In most instances, the exercise to find a way to anchor digital transformation is difficult due to the number of potential angles, variables, and solutions. Those in the retail space usually default to some customer engagement hook and then work their way back from there. But where do you start when you are in a commoditized sector or where customer engagement simply does not make a dent in the universe. If the kick-off point is not necessary for the customers, then could it be engaging the ecosphere, or perhaps the supply chain, or it could be the internal IoT space or perhaps fiddling with AI and big data? The hesitation we have is that any of these approaches do not necessary drop benefits to the bottom-line fast enough.
Using a digital safety platform as an entry point is worth serious consideration principally because safety rules, procedures and behavior permeate every step most asset-heavy organizations. Anchoring digital transformation in the realm of safety has the benefits of both supporting the principal values of the organization and that it is a compliance-driven activity which means everyone is obliged to do it.
Once the digital safety behavior is part of the day to day safety activities, means a strong Safety Foundation is built (call it Foundation for Excellence), it becomes that much easier to deploy digital solutions in every far-reaching corner of the organization’s business processes.
As I think back over my 30+ years as an Executive responsible for Operation, Projects and most important health, safety and environment across Europe, Asia and Middle East , there were numerous activities, campaigns, efforts, etc. to make an impact in the health & safety of the organizations and employees. I started the journey already as Site manager in the 90ties and was able, after a merger, to take the responsibility as an Executive Vice president and finally as deputy CEO, combined with additional different other tasks.
Often, my focus was driven by the maturity of the organizations and teams I was engaged with at the time. Sometimes this involved basic short-term campaigns to raise awareness and/or engagement. Other times it was focused on driving long-term behavior and culture change. And there were times when it was a combination of both.
Our aim was always to pursue an approach where people shall get it into their genes to make it sustainable. There were certainly high points and low points. The low points being times when leadership delegated safety to the department level and then wondered why results were not better. Or times when the only measurement was on employee injuries and more work was spent managing the injuries versus preventing the injuries.
The high times were when leadership understood that health & safety was their responsibility just like any other part of running the business. When safety was viewed as a value. Important in this respect, that the companies lives the values and not just having it written on the wale but sees it as a priority. When employee engagement drove the safety culture to new levels of maturity.
Regardless of the organization’s level of maturity, a couple things that made a big difference were leadership engagement, walk the talk, communication, and analysis of data, root causes and quick response and implementation of the learning and needed corrections.
We always had plenty of data, but it was predominantly post-injury or incident data which led to more broad-based campaigns versus very focused proactive campaigns. Leadership engagement was, and still is, a very fragile thing. Leaders come and go often. New leaders have a desire to make their own mark on the organization and what took years to build can be deconstructed in months.
One of my favorite safety career memories was deploying a process we called Lean Six Sigma Safety or TBW (The Borealis Way). Working in a hydrocarbon, high explosive and partly volume-driven business, we were experienced many repetitive trauma injuries and/or illnesses and process incidents.
As much as we tried to get employees and contractors to report „Near Misses”, we were only collecting very basic data, usually when treatment was required. We knew our existing data limited our interventions to broad-based solutions and were not targeted to specific tasks that employees were performing. We knew we had to do better, and we did.
Fortunately, my colleagues first, our leaders, our workforce and work council bought into the process, realizing the connection to our strong values, and committed to a needed and finally agreed „Step Change in Safety“ program.
Additional we got strong support and trust from our Supervisory Board and Owners in our capability to get it implemented.
After a lot of hard work, improved data collection and analysis, detailed action plans, and monthly report out sessions, we were seeing a huge difference in leadership behavior, ways of working and performance. Our injury rate dropped from an average of 6 TRI frequency rate to 3 and finally currently to below 1 TRI frequency rate per year and 1 million working hours.
Employee feedback was very positive, and with the increase of NM reported the number of incidents, accidents First Aid Treatments were greatly reduced as well.
An additional aspect came later, after 2010, on our radar screen. It was the social-psychological aspect of safety. The fact that the conscious mind can handle 50-60 bits/sec but the unconscious 11 million / sec and more interesting, 10million bits/sec gets via our eyes into our mind.
