Why Data-Driven Safety Decisions Improve Your Programs

The decisions you make significantly affect the safety programs you create. That’s why you need a reliable basis when making these decisions.

Data is a very reliable basis that you can use. Let’s talk about the reasons why.

Data Focuses Your Efforts

Sometimes, you focus your safety programs based on recent events or actions that have happened. For example, an issue that comes up in one department only, a fluke accident, or a complaint from a manager. And, most of the time, the management team might push you to focus on these incidents because of they think they’re important.

Although these incidents are important to address in our safety programs, these can divert your attention to other incidents which are more frequent.

You see, if an incident is very frequent this means that there is something wrong in the work process. And if not addressed properly, then it can lead to more severe issues in the future.

Data contains numbers that will tell you the contributing factors that lead to these incidents. Thus, these numbers will guide you in making safety programs more effective. And this will result in a larger impact which reduces the incidents and claims costs. Data also saves you time because your efforts have a proper basis instead of just basing it on a recent incident.

Data Gives Important Correlations

As previously stated, collected data can effectively tell the contributing factors to certain incidents. For example, the work orders can tell you which department is more exposed to certain risks. Or training data can tell you which supervisors take coaching and training seriously based on the number of accidents or incidents that happen under their care.

However, those previously mentioned indicators such as training, work orders, and reports are the obvious ones. And it can be quite a challenge to find other indicators.

To find leading indicators, you’ll need to be more creative. For example, the inventory of your first aid kit can tell you if there has been an increase in people that have had minor incidents. Or, you can look at data from human resources to check for reports and disciplinary actions regarding safety. There might be other data collection points that you can use, so you’ll need to be observant, creative, and patient.

Data Provides Solid Justification

Management support is important in making your safety programs succeed. And data can help you provide solid justifications for them to support you. Once they see that the data, you’re providing are actual numbers, they’ll be convinced. They can even provide you with insights once you get into a discussion.

This will also help you in situations where a co-worker reports you because they feel like you’re showing favoritism or discrimination. You can just show them the data and it will be almost self-explanatory.

Take Action

So, it’s time to take a data-driven approach to your work. Stop allowing whatever falls on your desk to determine your actions. Instead, let the data tell you what to do.

The problem that most safety managers face when they try this approach is understanding what data to collect and how to trend that data. We aren’t statistics experts, right?

That’s why I’m putting together a 3-Day live class on Safety Analytics. I will show you exactly how to create a trend analysis system. One that you can DIY with excel and Microsoft products. It is what I have been using for years to get double-digit reductions in my safety programs.

Registration for this live class is not open at the time of this recording, however, you can sign up for the Safety Geek newsletter and you will be notified when you can enroll. The dates will be around the end of January. Go to Thesafetygeek.com/newsletter to get on the list.

And in the meantime, start thinking about the different data points in your work. And how you can start tracking them.

Why You Need to Implement A Data-Driven Safety Program

[00:00:00] When you approach your work, what is driving your decisions? Is it the latest accidents or maybe fear of a fine or a regulator walking in the front door? Maybe it's whatever your boss is bugging you about, or a pet peeve that you happen to have. My real question is how do you know that what you're working on is the best thing for you to be working on

right now? Let's talk about it.

Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year Safety Professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again, I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you. At The Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your

[00:01:00] management support, and employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place. Let's get to it.

Hello. Hello. Hello, my safety friend and Happy New Year. Oh my god! I cannot tell you how excited I am right now. You know how much I love New Year's. Of course, if you've been following me for a while, then you know that I love the beginning of anything. New Years, new months, new quarters, new weeks. Yes, I am a Monday's nerd, and even new adventures.

I just kind of feel like when you're at the beginning of something, it's a fresh start and I love to see everything as like a new beginning as like a journey. So I get so excited about where, you know, the

[00:02:00] journey can take us and all the possibilities and the challenges ahead, and especially this year because I am in a huge transition in my life.

Both of my children are now adults. One is actually away at college. I mean, right now, today she's at home on winter break, but most of the time she's away at college and she's even thinking about getting her own apartment in the next year or two. And the other one is on the verge of moving out, like I could see in the next year him moving out.

So I know that like a one year from now, my life is going to look very, very different. So I'm super excited to kind of just ride this wave, see what this journey is about, and then see how I come out at the other end. So what about you? What are you excited about for the new year? I would love to know.

[00:03:00] Okay, enough about the new year. So let's get on to our topic for this week and for the next couple weeks, which what I wanna talk about is data driven safety programs. Now, if you don't know it, I am a huge numbers nerd as well as a high achiever. So I like to get things done, and I like to be able to show off my results and prove that I got stuff done.

