Progress towards achieving zero safety incidents in asset-intensive industries has stalled, “and it’s time to kick-start it again.” according to a report from the management consulting firm of Accenture.
Improving workplace Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) performance has never been more vital, but data suggests it also has never been more difficult.
The catalyst for renewed progress will be the rapid, enterprise-wide penetration of digital technologies – mobile, cloud, social, automation, artificial intelligence (AI) – and more. “Used in combination in the right ways, these herald a new era of safety powered by analytics, taking EHS performance to a whole new level,” the report authors assert.
“In asset-intensive industries, good safety is good business,” Accenture stresses. Because digital technology supports both, digital now can help break through the EHS performance plateau.
The company believes performance plateau can be broken by applying analytics in combination with technologies ranging from AI to social platforms, and from mobile Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to drones, to reinvigorate EHS performance. The resulting advances, including enhanced predictive capabilities, enable companies to generate Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) reductions, Accenture says.
It adds that,“The enablers for this new focus include sustained and robust commitments from leadership, underpinned by an acknowledgement that safety is now a value lever in its own right – with any company’s TRIR performance scrutinized by stakeholders (investors, employees, suppliers, regulators), shaping the attitudes and actions of each group towards the business.”
Accenture says organizations need to identify key areas of operational risk that are impacting both EHS and operations performance. “This means moving away from an outdated ‘safety-versus-production’ mindset and recognizing that safety and operational performance are inherently linked.”
The consultants hold that the top five areas of technology for immediate investment are IoT/smart sensors, AI, blockchain, augmented/virtual reality, and robotics/automation. These can enhance EHS by leveraging the new digital landscape to access more data and implement analytics to progress from reactive to predictive models, they explain.
“This means pulling together higher volumes of data from the full range of available sources, and applying analytics to anticipate issues before they emerge – again generating clear benefits in terms of both operations and EHS.”
Historically, when asset-intensive businesses have allocated corporate IT dollars, the EHS function has often missed out because it had to compete against other functions that were capable of offering a more immediate, visible and compelling return on investment (ROI).
Only a high-profile critical incident would investment in EHS again, the report says. “The digitally-driven approach we’ve described puts an end to this reactive, knee-jerk response to EHS, and lays down the bedrock for ongoing improvements in EHS performance and ROI.”
A digitally-driven approach is said to achieve this by allowing EHS and other functions to collaborate to seek out mutually beneficial opportunities. All of these technologies and more represent the new wave that can help reach the ultimate goal of zero accidents, Accenture asserts.
It cites the example of safety implications that arise from equipping a frontline mobile worker with sensors, creating contact with experts, control rooms and over-the-shoulder coaching. IoT and AI also can provide workers with new, instantaneous insights about their surroundings.
Technology can foster improved collaboration in teams supported by a “social safety bridge” and enable improved collaboration with contractors via cloud solutions, Accenture says. “With these capabilities in place, the company can track people and assets in the facility; the control room will have real-time visibility for emergency mustering and safety/security; and dynamic barrier solutions will provide a (near-) real-time automated view of risks across operations, down to the equipment level.”
Automated observation of unsafe conditions and actions is possible with video analytics, which show workforce behaviors. The Accenture analysts offer an example. “Think also of how virtual reality (VR) technology can provide cost-effective and immersive learning experiences (i.e., by putting people at risk virtually so they can practice safety measures in a controlled environment). VR also can be used for EHS modelling and predictions.”
The mindset regarding safety-related investments must change, Accenture argues. This means breaking down traditional silos to creates more opportunity for investing jointly in digital technologies across and between different functions, to deliver more value back to the organization.