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Safety is more than data – Make the data useful!

As a safety expert, you always want to improve safety within your organisation. For example, to reduce the number of calamities or incidents on the work floor. To improve safety, you will first have to find out why these incidents have occurred. How do you find out the cause? By analysing all kinds of collected data. However, interpreting this data is a specialism, so it is not always done correctly. What does it say, how do you put it in the proper context, and what can or should you do with it?

As a safety expert, you implement measures and protocols to make your organisation safer for everyone. You can perform analyses to determine whether the measures and protocols you have implemented are also yielding improvements. One of the most apparent analyses is to compare the data with previous years. For example, has the number of reports increased or have the incidents increased in number? These analyses lead to all kinds of results, almost always translated into data. But what does this data tell us exactly?

 

Data is ‘only’ data

Suppose your organisation had 200 more reports this year than the year before. You might conclude that this is bad because more (near) incidents have taken place. Or is that not the case? Perhaps more employees have realised the importance of safety so that reports are made more quickly (and therefore more). In that case, you could say that an increase in the number of reports is good since you now have a better picture of what is happening on the shop floor. From the result ‘200 reports more than last year’, you cannot draw any reasonable conclusions without a context. It is crucial to find out why this figure has risen. This is nothing new. Looking critically at accident figures, among other things, has been of great importance for years.

So there is little we can do without context. In an organisation with 1,000 employees, a figure of 200 reports per year may not be much, but in a small organisation of 15 employees, it can provide plenty of food for thought. But even that doesn’t say everything. The sector in which you operate as an organisation is at least as important. For example, in the construction industry, you generally have a greater chance of a (serious) work-related accident than in an average office. Only by adding context you, as a professional, can interpret the figures correctly, or at least better. And that is necessary to be able to take the suitable measures to reduce the number of accidents at work, which unfortunately continues to rise every year.

 

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To be able to interpret this collected data correctly, you need to know where it comes from and what you can do with it. For example, what factors have been influential? Are these factors of major or minor importance? Are they all included in the analysis? Do you speak of causal connections or coincidence? Many more questions should be asked when analysing data related to safety.

If you skip the above questions or do not answer them concretely, you can draw harsh conclusions that are not always (completely) correct. It is good always to ask yourself whether a number really says something about safety or whether it is ‘just’ a number. This does not mean that data is not important; on the contrary. The data from the analyses are the basis for drawing conclusions, provided you know how to deal with them.

 

Make results visual

A solution for this is to make your results visual, for example, by using dashboards and reports, which link your organisation’s data to the right factors and display them clearly. Reports are important for recognising patterns, drawing conclusions and responding to trends within your organisation. You can do this by adding formulas and graphs to long Excel lists, but you can also choose to link these reports directly to the reports made by employees. For example, in our quality management software, data from incident reports is stored directly and converted into visual reports, making interpretation a lot easier.

A good example is that of the LUMC security team. They have set up reports in Zenya according to their own conditions. As a result, when employees open Zenya now, they are immediately shown a dashboard containing reports at various levels to see at a glance what is going on on the shop floor.

Using software makes it easier to make connections, analyse the data correctly, and initiate the necessary follow-up actions, but it also saves you much time. You don’t have to enter and compare all information manually. This leaves you more time to actually increase security. You can now spend this time starting improvement actions or increasing involvement within your organisation. In addition, the chance that something is adopted or entered incorrectly is suddenly a lot smaller, which is also not entirely unimportant.

 

Safety is more than numbers

It will always be challenging to interpret and analyse all data that you keep correctly. As long as you keep in mind that safety is more than just the data you get to see. Besides the fact that the interpretation must be done correctly to act on it, there are, of course, more factors to consider. Think, for instance, of the measures that are taken after the analyses or how much importance safety has for your employees.

Do you sometimes find it challenging to perform your analyses correctly, or would you rather spend that time on something else? Or are you curious about the advantages of automatic dashboards and reports for your organisation? Then contact our experts. They will be happy to discuss this with you!

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