This is where collecting and analyzing data comes into play. Now, in safety, when you have a very high incident rate, it's very easy to demonstrate that the work you're doing is actually getting results because your claims numbers would come down. However, if you're doing this the right way, if you're following the systems and processes that I teach in Safety Management Academy, then you know that getting those high instant rate numbers down to about industry standard is relatively quick and easy

[00:04:00] once you just start applying the processes. So when you start getting into that low incident rate, so where you're at like below industry standard, especially once you get to like the really low numbers, like two, like a TCIR of two or below. It gets really hard to demonstrate that what you're doing is working because accidents are few and far between.

But even more importantly, it's very hard to identify that the work you're doing is not a waste of your time. So what I have found a lot of times is that I'll put lots of systems in place when really I only needed two, and the data actually will tell me that I'm doing that. And then here's another thing is that every year you or your company, you likely set goals, right?

Like, Hey, we want this goal or that goal. We wanna get this done, right? But what are you basing those goals off of?

[00:05:00] You know, are they coming from like claims in general? Are they maybe like a type of claim? Like, Hey, we wanna reduce strains and sprains. Other than claims data, how do you know what your problem areas are?

This is where having a data-driven safety program is essential. When you allow the numbers to actually be the determining factor and not just your goals, but your actions. What will happen is you will actually get bigger results in your program. Now, there is a fact that every person in safety needs to understand is

that usually when you have an increased frequency in something, you will see an increased severity in those results and that something could be positive, it could be negative, right? So if we see an increased number of people lifting improperly, we are likely gonna see the severity of

[00:06:00] our strains and sprains increase. And this is where a risk matrix comes into play as well, right? It's like, you have this frequency, and if it happens too often, you're going to get this severity, and those are the things you need to focus on. Instead of just looking at the frequency of accidents, which is what I see a lot of people do, is they'll just look at their claims data and say, okay, we had five strains and sprains last year.

We had three lacerations. We had seven car accident. Instead of just looking at accident data, what you should be looking at is a frequency of all of your data and what is all of that data telling you? Because if you're just looking at claims data, yes, that is reactive and that will tell you something, but just claims data is kind of like a bubble. It's just showing you the severity of what's happened, not actually what led to those

[00:07:00] accident. And it goes back to what that Heinrichs Triangle where, you know, you have, and I know people argue about the numbers, but I think his thing was like 600 unsafe conditions, you know, leads to eventually at the top of the triangle to one fatality or severe accident, right?

So it's looking at all of those underlying causes and the frequency that they're happening. That will help you get better results because you're letting those grab your attention as opposed to whatever fire just happens to be walking in your office that day. And there is so much data in safety management and sadly, a lot of it isn't collected.

Or if it is collected, it's not necessarily examined thoroughly. I'm talking about, you know, obviously there's like claims data and incident data, but there's like hazards that are getting reported. There's work orders or maintenance repairs, there's behaviors,

[00:08:00] coaching, observations, if you do them in assessments or audits, if you do them. There's turnover of employees, there's quality of the product, there's efficiency, there's productivity, and the number of widgets that are actually being delivered, right? There's training and then understanding of the training. There's peer-to-peer coaching and recognition. Disciplinary action can be a data point.

PPE usage first aid kit usage is a data point. How often are you having to fill that bandaid box or fill in the ibuprofen or the Tylenol? And these are just a few. And not only is that data just sitting there, but if you examine that data and then you compare it to your injuries and incidents, It can start to show you a correlation. And when you know that if such and such

[00:09:00] behavior will result in X number of dollars for incidents, it changes everything, you know, or when you make product 7, 3, 4, 5, it increases our injury rates or when the work orders in the maintenance department increase, so do our risky behaviors. And it allows you to make the better decisions on what to work on.

Now, your goals and your weekly focus should be determined by your data and not necessarily pulled out of thin air or in many cases, whatever's in our inbox. And when you follow the data and you actually do what the data is telling you to do, it stops you from wasting your time. Maybe you have programs in place that just aren't getting you the results you need.

Yeah, they're great to have, but they don't result in anything. It eliminates discrimination and favoritism. So when you're listening to your

[00:10:00] data, you can actually prove like, no, I'm not favoring one employee's complaint over another. I'm not favoring one supervisor over another. I remember I used to get complaints to the HR department.

That I was picking on a supervisor and I was able to show my data and say, no, this is why, because his department has the worst numbers when it comes to this behavior. So I'm focusing on him to make sure that we get some improvement in that department. So it eliminates that whole discrimination or any issues with HR.

And then in the end, you get bigger results. Because focusing on what the data is telling you to focus on gives you a bigger impact overall because data is showing you frequency. And remember, high frequency, high severity, you know, or low frequency, high severity, right? So like in my case, my supervisor, he was

[00:11:00] not coaching, it was not training, he was not doing anything. His severity rate was really high. So the chance that the bad thing is gonna happen, the data is gonna show you that, and then when you improve the data numbers, you also reduce the incident rate as well. So yeah, of course, as safety managers, we need to make sure that we are paying attention to regulatory programs and laws and all of that compliance stuff.

