data-driven-safety-in-construction

Safety data will drive construction performance

Use of technology can be a competitive advantage
Monday, January 9, 2017
by Adrian Bartha

Introduction
As an industry, we have made great improvements in safety performance, but despite our best efforts safety in construction has largely remained behind the scenes and behind the times. There are several factors that have led us to this point: remote workforces, costly administrative processes, limited IT resources, high personnel turnover and the list goes on.

The good news is that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in safety analytics in 2017 that will finally make all our paper and Excel records work for us (and not the other way around). Data driven decisions are often better decisions. Data driven companies are already more profitable than their competitors and the safety analytics revolution will strengthen the divergence among companies that use data to their advantage vs. those stuck in the status quo.

CEOs and other top executives are the only people that can drive broader business changes over the long term in companies. Without their buy-in, any cross-organizational initiative has a short life expectancy. Without great reporting, rich with insights and supporting facts, it is difficult to earn their support.

What’s really at stake is the ability to evolve safety performance in businesses and demonstrate it to customers, buyers, employees and community.

Safety Analytics in 2017
Thankfully, many construction businesses across Canada are gearing up for a revolution that will turn these challenges on their head.

A real-time dashboard that shows incident or injury rates automatically? That would save a lot of time and effort but it’s not going far enough. No longer will safety directors painfully report one sliver of historical performance months or quarters after the fact. Instead, construction executives will already be aware of real-time performance across every part of their organization and come to meetings ready to discuss insights and recommended actions. Risks such as near misses that have a potential cost to the company will be tracked and aggregated. Damage to equipment will be trended and traceable to the job. High performing supervisors will be clearly visible with two clicks. The velocity of continuous improvement in these organizations will evolve, and so will their performance and safety cultures.

This transformation will lead to three key changes for safety teams, executives, and customers:

1.Full Cycle Safety
Full cycle safety means that continuous improvement systems of plan-do-check-act are operationalized at every level of the organization and actively monitored. Based on our experience with more than 120 construction companies in Canada in the last four years, most construction companies use a maximum 5-10 per cent of their safety data. No one is perfect, but does that mean we’re wasting our time, lazy or simply missing an opportunity? We argue it’s the latter. Starting in 2017 we will have the supporting tools to do that easily. No PhDs or costly IT projects necessary.

2. Executive Involvement
CEOs and presidents have been reluctant to get involved in how safety data is collected and this is understandable – we have not given it to them in a real-time, digestible way like they get from other parts of the business. Good data should roll up to the company’s executive team to illustrate performance and trends at every level of the organization so that they are aware of the three-four backwards and forward-looking KPIs that truly spell out and price the risk across their business.

There is another benefit of increasing executive involvement with good safety data: it directly impacts the front-line workforce and increasing employee participation in safety helps to generate new data, ideas and insights that can further interest owners and buyers.

The key technologies needed to achieve these things are already underway: “Facebook-easy” mobile apps to engage the workforce in safety activities and advanced analytics to drive real insights into performance for data-hungry executives. Across our construction clients that have adopted mobile applications for safety tasks, we’ve seen an average 99 per cent per year increase in workforce participation in safety management.

3. Client Opportunities
Our customers, buyers and project owners are increasingly concerned about their reputations and brand value. As an industry, we understand that our license to operate is based on returning our colleagues to their families safely at the end of the day. In turn, pressure is put on us to accurately report on safety activities. Multiply this across many buyers or customers and we have a highly administrative and reactive process.

Many companies are already taking a different approach to reporting safety performance to their clients. They’re making it a regular part of how they do business, and improving this reporting with best-of-breed cloud software. In other words, if safety is important to customers and to the company, then let’s use it as an opportunity to differentiate ourselves and prove that in what we do every day

In a very competitive construction environment, creating and communicating a new competitive differentiator can mean the difference between status quo and long-term success. By adopting easy-to-use technology, improved safety performance can be that competitive advantage.

Adrian Bartha is the CEO of eCompliance, which he joined in 2012 after experiencing first-hand how a workplace incident affected a power and utilities company which he led as a member of the board of directors. To learn more about how to turn safety into a competitive advantage, visit www.ecompliance.com.

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