How to dig deeper into safety data while respecting worker privacy

Why safety leader says 'finding the right balance is crucial'

How to dig deeper into safety data while respecting worker privacy

The role of data is revolutionizing safety practices across industries, according to Darrel Nickerson, director of health and safety at Irving Forest Services Limited, which is part of the pulp paper group at J.D. Irving Ltd. As safety professionals seek innovative ways to prevent workplace incidents and ensure employee well-being, Nickerson emphasizes the significance of harnessing big data and leveraging advanced technologies to drive safety improvements.

"Data collection is at the heart of our safety improvement initiatives," says Nickerson, who will emphasize the importance of data collection as the foundation for safety enhancement efforts when he speaks at the Safety Innovation Summit in June. "We prioritize capturing hazard identification reports from our employees across all sites. These reports serve as leading indicators, allowing us to proactively address potential injury-causing situations and prevent incidents before they occur."

By delving deep into the analysis of this data, Nickerson and his team uncovered valuable insights. "We discovered that a significant portion of injuries happen during routine work," reveals Nickerson. "This finding has prompted us to dig deeper into the root causes and examine the potential impact of complacency among employees engaged in repetitive tasks. It's essential to understand these patterns to implement targeted interventions and mitigate risks effectively."

Nickerson stresses the importance of treating hazard identification reports as leading indicators rather than lagging indicators, as injuries are often classified. "While injuries are often considered lagging indicators, we treat hazard identification reports as leading indicators because they enable us to take preventative action," he explains. "By categorizing and analyzing the data, we can identify trends, prioritize corrective measures, and continuously improve our safety performance."

Looking towards the future, Nickerson is optimistic about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in revolutionizing safety efforts. "AI technologies hold promise for advancing safety initiatives," he notes. "Real-time camera systems that can identify hazards like obstructions in walkways or non-compliance with safety measures offer potential benefits. While we haven't implemented these technologies yet, we recognize their ability to enhance situational awareness and expedite data capture."

However, Nickerson says there is a delicate balance between embracing advanced technologies and preserving employee privacy. "Finding the right balance is crucial," he cautions. "We must avoid excessive surveillance that erodes trust and inhibits open communication on safety matters. Striking a balance allows us to build a culture where safety is everyone's responsibility and foster collaboration for long-term safety improvements."

To make sense of the collected data, Nickerson needs effective analysis tools, “such as Tableau and Microsoft Power BI, play a vital role in making sense of the collected data," he says. "Consistent categorization and accurate data are paramount to avoid drawing misleading conclusions or developing a false sense of security. Prioritizing data based on operational understanding and ongoing evaluation enables targeted interventions that yield maximum safety benefits."

Nickerson's insights serve as a guiding light for safety professionals seeking to enhance workplace safety through data-driven approaches. By prioritizing data collection, analyzing trends, and considering the potential of AI technologies, organizations can proactively address hazards, mitigate risks, and foster a culture where safety thrives. Striking the right balance between utilizing data and respecting employee privacy ensures that safety remains a shared responsibility, leading to long-term safety improvements and a safer working environment for all.