We have to make sure that inspections get done, training is done, that we're managing claims, but what your data is screaming at you, is so much more important. So if you actually prioritize what the data's telling you to do first and then move on to the day-to-day, you will see better results overall because you're reducing that frequency, which will reduce the severity. And remember,

[00:12:00] it is your job to stop accidents from happening. But if you don't have the data to show you all the little nuances that led up to that accident. You will likely be spending a lot of time managing claims and not stopping the claims from happening. So I bet that if right now you look at your last five incidents and you examine all the data that you can get your hands on leading up to them, you will likely find some indicators that would've told you.

That this type of accident was about to happen. So if I'm focusing on strains and sprains, I might have seen that prior to the last strain and sprain accident, I had a lot of improper lifting going on within my facility. Maybe it had been a while since there was training. Maybe this was a poor habit of my employees.

[00:13:00] I likely had supervisors that weren't even paying attention or doing anything about the training. They weren't necessarily enforcing the programs that I had put in place if I even had them in place. Maybe productivity sped up right before the accident or in the period before the accident causing more product to be lifted.

Depending upon your operation. Maybe there was a suggestion or two in the employee suggestion box or told to a supervisor that didn't necessarily. , get the ears of the right person. Or maybe I'm thinking now, cuz it's January, like the flu was going around or a cold and your staff in general was very unhealthy.

That's a data point too. Cause people are not at their healthiest, they're more susceptible to injury. Maybe overall looking at your employees, they weren't healthy. All of these are data

[00:14:00] points. And when you look at them together, instead of just in a bubble like we do with claims, look at them all together.

You may have had a story that you could have been looking at saying, Hey, a lifting injury was about to happen. Giving you time to focus on preventing it from happening, giving you time to educate on proper lifting, giving you time to put controls in place. And you may have saved someone pain, and the company acclaims bill, this is where data comes into play because you have to be looking at it regularly, and then you have to be taking action on that data.

There's nothing worse than actually having the data. And then during an accident investigation, you see all of these warning signs that were ignored because nobody is regularly collecting or examining the data. And yeah. You know, putting

[00:15:00] in an education process or focus on lifting might not have prevented it from happening, but you definitely would've reduced the frequency of the improper lifting.

You definitely would've increased the attention to proper lifting. You would've made sure that there were some controls in place. The likelihood of it not happening is higher. This is where data comes into play. So it's time to start taking a data-driven approach to your work. Stop allowing whatever happens to fall in your inbox or on your desk, or what somebody calls you about to determine your actions and instead let the data tell you what to do.

The problem that most safety managers face with this approach though, is an understanding of what data to collect. I can't tell you how many times I get that question. What leading indicator should I be

[00:16:00] tracking? I just say all of them and how to actually trend that data to tell you that story because we're not statistics experts, right?

And I'm not a statistics expert, but I've developed a system over the years that's pretty simple. And that's why I'm putting together a three day live class on safety analytics, and I will show you exactly how to create a trend analysis system. One that you can DIY with Excel and all the little Microsoft products.

Because my entire career I've had to DIY my safety program. I was never given the advantage of having those fancy software programs that spit out my analytics for me. But even with this D I Y approach, I have used it over and over again to get double digit reductions in my safety programs at multiple locations. Now, registration for this live class is not open right now. At the time of this

[00:17:00] recording, if you're listening to this late, it might be open. Who knows? However, What I can suggest for you is that if you get on my newsletter list, you will be the first notified when the enrollment opens. The days will be around the end of January, I think I have it set for the last week of January.

It's three days, two hours a day. By the end of it, you'll walk away with a trend analysis system. So just go to thesafetygeek.com/newsletter to get on the list and in the meantime, What I want you to do is start thinking about the different data points within your work. What can you be collecting data on or getting data from?

Sometimes you might have to get it from HR or from your production department, your manufacturing department, your transportation department, whatever you have at your location. Sometimes you have to get it from other departments, and sometimes you have to collect it yourself. So start thinking about how you can collect data points.

[00:18:00] And how you can start tracking them. And we're gonna talk more about data in the upcoming episodes. So until then, I will see you later. Bye for now.

Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock, then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support and

employee participation throughout your processes. Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that Safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellows Safety Scholars over at Safety Management Academy. Just go to thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started.

[00:19:00] That's thesafetygeek.com/sma and I will see you in our next students only live session. Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Having a Data-Driven Safety Program is Essential
  • How to Get Bigger Results Using Your Collected Data
  • What Data in Safety Management You Can Use to Improve Your Safety Programs
  • You Can Make Better Decisions Using Your Data About What to Work on
  • You Goals or Weekly Focus is Determined by Your Data


In summary, data-driven decisions are important in making your safety programs succeed. And if you’re struggling in collecting data or taking action based on the collected data, then make sure to join my intensive 3-day training when it opens.

Spread this good news with your safety BFFs so you can learn together how to improve your safety programs using data.

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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