Trending the Safety Data Makes You a Better Safety Manager
Contrary to what others might expect, being a safety manager is an emotional job. Because, it involves dealing with emergencies, colleague demands, and issues. Due to this, we might get sidetracked and lose sight of aspects of the job and what should we focus on.
But, trending the data can help you remove the emotions when making decisions on what work to prioritize. Let’s talk about it.
Safety Data Helps You Set and Justify Work Priorities
As we’ve previously said, there are many possible things that can affect your day-to-day tasks as a safety manager. The life of a safety manager can be chaotic, especially when everything seems important, and you don’t know what to prioritize. So having a solid system to prioritize is a lifesaver, and your safety data can help you identify those things.
But, the one that stands out the most is the demands coming from your colleagues, especially if the demand is coming from the management team. In fact, if you look back on those things that you’ve worked on for the past year, you might be surprised by the massive amount of time and effort that you’ve given to tasks that are not your priority. Rather, tasks that are the priorities of others.
Now, without the collected data and the trend that you’ve analyzed, justifying why you’re not working on the demands of others will be difficult. And because you lack proper justification, most of the time, you’ll end up giving in and working on those demands. But, if you have data, justifying the reason why you stop working on everything and start working on the right things will become easy.
Safety Data Gives You Better Results
Trending the data, you’ve collected will give you a clear picture of what’s really happening inside the company. That is because trends can show you what bad habits are the most prevalent in your workplace. But not only that, if the collected data is enough, it can also point out significant correlations with other data which can help you identify significant points of improvement that will give better results. This is why you need to implement safety programs driven by data that can help you make better decisions.
Now the key for this to be successful is, first, you need to have enough collected data. And, second is having enough retention time for data, to produce meaningful trends. Now, what I’ve learned from experience is that, when you’re just starting out on your programs, retaining data for five years is a good starting point. Then, gradually shorten it as you’re making progress, to ensure that you’re still getting meaningful data and trends.
Safety Data Prevents Accusations
When you don’t have sufficient trends to base your programs on, you might not notice that you’re making decisions based on your own preferences. And that can cause problems because your coworkers can file legal complaints against you for discrimination. That person might personally feel attacked because you’re always calling them out, making them do training, or giving them constant reminders about safety.
But, if you have sufficient data with trends, you can easily justify that this person you’re always calling out falls short of what is expected. That the training and reminder that you’ve given are just warranted. That it’s not due to discrimination. Instead, you can easily point out that you’re doing that simply because the trends show that the complaining worker has the worst performance.
Start thinking of your job as a numbers game with a goal of improving the numbers, not just claim numbers, but all data numbers.
And if you don’t know what data to collect, how to collect it, and how to turn it into useful information to take action on. Or if the match scared the bejesus out of you, you need to check out the Safety Analytics Intensive.
I will make data analysis an easy button for you.
Using Safety Data To Take The Emotions Out of Safety Policies
Safety Brye: [00:00:00] When you ask a safety manager what a typical day looks like, it can be very hard to describe because no day is exactly the same as the next. And the problem is so many different things that there are to do can fall at our desk at any time. This makes our job interesting. Great. But it also opens us up to distractions and emotion driven decisions.
So let me explain.
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 management support, and employee engagement, all the while
[00:01:00] 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. Let me tell you something that you may not know about me, although I have kind of hinted at it, but I am a numbers nerd. When I was a kid in high school, I was the one that like loved math class and it irks me when people say you'll never use algebra outside of high school, cuz I literally use algebra almost every day.
So back in my hotel management days, I actually moved us out of paper ledgers into Lotus. I know, I know. If anybody even knows what Lotus is, then you know, I'm really aging myself here. But now we have Excel, which is amazing. Way better than Lotus was. And I
[00:02:00] actually once used access to build an entire risk management system, which if you have ever tried to use access, you know how confusing it could be.
