employees who follow procedures.
You’ll first want to confirm that these important reviews are being carried out by assigned workers on schedule and zero in on locations that can improve compliance. Then, by analyzing the types of unsafe acts that are observed, you can see what additional steps need to be taken, from reviewing safe lifting techniques, to retraining workers on the correct use of tools, equipment or personal protective equipment (PPE).
One of the simplest ways to measure the effectiveness of your training program is to pay close attention to course attendance and pass rates. You need to make sure that your employees are actually attending their required training, and perhaps more importantly, that they’re demonstrating a reasonable understanding of the material they’re taught. These are the first metrics you should take a look at when evaluating your training program.
You can then go into a more in-depth analysis by determining what percent of your employees’ training has expired. This will give you an idea of how many employees need to be scheduled for re-training. If this percentage gets too high, it’s an indication that you’re falling behind with scheduling training. If that’s the case, you might want to find additional resources or tools such as safety training software to streamline your scheduling process.
You may also want to dig deeper into the specific courses that for one reason or another, too many employees are simply not attending on time. Put together a list of the top 10 courses that have the largest number of employees that are past due for training. The great advantage about this indicator is half the investigation is already done, as it tells you which classes are having an issue. All you need to do is figure out the cause and apply a fix. Even more importantly, if you see a training course on this list that is required for employees under OSHA’s training standards, you can prioritize this class ahead of the others so that you can prevent a citation nightmare if a compliance officer comes knocking!
It’s no small thing to get workers engaged in reporting close calls or unsafe conditions. If you’ve developed a safety culture in which employees are eager to share feedback on ways to make the workplace safer, then give yourself a big round of applause!
With that said, though, collecting this information is just the first step. Next, you’ll need a way to confirm that this data is actually being reviewed and that open issues are being corrected. If an employee sees a hazard that they reported lingering in the workplace for weeks without any resolution or communication from management, this might deter them from providing input in the future.
To make sure that safety concerns and hazards are being addressed, you’ll want to calculate and monitor the following metrics:
Depending on how you’re currently tracking your organization’s safety data, calculating key performance indicators may be easier said than done.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, it may be time to re-evaluate your current safety management system. It’s difficult to identify and solve critical safety issues when your tools just aren’t up to the task.
One of the easiest ways to monitor safety metrics is by using a safety management software. As you improve your safety performance analysis, you’ll need a system that can handle the influx of data, give you access to real-time metrics, and help you glean valuable insights hidden within the flood of information. Many safety software will allow you to automatically generate reports and dashboards.
Utilizing a safety software will also help your organization to collect data more efficiently than a manual process. One of the biggest perks of using a safety management system to record and analyze your safety activity is that you’ll be able to quickly access your data all from one convenient source, so you won’t have to go digging through multiple spreadsheets or files to find the stats you’re looking for.
Finally, as you experiment, remember to think big but start small. Through trial and error, you can identify other indicators that you'll want to review. As long as you've laid the groundwork by establishing effective processes for collecting and reviewing your data, you’ll be able to easily add other metrics to your analysis as your needs change.
About the Author
Clare A. Epstein is Director of EHS Solutions at Vector Solutions. She oversees the Vector EHS Management Software and has assisted numerous organizations in improving their safety data analysis. Vector EHS Management is a web-based and user friendly software utilized by numerous organizations throughout North America to maintain regulatory compliance and develop safety management strategies that positively impact the bottom line.