Part3: Safety Solutions in the Future

Written by Timo Kronlöf

In order to predict the future we need to be familiar with the past and the present. In this 3rd and last part of blog series (Disruptive Change in Safety Management Solutions) I’m discussing about the most interesting part of all, the future.

Safety and EHS solutions have improved tremendously and we have overcome many issues like how to get more done in less time. Productivity of safety work has risen along with new technology adoption on the field. This achievement is sometimes underestimated because we tend to waste the saved time anyway. But let’s think about it a bit further: if you are able to save up to 50 % of time in safety reporting it means that you can either do more valuable safety work, do something else that is more productive or just take it easy and browse social networks on your smart phone. However, many seem to believe it’s the latter one and hence don’t bother to improve productivity. That’s a shame. For me this productivity leap is just like a ripe fruit just waiting to be eaten. I suggest we grab it.

Solutions today are much more user-friendly than before, reporting is faster and the quality of reports has improved for instance with smart phone pictures attached. Analytics today is almost real-time and it is more appealing and more informative than ever before. Users don’t need to search and download complex excels but only to watch real-time graphs on their safety performance. I compiled below some of the most important benefits we have received with new technology in safety management:

  • Better productivity of safety work

  • Saving paper and nerves

  • Timelier reporting

  • Better quality of safety reporting

  • Faster responses to risks and incidents

  • Better communication of hazards throughout the whole organization

  • Mobile software brings all safety tools straight to everyone’s pocket

  • More positive mindset towards safety reporting

Even if one might feel that we have achieved a lot of improvement in safety with technology there is still some major unsolved issues to be faced. Actually, I don’t believe that safety management solutions should be developed in a single project that starts today and ends next year. For me safety solutions and their development should be just like safety itself – continuous improvement and an integrated part of normal operations. More discussion about the state of safety management solutions can be found from my earlier blog post: Part 2: Safety Solutions Today

There are numerous important issues that safety management solutions and technology has not yet solved. Yet, I did gather three biggest unsolved issues from my perspective. Feel free to argue something else but here’s my list:

  1. People engagement

  2. Safety communication

  3. Expanding safety management into safety leadership

Let’s rationalize my list a little bit. The first and perhaps the single most important thing in safety management is to get people involved. It has always been all about the people, it’s today and it will be in the future too. Everyone has the possibility to affect safety around them on. And motivating people to act safely should be our number one target. Period. I’ve seen successful programs on how to get organization more active and more involved and by continuing this activation, some have been able to achieve more people engagement and even better safety culture. One of my ideas is to introduce virtual motivational programs. We could give people virtual points and badges from safety achievements and show the most active people on company’s safety leaderboard. That would have a tremendous impact on behavioral based safety.

Safety communication is always a challenge in this tsunami of data we are confronting every day. You probably would like pin safety issues on the top to grab people’s attention. I believe the old way of forcing our staff to read safety letters is just, old. I don’t believe we can force people to be interested and adopt boring information. What we should do is to make safety information more interesting so that people want to understand it. Technology helps us in making this happen. I’ve opened this issue more in our recent whitepaper: Technological Future of Safety Management

We need technology to filter out relevant information from the data flows. We need to provide more personal and timely information to grab people’s attention. Safety communication in the future will need to bind collaborating organizations together. Even today, shared sites are prevalent form of working and single-company sites are on a brink of extinction.

Expanding our safety management to safety leadership is essential in order to get people engaged. Technology can help us out by motivating our staff and even involving collaborating organizations in our safety efforts. Every safety expert and research paper is outlining that visible leadership is a vital part of successful safety culture. No doubt about that, but how can a CEO or management team demonstrate their commitment all over the globe with safety walks? It’s the same for middle management and foremen – you have to take your time to be seen on the field. The required minutes and hours are of course away from something else. My suggestion is to get time by improving the productivity of safety reporting with technology described earlier in this post. It’s fortunate for the management that in the future technology will provide us new ways to interact through safety management solutions. Just like social media has expanded our social networks, there is a possibility for safety management solutions to expand the management’s interaction among their safety ecosystems. What would be more inspirational safety information than watch live stream of our CEO’s safety walk on our company’s site in a different country?

We know how technology has changed so many industries. How could we expect that technology wouldn’t affect our field of EHS? It will. It’s just a matter of time and actually, it’s happening already. Unfortunately for us new generation safety pros, we will only realize this on-going disruptive change after several years from now. In the meantime hold on and try to keep up with the pace.

Further and deeper reading about the Technological Future of Safety Management can be found in our complimentary whitepaper here.