Using emerging technology to improve data management

How one safety leader 'just dove in' and taught herself to use new tools

Using emerging technology to improve data management

Michels Canada is having one of its biggest years ever in terms of the number of construction projects it has taken on and the number of workers employed, according to Jennifer Hodge, the company’s supervisor of health and safety support systems.

Last year, Hodge’s team collected more than 20,000 safety observation cards, each with at least eight questions, and possibly more, depending on how the employee answered. It adds up to about 200,000 data points, and there will be thousands more this year.

“It was early last year that I just felt frustrated with the amount of manual data management I was doing in Excel,” explains Hodge, who then found her way to Microsoft’s Power BI tool, “and just dove in.”

Power BI serves as an interactive data visualization software product, and Hodge will likely espouse its benefits when she speaks at the Safety Innovation Summit in June, as part of a panel titled ‘Maximizing the value of safety data: the role of data analytic technology.’

Hodge taught herself to use the tool by watching YouTube videos and doing a lot of Googling. She recognizes not everyone may be tech savvy but encourages others to do the same if they’re having difficulties gathering, analyzing, and presenting data in a meaningful way.

“If you have a problem getting the information you want, somebody else has had that same problem. If Power BI is throwing some weird error code at you, copy the code, paste it into your Google browser.”

Hodge also suggests embracing artificial intelligence, with ChatGPT, becoming one of the most prevalent AI tools. “You can use tools like ChatGPT and say, how do I manage this error code and you'll get a response that usually has a lot of truth in it.”

Some of the hesitation around using these new forms of technology involves concerns around accuracy and verification, but Hodge says there is nothing wrong with a little trial and error. “Sometimes you have to poke around, but you're not going to break anything by trying to build something.”

During that process of building out data systems and learning to use new technology, Hodge believes it’s important to always keep those frontline workers in mind, after all they are the people who are providing the data, and the people safety leaders are trying to protect.

“You need to show them that there's value in what they're doing, that it's not an exercise in futility,” says Hodge. She says those workers need to be convinced the information will be “used to create improvement.”

“Find your why for getting the data and find out what people care about,” says Hodge, and once you do, workers will be eager to share the information, the data, needed to create robust safety systems. You’ll achieve a high level of safety buy-in.