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How to Solve Workplace Safety with Big Data

By Michelle Hiscock on July 28, 2017 |

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big data and workplace safety

The era of big data is upon us. As our world becomes increasingly more connected through the internet of things, the use of big data is more important than ever to companies. But what exactly is big data, and what does it mean for workplace safety? Let’s break down what big data is and how companies can use it to make safer work environments for employees.

What is Big Data?

Big data is the latest buzzword.

Despite its popularity in recent years, big data is not a new concept. According to “A Very Short History of Big Data” compiled by Forbes, the concept of big data dates back to the 1940s when scholars first attempted to quantify the growth of information at American university libraries. Over time, this concept of quantifying the explosive growth of information has evolved into the term “big data.” It’s hard to nail down an exact definition of big data since it is still an evolving term. But for this post, we’ll define big data as the large amount of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for information to gain meaningful insights about human behavior. This data can come from various sources, including sensors, smart devices, social media, databases, browser cookies, search queries, reports, and inspections, to name a few.

Having this data, however, is not inherently useful or important. It’s what companies do with the collected data that’s important. According to SAS, “big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.” This brings us to the potential for big data in workplace safety.

Creating Safer Work Environments

Going back to our definition of big data, mining data for insights into human behavior is crucial for workplace safety. Companies are constantly collecting data about their workplace and employees, ranging from incident reports and safety inspections to workers’ compensation claims and time cards. As mentioned before, simply having this information is not useful. Companies must analyze their data to derive insights from the past, then act upon these insights to improve their work processes and create safer work environments.

To put this into perspective, let’s explore a workplace scenario.

Turning Data into Insights

At a chemical plant, the chemical operators are routinely responsible for filtering and transferring materials into storage tanks. To perform this responsibility, the chemical operators must regularly lift up to 50 pounds of materials and dump them into the storage tanks. After a few months on the job, one chemical operator experiences and reports acute back pain upon lifting materials. He is unable to work the rest of the day and must take a few days off work to recover from what he learns is a disc injury. In his absence, the company has to pay overtime for another employee to cover his shifts.

Can this scenario be predicted and prevented for future employees?

Upon reviewing their workplace operations, the company discovers chemical operators are lifting 50-pound materials and dumping them an average of 400 times per shift. In addition, when observing the chemical operators during a routine inspection, the reports find most employees are lifting incorrectly. Instead of bending with their knees, operators are typically bending over and lifting with their back.

Using this data, the company modifies their work process to prevent similar incidents in the future. By adding shift rotations to limit how much chemical operators lift during a shift and training all operators to lift with their knees, the company reduces back injury incidents among chemical operators.

Big Data Tips for Increasing Workplace Safety

The chemical plant scenario is just one of many ways big data can be used to improve workplace safety. Fewer accidents means greater cost savings for your company and ultimately safer, happier employees. The following tips can help your company start to harness the power of big data to create a safer work environment for your employees.

  • Know your safety history. Analyze data collected in safety inspections, incident reports, workers’ compensation claims, and workplace safety technology your company uses.
  • Identify trends in the data to identify issues. Be on the lookout for recurring injuries, locations, or procedures that lead to injuries.
  • Modify your work environment and procedures based on these trends. Knowing a problem exists means nothing unless acted upon. Invest in making changes to increase workplace safety depending on the situation, whether environmental or procedural.
  • Introduce technology to improve your company’s safety record. Using software to assist in analyzing your safety history and identifying trends can optimize your company’s efficiency. As studies show, the return on investment for safety is well worth it.

 Looking to implement technology into your company’s safety procedures? Modjoul has you covered. Learn how Modjoul’s technology can help your company reduce workplace injuries and create a safer work environment for your employees.

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