Additional the high amount of data’s which needs to be quick managed and analysed (direct/indirect root cause evaluation, Near Miss reporting combined with Risks associated to it) , to define the right actions to get fast implementation to improve the situation and prevent incidents are other aspect which cries on the one hand for much more visualizations in trainings (via videos and APPs) and on the other hand to create a digital safety platform to support the management of data’s. – we call it „World Class Safety 4.0“.
What is an Effective Safety Management System
Based on our experience in managing world-class safety , we define an effective Safety Management System as one that.
- Reduces the risk of workplace incidents, injuries and fatalities through data-driven measurements and improvements
- Involves engaging people and working in partnership to make safety a shared responsibility, recognizing the value of cross-level teamwork
- Is organized and structured to ensure organizations are able to achieve and maintain high standards of safety performance
- Is proactive, preventive and integrated into the culture of your organization
There are 5 Top characteristics that are representative of a “world-class” safety management system has to include:
- Leadership – Walk the Talk concept means the management of an organization must lead by example to help drive employee engagement.
- Integrated systems approach – Integrating safety processes into all business functions and structures can result in safety becoming embedded in how an organization does business
- Performance measurement, with both leading and lagging indicators must be used to promote and monitor continuous improvement of the management system
- Alignment to core organizational initiatives, through visioning, strategic planning and budgeting, safety can become aligned with all other objectives, strategies and values in an organization
- Corporate citizenship and off-the-job safety, through initiatives, world-class organizations extend their safety efforts to both the community and employees outside of work (24/7)
These characteristics, leading to operational excellence behavior with the associated discipline. These elements have proven, over time, is the core of sustainable world-class safety achievements. Yet, why do many organizations find it difficult to turn these characteristics into living, sustainable actions and results? With each of the items above, you could place in front the phrase “Lack of…” to answer this question. However, one other item that should be added is time.
As with any analog, paper-based system, it comes down to time:
- time to manage and process the paperwork
- time to manually fill out incident reports and time to enter into an electronic database
- time to browse through mounds of reports and data and conduct a meaningful analysis
- time to print off and distribute assessment or inspection forms
- time to document observations or inspections, make copies and return to the safety department
The Shift from Analogue to Digital
The main question is: How to get faster in reaching a World Class Safety performance.
Once you are going to established a so-called „Foundation for Excellence“, running the trainings (supported by Videos and APPs – Safety Training 4.0) developing the needed trust for proper and honest reporting, establish a fast two way communication (top-down and bottom-up), sharing learning within the organization, get the increasing amount of Near Miss reports under control, setting priorities based on risks-matrix – you need to decide when and how to shift also from an analog safety management system to a digital system?
The benefits are many and typically center around increased engagement, time savings, and improved visibility and use of data. Common reasons to undertake a digital safety transformation are:
- Increased level of engagement at all levels – let’s be honest, if something is easier to do, people are more prone to be involved
- the speed in which you can complete tasks
- the visibility of real-time and improved analytics – leads to more proactive measures versus reactive measures
- improved accountability – in real time you can visibly see what actions are being completed by whom and when – no more weekend or month-end reports highlighting good and bad that occurred up to four weeks prior – it’s real-time
- able to witness live updates across multiple sites
- use the system to edit and change things at the touch of a button – attributes that would not be possible just using paper
- the hours and hours of saved time and resources to manage all things safety
But please be aware, with all the advantages, digitalization is an excellent tool to support your safety behavior and drive a faster development but only when you have the needed leadership behavior, tools and trainings implemented as a part of your daily management systems.
If your organization doesn’t have a strategy for digital transformation, the time is now, or your competitors will quickly pass you.
If your safety management system is still in the analogue phase, the time is now for digital transformation. Not only will you see improved levels of engagement and significant time savings in executing work, you will be driving your company culture closer to safety excellence and transforming your workplace into the truly healthy & safe environment that your employees deserve.
Additional you will get a sustainable better competitive position, higher profit, enhanced quality and improved customer satisfaction.
Operation discipline (OPEX) will drive your performance. Bet please be aware :
„Be never satisfied, but be happy“ about your achievements and strive for continues improvements.
World-Class Safety – Foundation for Excellence