So when I say to you that I cannot walk away from a good spreadsheet, I mean it. My kids tease me about it all the time. My daughter even got me like a spreadsheet mug for Christmas. It was so funny. So I love numbers, I love spreadsheets, and when it comes to safety management, I love to use data and I have found that it is the best way to run your program because not only does it focus you on what will make the biggest impact, it eliminates any arguments of discrimination or favoritism.
The numbers drive your action. No personal feelings are involved, no emotions. It is just numbers. Because believe it or not, safety management is an emotional job. Do you know what I'm saying here?
[00:03:00] Like accidents can happen and they create feelings of guilt or responsibility, or even anger, right? And when we see people taking risks, we have feelings about their beliefs about taking those risks.
And risk taking in general is an emotional decision. And on top of that, you have your management team that has different beliefs or feelings about your work and what you're doing. And they may want like their problem to be taken care of first. They may come to you demanding one thing and then another manager is demanding another thing, and you're getting pulled in two different directions.
Plus you have your own thoughts about where your time should be spent. This is so when I say like, safety management can be emotional, this is what we're talking about. And a lot of times our decisions are made based on whatever emergency or fire happens to be happening right at that moment. Because one, it's easier or we look at it as like, oh, it'll be quick. Let me just
[00:04:00] do it and get it over with, right? But in the long run, it is distracting you from what you should be. And this is where spreadsheets come in and my love of Excel, I guess you could say. So one of the biggest mistakes that I see safety managers make is putting out that fire of the day instead of following whatever their data is telling them to do.
I'll never forget I was in a meeting one time and something happened, I can't even remember. It was some, it was some minor accident happened and I had already trained my management team on how to handle minor accident. And part of that training was that they would just come and tell me what's going on to kind of keep me in the loop.
But I did not move from my meeting. I did not do anything. And that is what I talk about, about Fire of the day. And everybody was looking at me like, don't you have to go start an investigation? Don't you have to do anything? And I'm like, no, my team hasn't handled.
[00:05:00] And I have this project in front of me from the data I collected that is much more important than that minor accident that they're handling.
So this is where it allows you to ignore those emergencies. Yeah, you have to kind of keep them at the periphery, right? Like you kind of see them and you know what's going on, but you also know that the data from whatever's going on is gonna pop up into your list anyway. And if that's gonna drive your decision, then that's what it is.
The second thing I see, safety managers, the second biggest mistake that I see safety managers make is that they're not collecting the data at all. And I know in a previous episode I talked about all the different data points that you should be collecting data on, and I'm sure that you're, you've heard over these past few episodes.
Sometimes I say data and sometimes I say data, so it's however I feel like saying it there you go. Now when you allow the data to drive your decisions, you will
[00:06:00] see bigger results in your program, and you actually see it faster. Now, why is that? It's because you're not getting bogged down with other people's priorities.
So I have my data telling me what I need to be working on this week or this month, or currently. And you know, the warehouse manager may come in and demand something and I'll just be like, yeah, I'll put it on my list. And I just let my data decide when I work on that, I don't necessarily let his priority take over mine.
Right. So if his priority fit within my current data model, I guess you could say, or what my data's currently telling me to work on, then yeah, that is what I would work on. But what I want you to think about is yesterday, if today is Tuesday through Friday, right? So if you worked yesterday or the last day that you worked, I want you to think about how that day went and how much of your time was spent on
[00:07:00] somebody else's priorities and not yours. Because your priority should be to stop accidents from happening. And if you're spending the majority of your time dealing with issues that have already happened, if you're being reactive, then you are not being effective. So if you think about it, if you spend all your time reacting to issues and not stopping them from happening to begin with, you're just constantly gonna be so full and overwhelmed that you can't get that work done.
