Data-driven OHS: a practical approach


Wednesday, 17 August, 2022

Data-driven OHS: a practical approach

Advances in digital technologies are changing the landscape of occupational health and safety (OHS) management. Digitalisation of workplace safety and health can bring tremendous opportunities and new challenges to OHS management.

SAI360 EHS&S principal consultant Dr Rhandi Selde conducted a poll during a recent webinar and asked EHS and occupational health and safety professionals which of the following technologies they have adopted in their OHS program:

  • Cloud and mobile applications
  • Wearables
  • IoT devices such as sensors and drones
  • Data warehouses and data lakes
  • Predictive analytics
  • Machine learning/AI

Many organisations are leveraging advanced technologies to improve their OHS programs. Technology can create efficient and effective processes, heighten overall workforce safety and reduce occupational risks. Nevertheless, the digitalisation of workplace safety and health may fail to manifest its promise of revolutionising OHS practices and services unless organisations incorporate more data-driven approaches and a deliberate strategy for collecting, managing and leveraging OHS data.

Ensuring reliability and credibility in data strategy

The pandemic did not just bring to light the benefits of an organised and robust occupational health and safety system. It also exposed flaws in OHS programs and brought critical data reliability issues to the forefront. Data quality issues can erode confidence in the OHS program. Therefore, ensuring the reliability and credibility of data is crucially important for a robust data-driven OHS program.

The adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies is greatly celebrated across sectors, but it also has the potential to cause companies to accumulate streams of unstructured data, resulting in serious quality issues. Your OHS program can only go so far without the right data strategy, and might spectacularly fail under the stress of major events such as a pandemic.

The fundamental question, therefore, is how to deploy these new data-hungry technologies to improve workplace safety, protect worker health and reduce occupational risks? In order to achieve a successful data-driven OHS, organisations need to take a holistic and organised view of their data strategies to enable a data-driven occupational health and safety management program. In addition, realising the opportunities of digitised OHS depends on how the technology is implemented, managed and regulated.

Data-driven occupational health and safety is when data determines or justifies a plan of action or the design of an organisation’s intervention strategies.

Data-driven occupational health and safety is not something that can be fundamentally improved by finding problems and fixing them. Instead, every organisation should start by formulating a data strategy, improving the collection and use of OHS data, and preparing for future integrations with new OHS technologies.

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