Digitization in managing Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) is gathering full momentum as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) drives health and safety professionals to seek new technology solutions to cost-effectively tackle new risks.
Using innovative digital technologies has become a priority for EHS managers and executives alike. Verdantix runs an annual global survey of senior EHS professionals across the globe to assess their budgets and priorities titled “Global EHS Leaders’ Survey: Budgets, Priorities and Tech Preferences”. I will be highlighting some of the findings from this report in this article.
EHS is not separate from business processes but integrated with it. The move toward more integrated risk management is demonstrated in new and revised ISO standards for regulatory compliance – such as ISO 45002 – which call for more data from all of the moving parts that make up an organization. While compliance is a basic requirement to ensuring health and safety of workers and workplaces, it can no longer be viewed in isolation, but rather as part of a greater risk management strategy.
Forward-thinking firms focus on implementing a proactive risk management strategy. Data from assets, maintenance, workers and incidents is integrated with both safety management workflow and risk analytics to give a holistic view of the business’s risk landscape. This not only reduces the financial burden on firms in the form of fines and penalties but also improves overall safety and operational performance, with ensuring compliance.
There is increasing pressure for organizations to practice transparency and accountability, especially in their supply chains. Businesses are now considering and managing their broader impacts.
Reputation damage is a much larger concern. With the rise of social media and access to information through the Internet, organizations are more accountable than ever to external stakeholders.
Priorities for EHS managers in promoting safety excellence are:
Challenges faced by EHS managers globally include insufficient EHS operational budgets to fund technology investments, as well as a lack of expertise and information on innovative EHS technologies. A lack of budget is consistently identified as a barrier among the 382 EHS decision-makers we spoke to. Nearly 80% of respondents consider that the most important funding challenge is a lack of EHS operational budget for technology investments.
Adding to this problem is that close to 70% of respondents mentioned a lack of technological expertise in the EHS team – coupled with a lack of information on the various technologies themselves – is a big barrier in getting full value from the technology.
Workers carrying out the day-to-day activities are the ones most exposed to H&S risks but also they are the ones who are best placed to report any hazards or unsafe observations. So it is extremely important to engage these edge workers. Encouraging participation from frontline workers is also challenging, as is ensuring high-quality data is being entered into the system.
The use of legacy systems is challenging for EHS managers. There is an increase in voluntary reporting, which means the volume of data being captured is high. However, the biggest challenge is in ensuring the data captured is consistent and of good quality. There is plenty of evidence that data that goes into these reports is suppressed or simply incomplete.
For example, auditors found that up to 96% of the incidents reported at Canberra Hospital in Australia were incomplete and missing information on investigations conducted and actions undertaken, while the information on 75% of the incidents was unclear and inadequate.
Finally, the majority of firms still use legacy systems such as spreadsheet or paper-based systems. 60% of respondents do not use any commercial software for safety and risk management. These legacy systems are often not designed to meet the evolving needs of EHS, nor do they embrace the technologies now available to EHS managers.
The EHS market will grow to $1.7 billion in 2022 at a CAGR of 9.3%. Very high risk industries are the biggest spenders on EHS software, oil and gas leading at 338 million followed by Chemicals at 127 million then mining and metals at 93 million.
North America and Europe account for 77% of the global spend of EHS software in 2018.
Connection into the industrial internet of things will enable new value propositions in EHS software vendors.
Protective clothing with digital sensors and mobile apps for incident, audit and safety observations will be adopted most widely in 2018.
Between 15 and 17 % of respondents indicated that software for safety and incident management will attract the most spend of any EHS software module in 2018. Configurability, integration and connection into the industrial IOT will enable new value propositions for EHS software vendors.
Industry 4.0 implies safety leaders need to adopt a technology leadership perspective.
Improving worker safety and operational performance are the biggest growth opportunities in 2018. EHS leaders are presented with an increasing range of technologies designed to support their initiatives, and as such, technology is the top priority in the 2018 spending plan of EHS decision makers.
With so much technology available to EHS managers, it can be difficult to determine what technologies to invest in. It is very important to create a roadmap for EHS technologies, this will help you identify which technologies your organization will benefit from most in the short and long term. Configurability, integration and user interface top the list of evaluation criteria for EHS software.
It is an exciting time be a health and safety professional. The smorgasbord of technology includes: team-centric mobile safety apps, virtual reality safety training, drones for infrastructure and site inspections, digital safety vests for the workforce, and vehicle safety monitoring. Innovation through digital technology allows EHS managers to manage risks, improve safety and increase operational performance better than ever before. All you need to do is chose the technologies best suited to driving you forward.