And that's what I hear. It's like, no, I have so much work to do and claims and all these requests from other departments that I can't get to my proactive activities. I can't get to my problem areas to do the work to get those done. That's backwards thinking because if you actually did the work to prevent the accidents from happening, you would have less reactive work. And there's a lot of work in safety management, no doubt. And everything
[00:08:00] feels important because likely it is. Everything we do is important. Everything we do is about stopping accidents from happening so we don't do something and then an accident happens. It can be stressful. It's emotional. So when everything is important, you still have to choose what to focus on, and making that choice should start with data collection and learning how to trend your data so that way as it is trending, it's telling you what to work on because otherwise you may be working on something, it's not gonna have any impact whatsoever, but it seems like an emergency.
But it's really not compared to everything else on your list. And you might be thinking like, Brye, you're the numbers nerd. I'm not. I failed at math class. I'll tell you, you do not need to be a math or spreadsheet expert to make it work. And next week I will be teaching a live three
[00:09:00] day intensive to teach you my exact method for turning my safety data into easy to read trends and reports.
So that way, not only can you make better business decisions and get better results, you can share that information with your management team and they can actually see the results of your hard work. Now, I would love to see you inside that intensive class, and if you go to thesafetygeek.com/analytics you can register for it.
It's gonna be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in the afternoons next week. Now trending data means that you're not just collecting data, cuz I know in a previous episode I talked about collecting all the different data points that you should be collecting data on. Trending is where you're actually letting all that data tell you a story and you're looking at how it has changed over time. And when you look at data this way, it could tell you the types of bad behaviors that are
[00:10:00] most prevalent in your workplace. And this allows you to work on training or coaching to improve those behaviors. It can tell you what products or tasks are causing the most injuries, allowing you to improve the work practices or share with your executives so way they can decide whether or not making that product is worth it.
It could show you the correlation between injuries and age, or seasons or gender or machinery, right? So maybe you have an age group of employees that are getting injured more frequently than another age group. Maybe you put in, uh, different controls for that age group. Maybe you have a tenure of employees.
Like what I always see is typically employees that have been there three to five years, their injury rates tend to increase. So maybe you put a program in place. I like the three year mark where they get refresher training on everything. When you have enough data, you can see the exact behavior or the lack of behavior that is causing your issues in your
[00:11:00] program. Now, when I first started in safety, I actually would gather as much data as I could, and I would look at five years at a time, and I would look at a five year trend. And then that would tell me what to work on. Now granted, the organization I was working for at the time had a very high injury rate. When you have a high injury rate, you can look at five years worth of data.
But over the years, and as my injury numbers at my organizations decreased, the trends will eventually stop telling you something. So that's when you have to start looking at maybe three years of data or one year or one quarter. So even one month or one week, depending upon the type of data, if it changes frequently enough, you can look at one week and it'll tell you what you need to focus on for the next week.
But typically I stay within a month or a quarter. And when the trends stop telling you what your problems are, then that either means that you either have to change your timeframe, but more likely it means you need to get more detailed in your data gathering. Now you can also use your data to identify very broad
[00:12:00] categories of problems. And when you're starting with data collection and trending, this might be the best way to go, is that you look at like, what are my broad problems? Are they strains and sprains? Are they slips and falls? Are they fall hazards? Are they motor vehicle accidents? Are they equipment related? Are they hand and power tool related?
Right? To get a very broad category. Once you identify your broad category, maybe you don't wanna collect detailed data all the time, but once you identify your broad category, you can then drill down and go, okay, well it's strains and sprains, but now let me get really specific. Is it lifting? Is it environment? Is it wellness?
Is it product related? Right? And if you identify that it's lifting now you get even more drilled down and you go, okay, is it twisting? Is it use of the legs? Is it keeping the back and neck? And then that can identify where your problem areas are, so that way you can really go, like the reason we're seeing so many strains in sprains, I think that we need to reduce the amount of twisting and lifting that we're doing,
[00:13:00] or we need to reduce the weight of the product that they're lifting. Whatever it happens to be, using your data will actually tell you that that will work. Or if I just started with strains and sprains and I said, Hey, I know that our strains and sprains are really high. I'm gonna put in a lifting program. Well, how do you know that they're really high, cuz of lifting? It could have been they're really high because the product is not packaged correctly, or it's packaged at a weight that's too high.
