Americans now spend in excess of 24 hours a week online , and nearly two-thirds (62%) of American consumers own at least one Internet of Things (IoT) connected device (connected car, smart TV, fitness tracker, home control system or appliance, internet-enabled voice command, smart glasses, smart watch, VR headset, or wearable).

Technology helps us stay connected, manage our days, and more than ever before, track our health and fitness. Technology can also keep us connected and safe at the same time, which is why more and more organizations are embracing technology solutions to improve their safety culture and drive continuous improvement across their operations.

Safety professionals can’t be everywhere or prevent every incident, which is why the idea of the connected worker is front and center now. As technology solutions have matured and the cost of adoption has decreased, companies are identifying new ways to leverage technology. There are three areas that leading companies are now focusing their investments on to enhance safety performance: mobility, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and analytics.

Mobility is fundamental 

This is where it all started. Forward-thinking companies quickly realized they could leverage tablets and smartphones to change the way work was done and use this information, including metadata, to improve their safety performance and, by extension, their safety culture and operational excellence.

Today there are more than two billion smartphones and more than a billion tablets in use around the globe3,4, which makes the learning curve less steep as companies turn to these devices to make their workforce more efficient. These relatively inexpensive devices enable workers to connect to software applications to collect information in near real-time and then quickly take action.

These applications also enable companies to build in logic to provide workers with feedback or instructions if they identify an issue while out in the field. This type of feedback can reduce the risk of an incident occurring in the first place. Data being collected in the field can also be used for long-term trending to determine which programs are and aren’t working based on performance of leading and lagging indicators.

Mobile devices can be used for a myriad of day-to-day activities, including collecting inspection data, reporting near misses or incidents, taking pictures of safety issues on the shop floor, creating a corrective action, or conducting behavior-based surveys.

Leveraging mobile solutions is also a key element to building a strong safety culture. It makes it easier to ingrain your entire workforce in your safety processes and programs. This sense of ownership can lead to more positive outcomes. It’s one thing to tell your employees that your goal is zero injuries, it’s another thing to provide them with the tools and technology to help them act on this goal.

Leveraging IIoT to transform safety programs

From wearables to smart PPE, companies are leveraging technologies to collect data on the status of their infrastructure and how their employees are working. By analyzing this data in near real-time, EHS professionals quickly make changes to their programs to reduce the risk of injuries -- and more importantly eliminate potentially fatal incidents.

Since wearable devices have limited to no learning curve and require minimal or no training, user adoption rates should be higher in the short and long-term. This means more statistically relevant sample sizes for safety professionals to collect data from and analyze to determine how best to reduce the frequency of on the job injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

Safety professionals are utilizing this data to identify previously unknown safety risks and take proactive measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate these risks. In fact, government agencies are also leveraging this type of technology. In December 2018, OSHA began using drones for enforcement purposes in areas that are inaccessible or pose a safety risk to inspection personnel.

Technology advancements, adoption, and new analytical capabilities are helping to enhance safety culture across the globe. According to research conducted by TechNavio, the growth of smart PPE is expected to grow at 15% CAGR by 2021. Leading applications include smart glasses/goggles, smart badging, smart hard hats, and in-vehicle telemetry devices.

Today, smart PPE and connected devices are being used in conjunction with predictive analytics to help identify when employees are distracted or drowsy in real-time and alert supervisors and safety leaders so they can prevent injuries before they happen. These advancements are particularly useful for workers who are performing repetitive work or engaged in highly technical/skilled work that requires attention to detail.

Enhance your internal inspection and auditing programs  

Not all solutions have to be high-tech. Companies are also leveraging solutions like EHS management software to better manage their internal inspection and audit programs. What used to be done on paper and housed in filing cabinets or homegrown systems is being migrated to off-the-shelf solutions that provide more robust features and functionality, including analytics, centralization, and better visibility into what’s going on in the short and long-term.

For inspectors and auditors, the value of these programs lies in the availability of mobile apps that enable them to capture observations, findings and exemplary practices while they are in the field, rather than collecting this information on paper and inputting this information into a system when they get back to the hotel or office. Most of these solutions also come with out-of-the-box reporting tools that make it easier for auditors to manage key performance indicators, such as number of days to close findings, average number of findings per audit, and audits completed versus planned. 

Technology without analytics is a waste

Providing your employees with smart PPE, mobile devices, or other technology solutions is meaningless without the ability to analyze the data collected. Many off-the-shelf solutions provide robust business intelligence and analytical tools to help supervisors and executives make short and long-term decisions about their safety programs. This includes a What If Analysis, correlation analyses, long-term trending, and goal-tracking. A robust analytics program is a must for safety teams in the 21st century. 

Better safety drives a better bottom line

Your company’s safety performance has a direct impact on the bottom line performance of your company through lost productivity, medical costs, and fines and penalties from regulators.. Subpar safety performance also negatively impacts the overall safety culture of the company. As performance drops, the safety-first mindset drops, too.

Technology is opening new doors

Technology is changing the way companies manage every aspect of their operations, especially environmental, health and safety. We have more data than ever before, and it’s now coming from a host of new sources, including mobile devices, wearable technologies, and smart PPE, to name a few.

To improve program performance, reduce risk and drive continuous improvement, it’s critical that safety professionals leverage this data and move from reactive to proactive to strengthen safety culture, ensure operational success, and deliver long-term sustainable value to shareholders.