On April 28th of each year, the UN highlights the importance of Safety and Health at Work. For 2017 specifically, the UN pushes employers to focus on data collection. The World Day for Safety and Health at Work was established as a result of a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The plan has specific targets such as: ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all. Part of ensuring prosperity for all is outlined as the “protection of labour rights and promotion of safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.”
Identifying problem areas in safety data
In order to track the safety of these workers, countries report on frequency rates of fatal and non-fatal occupational injuries by sex and migrant status. One of the major barriers in implementing successful safety programs is education around how to elevate safety standards. Without a formal system in place to track where incidents occur, we can’t learn from past mistakes. A focus on data collection creates a dataset at a company and national level and provides the opportunity to learn at a high level where issues in safety are. For example, the Centre for Corporate Accountability in the UK published data findings that migrant workers are twice as likely to suffer fatalities on a construction site than a UK-born worker. Once we have this essential information, legislative bodies and organizations can begin discussions around how to improve workplaces for everyone.
The International Labour Organization cites the following barriers in reporting incidents:
- Complex reporting and notification procedures
- Varied reporting procedures across organizations
- Late reporting of injuries and diseases
- Reluctance to report immediately or use of private physicians
- Difference between what is compensable and what is recordable
- Discrepancy between recorded claims and compensation claims
An essential theme throughout the ILO’s data analysis is the need for preventative measures. At an organizational level, that means companies should work with governmental institutions on the prevention of incidents and serious injuries as well as the early detection and treatment of work-related diseases. Hazardous sectors like mining, construction and agriculture need to incorporate the prevention of occupational diseases directly into their health surveillance programs to keep it front of mind.
So what can you do at an organizational level to track, communicate and pull insights from your data? Work to remove each of the barriers listed in the bullet points just above.
Addressing complex and inconsistent reporting
Break down your safety reporting and notification system. Are there multiple channels through which someone can report an incident? If so, it may be confusing or chaotic for an employee. Do employees know exactly whom to notify and how if an incident occurs? Ensure that this information is timely as well. Digitize the collection of reports whenever possible to save time and have a digital copy to refer back to.
Companies often have different reporting procedures for different departments, which also makes it much more difficult to pull any useful information out of the data. This is why it’s so important to have executive buy-in on safety procedures. As a safety manager, share procedural successes and failures with the executive team. Then the entire organization can roll out a uniform reporting system.
From an organizational perspective, one of the most important ways to track data is to ensure that employees are not reprimanded in any way for reporting incidents. The point of incident reporting is to learn, not to make reporters a target. For reference, this organization uses safety audits and reporting to reward their employees, rather than look for “gotcha” moments.
If you’re not sure where to get started on identifying potential issues in your organization, use this 6-step guide as a reference for what questions you should be asking of your auditing data. See how your organization ranks in workplace safety with World Day for Safety and Health at Work quiz.
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