The impact of technology in health and safety has added a whole new depth to managing health and safety and new solutions providers have taken up the mantel when it comes to developing new tools and techniques for keeping workers safe.
Predictive analytics as a method has been around for many years and has been used in a variety of different industries to try and improve performance as time goes on. The increasing sophistication of techniques used means it is now able to be applied in a safety context in a much more methodical way.
At our HSE North American Congress, we were privileged enough to talk to Richard Hoffman on the use of predictive analytics and how it improves safety performance.
Predictive Analytics helps get the right information in the right hands
Predictive analytics has been used in a lot of industries and for many, its main purpose is to serve as a means of better understanding risk. The use of predictive analytics in safety is akin to Richard’s view that safety is, at its core risk management. This view was echoed by Ruth Denyer of ITV who have incorporated health and safety as a risk function.
“My whole goal for the cultural transformation of not only our company but our industry is the realization that the dirty little secret of safety is, it’s risk management.” (Richard Hoffman).
In our interview, Richard discussed the issues around health and safety and the use of predictive analytics. Richard felt the industry was in many ways ‘behind the curve’ on the use of predictive analytics. The main idea is to get health and safety to take up more technological practices.
Predictive Analytics must inform intelligence for front level safety personnel
One of the most common criticisms of data is that it is often collected and stored without informing any materials changes within an organisation. Richard stressed the need for integration with those at the worker level, in the field, the ones who are in harm’s way. They are, after all, the demographic whose behaviour health and safety is trying to influence.
“So with all this technology we’re giving it, it gives us access to a tremendous amount of information, what do we want to do with it? And that’s the discussions we have to have beforehand before we implement it before we write the first line of code before we even start thinking about an algorithm, what do we want to do with this?”
“We want to drive behaviour, we want to allow people to make safe decisions consistently. You mentioned engaging as well. It has to be something that the employees, the people in the field, the ones who are actually in harm’s way, the military term is downrange, the people who are downrange, do they see the benefit of it? Because sometimes we’re going to ask them some questions, we might have to ask them to wear things, or us an app or interface with some piece of equipment that’s not part of what they’re paid to do.” (Richard Hoffman)
A joint approach is often needed to implement predictive analytics
The health and safety departments of many businesses, even major corporations, are often overstretched in terms of time and resources. This is one of the reasons why the adoption of predictive analytics may have slowed down in many industries.
“I’m not a data analyst, I’m not a data expert, I’ve got a smattering of math in my background and that’s about it. But internally we have a technology team and our chief technology officer has been supporting me in these efforts and it’s going to be a joint venture going forward. But you’re right, this isn’t something we can do organically in-house, we just don’t have the bandwidth, we don’t have the proper levels of expertise in the right area.”
“So some of this data work, some of this project we’re definitely going to need help with from the outside. We feel that we’re the experts in what data is important. If you want to think of it as pure weighting the data like we know that these KPIs, these metrics drive behaviour in the field, so we have to weight those a little heavier but it’s all the rest of it.”
“It’s writing the algorithm, it’s coming up with the processes, it’s the alerts, it’s the technology behind it, that’s where we definitely need the help.”
Predictive analytics is here to stay in health and safety
As Richard articulated, predictive analytics as a discipline has several potential applications in health and safety and has been shown to provide insightful data which can be used for the further development of systems to keep people safe. The field is very complex, with different predictive analytical models available for different purposes.