Right? So guessing data, I guess you could say that the data takes the guesswork out of your problem solving. So when you have established systems that clearly show you the trends in your data, It makes it way easier for you to decide what changes need to be made that would impact those trends, and these decisions do not need to be yours alone. In fact, I don't think that they should be. You should be sharing the reports of your trends with
[00:14:00] your employees and with your team, so that way you can discuss them. And you can even attach costs to them because like you could say, well, if this trend continues, our realistic cost of what the outcome is gonna be, will be such and such, if this trend continues, what should we do about it?
It helps drive that improvement and it helps you create those continuous improvement projects and action plans that your team will work on together to implement. And the key is, is that even as you are making changes based on your data, you never wanna stop collecting your data. So once you start collecting it, don't stop.
You wanna watch it for changes. And then as the project is implemented and it is, you know, trained on and people start using whatever the new procedure or the equipment or whatever it is you put in place, you can then watch the data to see if it's going down. And if it's not, then that means that you just pick the wrong corrective action. You need to try something different. And what you'll find over
[00:15:00] time when you start doing this with every project and continuously, what you'll find is that safety management is a numbers game. And every employee, every manager, every new hire, every equipment change every policy. It becomes a variable in that game.
And the numbers are always moving and they're always changing. And what you'll see is that as one trend that you focus on starts to decrease, another trend will bubble up. And then that's what you work on next. And then as that one starts to decrease, another one starts to bubble up. And then you work on that one next, and it becomes this continuous cycle of where you're following the numbers.
And when you spend your time focused on these trending numbers, All the other numbers tend to reduce. You'll see a reduced injury numbers, you'll see reduced costs. You'll see better moderate rates, you'll see lower claims, and if better results is not the only
[00:16:00] initiative to start using data to drive your decisions. If your actions are ever questioned by a lawyer or a member of management, or even an employee, the numbers help defend your actions. They explain why an action was or wasn't taken. I've actually had an employee complaint about me saying that I was picking on them and that I was, you know, retaliating against them or something like that.
But the numbers proved that he was an anomaly and that he required extra attention and that he required extra training, and that alone avoided a labor dispute. I've also had an attorney claim that we were ignoring a problem, but I could show that that so-called problem was not trending above other issues that we were currently working on, and that we weren't ignoring it, we were actually monitoring it. It just wasn't a priority over the other things that we could physically work on at the moment.
[00:17:00] So your numbers end up defending you. So I want you to start thinking of your job as a numbers game. With a goal of always improving those numbers and not just claims numbers. I don't want you focused on those.
I want you focused on the data that you're collecting, that you're collecting enough data, and that you're improving those trends that are popping up from that data. And if you don't know what data to collect or how to collect it or how to turn it into useful information so you can take action. If you're looking, if you're listening to me right now and going, I am just like the math scares the bejesus outta.
Then I need you to check out the Safety Analytics Intensive. I wanna see you in class next week, and I will help make data analysis an easy button for you. Alrighty, my safety friend. I will chat with you again next week. Bye for now.
[00:18:00] 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 fellow safety scholars over at Safety Management Academy. Just go to thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started.
That's thesafetygeek.com/sma, and I will see you in our next students only live session. Bye for now.[00:19:00]
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Highlights From This Episode:
- Why Safety Management is an Emotional Job
- What Are the Mistakes that Safety Managers Do in Their Work
- How Can Your Safety Data Drive Your Actions to Better Results
- Collected Safety Data Can Help You Identify What to Prioritize
- Safety Data Stops Discrimination and Other Issues in the Workplace
- Trending the Data Can Improve Your Safety Initiatives and Workplace Culture
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Now, trending the data involves getting involved in analyzing the collected data. And this can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re just starting out or aren’t familiar with using spreadsheets.
So, I encourage you to attend and invite your Safety BFF to my special training where I will teach you simple ways on how to use Excel in analyzing the data and creating meaningful trends.
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.