ISHN asked Natasha Porter, Chief Customer Officer of Benchmark Gensuite, some questions related to current issues concerned safety professionals. Porter has over 25 years of global experience and leadership in the EHS and the digital solution field, with roles as an EHS Compliance Assurance Manager, Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Program Manager and EVP. 

Where do you see companies failing workers when it comes to EHS issues?

While the rate of minor injuries has been going down for the past several years, significant injuries remain common. It’s clear companies are struggling to operationalize their very public EHS commitments. 

The biggest challenge companies face is fostering a culture of safety where employees are actively engaged in an EHS program. This should go beyond simply complying with safety protocols. Engaged employees are empowered to take ownership of the entire organization's safety. Whereas most companies only have one dedicated person to manage EHS, companies with a culture of safety have every single worker striving to reduce injuries. By engaging workers and providing opportunities for them to provide feedback on risks and safety measures, a culture of safety can be created.

Companies also struggle to process large volumes of EHS information and are typically working with siloed data in disparate systems. Without the ability to process data quickly and correctly, EHS teams will fail to understand where to focus their time and effort. EHS issues are dynamic, and without a constant pulse on how an organization is operating, processes won’t improve.

How can new technologies help?

Technology helps close the gap in achieving active employee engagement and cultivating a strong safety culture. It can empower employees to be active participants in an organization’s journey to zero injuries. 

The challenge for large companies when it comes to employee safety is the size of their workforce. It’s nearly impossible for a few leaders to engage each worker, build a culture of safety and reduce injuries at scale. Technology gives leaders quick access to their workforce by enabling user-friendly incident reporting, task management and accountability, training and awareness programs, mobile accessibility, and collaboration and communication. 

Tech such as mobile, analytics, computer vision, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), wearables and more can drive major efficiencies. Front-line workers can use smart phones and tablets to report workplace incidents, saving time on reports and providing information in real time. Real-time reporting can help improve the feedback loop and consolidate data. Combining mobile reporting with wearables like smart helmets and vests can give leadership the ability to discern patterns and general trends in their workforce. Lastly, IoT allows for sensors, software and machinery to be integrated on the front-line, creating more accuracy and visibility. 

How does AI integrate into the workplace health and safety industry?

AI can help teams uncover deeper operational insights for worker protection and identify emerging health and regulatory risks. AI-powered platforms can automatically flag potentially serious incidents to provide clear, actionable insights for increased health and safety.

A key integration for AI in EHS is its ability to digest the massive amounts of data that exist in siloed and disparate systems. AI can continuously monitor incoming data streams to learn and create predictive intelligence that can help teams improve safety before an injury occurs. 

Computer vision AI also delivers a holistic, real-time view of operational activities and risks on the shop floor. Teams can leverage cameras and other devices to identify and alert on-site employees to safety hazards and risks during day-to-day operations — preventing injuries and ensuring compliance.

What sorts of analytics and compliance tracking data are available and how do they benefit both employers and employees? 

Comprehensive data collection and performance analytics provide big-picture insights into trends, underlying causes and risk factors that keep employees safe and minimize fines and violations for employers.

Incident analytics data can pinpoint specific areas for improvement, whether it be equipment maintenance, safety training or faulty workflow processes. Compliance data is crucial for adhering to changing regulations. Compliance tracking data comes down to compiling all data in one comprehensive solution. It can be difficult to stay compliant when data and reports exist across different systems and platforms.

Why do you think improving mental health of employees affects the workplace injury rate and safety overall? Can you discuss specific examples?

Physical health is only one piece of the puzzle. An organization that prioritizes total worker health, which includes mental health, is bound to have strong employee retention. Seasoned employees typically experience less injuries due to their experience. 

Plus, strong total worker health leads to stronger employees in general. Consider a team working in high-risk situations: healthy individuals are engaged and equipped to work, minimizing the risk of accidents. Employees who are more alert, vigilant and healthy not only can reduce the worker injury rate, but also underscore a culture of safety.