Minimizing serious contractor injuries with analytics (Includes interview)

Injuries at work occur and those relating to construction tend to occur more regularly. Among the most common injuries include falls from height (such as falling from a ladder or tumbling down scaffolding); falling objects (such as items dropped from above); and tripping hazards. Many contractors are drawn from the construction sector. However, there are other types of contractors who are also at risk, such as delivery drivers and those working on capital projects.

It is possible to reduce injuries and fatalities through the use of analytics, says Dag Yemenu, Executive Vice President at ISN. Digital Journal spoke with Yemenu in order to gain an understanding as to how this might work in practice.

Digital Journal: What are the levels of injuries and fatalities in construction? What are the main causes?

Dag Yemenu: An annual report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that fatal workplace accidents are holding steady across the construction industry. In the last year there were 1,008 deaths in the private sector of construction, compared with 971 deaths in 2017. Also of note was the fact that over 20 percent of the victims of fatal incidents were contracted workers. With the stream of contracted and temporary workers ebbing and flowing across construction projects, companies need to implement effective and data-driven solutions to slow the rate of fatal accidents on work sites and protect contracted and full-time employees alike. In capital intensive industries with high-risk work environments, like construction or manufacturing, a primary cause of serious injuries and fatalities can be the result of events such as contact with machinery or other equipment impacting the lower and upper extremities.

DJ: With these levels showing no signs of slowing down, what can employers do to better understand the incidents occurring and craft solutions to better protect their employees?

Yemenu: Taking a step back to examine the precursors and causes of incidents can help companies identify the root causes of serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) in the workplace is the first step toward taking action to mitigate them. By transitioning risk management and contractor management to digital platforms, rather than spreadsheets or pen and paper, construction companies can collect relevant data, identify trends in SIFs and work across the management level to eliminate preventable SIFs. With further analysis, companies can pinpoint specific activities or equipment that are putting their employees in harm’s way and mitigate risks to employees and third-party contractors involved in work activities. Data can be an immense help for identifying trends and for developing predictive models. Following the identification stage, companies can then determine if additional controls and training is required for full time employees and contractors.

DJ: Over 20 percent of the victims of fatal incidents were contracted workers, where is the disconnect between full time and contracted employees when it comes to employee health and safety?

Yemenu:Hiring third-party contractors comes with more variables for employers than full time employees — especially when it comes to the safety of specific worksites. Full time employees usually undergo onboarding at the start of their time at the company, continuous training and recertification and transparent communication from their management. Contractors, on the other hand, are hired and engaged for shorter time frames to best meet the needs of a specific project. Using a purpose built contractor management platform can help companies connect with contractors in a more organized and efficient manner. These systems can house business tools like training records and certifications and facilitate communication in a way that is easy to track and maintain. By bridging the gap between contracted and full-time employees, employers can identify gaps in their onboarding and site management processes for increased visibility into potential risks.

DJ: What do employers risk if they don’t strive to improve incident rates?

Yemenu:Safety should be top of mind for leaders of any organization, but in high-risk industries like construction, the risk of not prioritizing safety can be detrimental to an organization’s success. By failing to improve safety and health performance rates, employers risk significant financial, legal and reputational consequences in addition to the loss of workers and reduced productivity. Conversations and commitment around safety and risk management should be elevated to these higher-level stakeholders to improve overall business outcomes.

Corporate-level executives should also be collaborating with others in the same industry to establish safety performance benchmarks and work together to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses, including SIFs. Taking these additional steps to improve employee health and safety outcomes will require financial and time investments from the C-suite and board members, but making safety an essential value will help improve profitability, minimize resources devoted to liability and increase employee and contractor attraction and retention.

DJ: Analytics tools are on the rise when it comes to assessing and mitigating risk, what options are out there for companies to use to improve safety?

Yemenu:Depending on the size of the company, there are various analytics tools available to help analyze relevant data and minimize risk related to SIFs. In the construction space, companies are usually accustomed to the high-risk work environment and have sophisticated employee health and safety standards in place. For these companies, having a tool that analyzes safety performance data, incident data and field observation data, among others, will help lead to the greatest insights for reducing and eliminating incident rates. Tableau, an interactive data visualization software, is becoming more popular for this usage. Another option is Power BI from Microsoft which is typically a better fit for larger and more sophisticated organizations.

For contractor companies, it can be a bit more difficult to track and assess risk because the majority of these organizations are small to medium sized. However, for contractor companies who operate in high-risk industries like construction, purpose-built contractor management platforms can be very helpful. Contractor organizations can access aggregate data for a company or industry to see dashboards and benchmarking data in a more digestible and useful way.

DJ: How can analytics help companies build predictive models to better understand the events related to serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs)?

Yemenu:Accurate and well-analyzed data collection — including safety and health data from contractor companies providing services to a client organization — should be the foundation for addressing and eliminating serious injuries and fatalities. With clean and timely data, companies can identify specific activities or processes that are harming or exposing their workers to risks, rather than trial and error testing of solutions. Once companies understand problem areas and factors correlated to incidents, it will be easier to generate predictive models to better prevent future injuries and fatalities and subsequently establish an actionable path forward. For instance, companies can better identify the types of internal processes, activities or machinery causing actual or potential incidents through advanced analytics methods and, using the data-driven insights, controls and investments can be directed to mitigate the risks proactively.

DJ: What is special about your platform and how does it differ to others in the market?

Yemenu:ISN is the global leader in contractor and supplier information management. Our platform, ISNetworld, includes data-driven products and services that help companies manage risk and strengthen relationships. By using ISN, hiring organizations gain access to health, safety and quality documents; insurance and procurement tools; audit and evaluation resources and reporting and analysis tools. ISN’s expansive network of hiring clients and contractors across the globe allows the company to advise on industry benchmarks and help their customers improve workplace safety.

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