The importance of safety insights in the workplace

Safety Insights

Talking about safety in the workplace seems a bit redundant at first. Everybody realises just how vital it is to keep your workforce safe and secure in order to keep them ticking like clockwork. Well, at least from the legal standpoint, where you have to meet a certain standard to make sure your workforce isn’t being put at unwarranted risk.

More often than not, day-to-day safety guidelines are just words on paper that don’t reflect the true and changing nature of the work environment. There is a significant difference in the way workplace safety is perceived and managed. According to National Security Council, every seven seconds a worker is injured on the job in the United States. In Australia, 190 workers were fatally injured in 2017, while Great Britain had a total of 144 workers killed at work in the same period. I could pull dozens of these reports and they would all point to the same thing: the overwhelming importance of discovering the truth about safety from the “front lines”.

To accentuate my point, here’s one more report. The latest edition of Petrotechnics’ process safety and operational risk management survey shows 86% of industry leaders believe there are gaps between their organisations intentions for process safety and the actual daily operations. In fact, the survey shows a concerning increase compared to the 2017 survey when 70% agreed these gaps exist. Mind you, these are leaders from industries that handle hazardous substances where major incident risks are high per default.

Plain and simple, a discord between intention and reality continues to exist. Many of the systems and solutions implemented today ensure the conveyance and maintenance of safety regulation largely by intent only, or deal with safety and risk procedures as separate processes, divorced from actual on-field reality. As such, there is little room to deliver palpable improvements because the foundation is not designed to facilitate it.

Safety in workplace revolves around workers and their experiences and observations. It’s about what they’re exposed to and may be exposed to, particularly in the field where safety issues arise at higher rates. In some cases, businesses aren’t expected or able to entirely eliminate risks. These would be occupational hazards we so easily take for granted, where identifying the hazard is largely the extent of safety measures. However, I firmly believe we should hold a higher standard to determine exactly what are the factors that pose a threat to worker safety.

The best way to get first-hand feedback is to implement a safety insights survey that generates deep analytics for recurring trends and comparisons. Measuring the effectiveness of your safety program requires assessing and analysing employee insights at every level of the organisation in order to establish present strengths and, more importantly, to identify areas for improvement. This diagnostic approach not only does help uncover potential gaps across different roles, locations, or divisions in your organisation but also helps benchmark trends and concern areas between different contractors and employees around their safety in the workplace.

Start by gauging the employees’ general awareness of the company’s health and safety system. Having a clear understanding of the environment they work in is a firm basis for a safety program. Then, move on to the nitty-gritty and the specifics of the workplace requirements, policies, and procedures in terms of safety, including keeping up-to-date with potential legislative and regulatory changes to make sure they are properly incorporated into company’s procedures and practices. You can ask your workforce if they feel the company is conducting regular internal audits of its own operations, and are they familiar with documented procedures for completion of high-risk work. If so, do all employees (including subcontractors) hold relevant qualifications, competencies, and licenses? Were there any prosecutions or fines related to safety breaches or are there any pending investigations? Do they generally feel their physical workplace is safe to work in, day in and day out?

There are tons of questions you can put in your safety insights survey that can provide a clear(er) picture of interactions between your workers, equipment, and other external factors. It’s just a matter of how granular you want the insights to be. Just imagine: what if someone came back with a negative response? Even if it is just one worker out of tens or hundreds of workers, that’s one cog in the machine that can have a chain reaction.

Based on the data gathered in this manner, it’s much easier to devise appropriate safety requirements and improvements on both the individual and organisational level. In a way, it empowers employees to take their safety into their own hands to some level, and work more intimately to create a sustainable safety culture. Equally important, a safety insights survey that covers multiple layers of safe work environment will present strengths and opportunities for improvement in a non-threatening way. That way, you truly get the safety heartbeat of your workforce while also keeping them motivated to be effective. Finally, a good safety insights survey can provide you with the framework for necessary action planning, including key approaches: identifying, learning, and subsequent development.

In the competitive landscape where budgetary constraints and revenue goals dictate how businesses operate, the ability to manage workplace safety effectively is less than ideal (and that’s putting it mildly). Doing due diligence to remove the gaps encompassing safety culture and overall awareness could significantly tip the scales in favour of the business. The only sure-fire way of doing that is to aggregate highly relevant data from your frontline workforce to gain in-depth and actionable insights. Technology investment plays an important role here as it helps reduce the potential for work-related hazards. In particular, digitising cumbersome processes and leveraging operational data in real time can minimise the risks and keep the organisation on the productive path. After all, it’s the responsibility of every business to stay on top of all possible health and safety issues, as well as to have a clearly defined plan which everyone involved is aware of. The increasingly fluid workforce management demands nothing less.