Posted: 30 Jul. 2019 5 min. read

Bring some science to your HSE strategy

The final part of the HSE management – Comply, improve, excel series

How are your Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) plans formulated? Audit results, past incident history, a known legislative non-compliance issue that needs to be bridged?

 

These inputs can all point to a body of work sufficient to keep the organisation ‘busy’ on HSE – but will they move the needle in keeping people safe and healthy, and reducing impact on the planet? And whilst we’re talking about it, who designed those plans?

Stepping out of HSE management – let’s think about the Hotel Industry. Our strategy is to grow, we have some capital, and want to build a new hotel to generate more revenue. We know the outlay and can research average room rates for a given location, before we build our hotel and operate it against a planned P&L – in short, we can approach the project with a level of confidence, and measure it’s success.

Would you sign off the investment if you didn’t know how much you might be able to charge for a room, or what the staff costs to run the hotel might be? Further still, would you sign off the investment because an individual "specialist" told you it was the right thing to do?

These questions might sound a little daft – but for many organisations, it’s a fair reflection of how planning on HSE happens. HSE outcomes are notoriously difficult to measure, and often (likely unwillingly) the Head of HSE is tasked with coming up with a plan on behalf of the organisation, and trusted in their proposed plans because they’re the "specialist".

"Advanced data analysis is being used throughout industry to achieve things previously thought impossible"

It would seem better for all concerned to bring a little science to the equation.

Measuring HSE success continues to challenge organisations; but away from hard measures, there are many opportunities to improve the analysis of HSE-related information. Advanced data analysis is being used throughout industry to learn more about what drives performance, and beyond learning – even extending into using that analysis to automate decision making.

On a less grand scale, but no less impressive, is the ability to use data to support effective planning and monitoring of HSE management. Combining disconnected data sources can reveal previously hidden correlations, which hold the potential to better target factors which contribute to increased HSE risk, with greater accuracy, and less ‘gut feel’.

In our fictitious hotel company, we might choose to combine data relating to accidents, audits, training information, occupation levels and online customer feedback reviews to help highlight statistically significant patterns. As illustration, we might learn that;

Hotels with declining customer feedback scores are more likely to have a spike in accident occurrences

Good audit scores may tally with a significantly lower incident frequency. However, when incidents do occur they tend to be much more severe in nature than average; or

Completion of current safety training has no statistically significant impact on audit scores or incident occurrence.

"The application of data analytics provides a valuable source of data driven insight."

These illustrative insights might have previously existed as ‘hunches’, but few might be brave enough to step forward and declare that current safety training arrangements are ineffective – traditionally it’s easier to ‘do more’ HSE work rather than to challenge the effectiveness of what is in place already – the possibilities provided by data analytics could change that.

There are a number of ways that organisations could benefit from using analytics in making decisions around HSE; on its most basic level, it may be best used as a tool to:

  • Prove or disprove existing hypothesis ("we’ve got a hunch, but haven’t ever felt certain"); or
  • Generate new insight through exploration ("we think we’ve tried everything, where should we turn next to better manage risk").

Is your strategy going to deliver best impact?

Those responsible for HSE strategy generate the greatest impact by making good choices. Making the most of data to support consistently great choices can heighten individual impact, better prioritise organisation resources, and most importantly support a safer and healthier environment.

  • How did you arrive at your current priorities – who was involved in prioritisation of effort, and is there any room for hunches that might be derailing the most effective use of resource?
  • Are there any long-standing hypotheses that your organisation holds dear around HSE, that have never been proven to be true? Could the application of analytics support a clear conclusion?
  • How targeted is your approach to HSE? Does your business rely on blanket approaches to topics such as training, auditing and assessment – could some science help you customise that approach without exposing the organisation to unnecessary risk – and how might that customisation help you excel in creating a safer environment, with the same or less resource?

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