On-Site Magazine

Data is the new oil: Eliminating job site injuries will require using it wisely

By Tyler Davey   


Like other forms of data in construction, safety data is often under-utilized. PHOTO: Adobe Stock/Kings Access

2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. 44 zettabytes existed last year around the world. 463 exabytes will be generated every day by 2025, with over 75 billion internet of things (IoT) devices helping to create that data. Yet, companies everywhere leave 68 per cent of data untouched.

These staggering stats provide credibility to the concept that data is the new oil. Data is the single greatest non-people asset at the disposal of every company, yet most firms struggle to use data as an asset to drive their business.

In the safety industry, a sector heavily reliant on data from historical incidents to create safer environments, the lack of centralized storage and structured management of data leads to a lack of situation training, the inability to predict and prevent incidents and the inability to provide workers with more time to focus on the job at hand. The amount of time lost due to ineffective data capture — or, worse, pen and paper data collection — is staggering, on the order of several hours per week, per worker. This means a mid-sized construction firm loses tens of thousands of people hours a year, equating to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost time.

However, encouraging news is on the horizon. The concept of data as an asset has existed in technology for the last 20 years. Companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have all created large organizations powered by data and analysis. Through creating tools they use directly, they have democratized data capture, storage and analysis to companies around the world, allowing customers to build better solutions that create safer outcomes. Creating safer outcomes through democratizing your data requires five steps.


A thoughtful process is needed to not just collect data, but to collect the right data. Using pen and paper will not ensure your teams fill in information that allows for the frictionless sharing of relevant data. In safety, it is important to define your “safety standard” for data collection — a standard set of information and elements that help your entire company understand how to, for instance, lower Total Recordable Injury Frequency (TRIF) or Days Away Restricted and Transferred (DART).

To start, we encourage every safety professional to baseline a series of questions that help you understand what data is important versus not important. If you are interested in TRIF, do you want to understand time of day, location of incident, weather conditions, number of workers on-site, time to first response, equipment in use, and severity of incident? Starting with an optimized list of questions will form the fields you need your team to collect.


In the early 2000s, capital market traders were notorious for holding their data sacred. What they collected, how they collected it and how they analyzed would stay hidden from their organization and colleagues. Only the move to standardized systems that promoted a streamlining of data collection into a single system of truth helped regulators and businesses come to better understand what was occurring and why. Luckily, when it comes to safety, sharing data and insights is not a foreign concept. EHS professionals everywhere have a shared desire to make every person safer — regardless of competition. Using technology to create shared knowledge, however, is still a challenge. 67 per cent of the safety market today still uses pen and paper, or low quality excel personal files, to track safety data. Even more troubling, large enterprises of 1,000 to 5,000 employees are the least willing to use anything other than pen and paper or in house solutions. Losing several hours a week per employee quickly adds up at that size.


While analyzing data seems easy enough, it often requires you to have fixed steps one and two first. With the average small- to medium-sized businesses collecting dozens of terabytes of data, and the average enterprise collecting hundreds, companies often store billions of documents. With a streamlined data management and collection structure, companies can create powerful reporting capabilities to analyze data, if they know where to look and what to look for.

With democratized data, we find safety managers — especially in key high-risk industries like construction, manufacturing, and energy — use data to help drive their TRIF rates down towards zero through key safety data and benchmarks including: leading and lagging indicators, safety program adoption and training completion by team and/or site. Compliance tracking four main reports: Leading Indicators, Lagging Indicators, Safety Program Adoption, and Training Compliance are also vital. While these four reports form the basis of understanding how to improve your organizations safety, they are just the starting point. The most mature organizations analyze these safety metrics as a baseline to ensure they get the insights needed to make incremental improvements towards zero TRIF.


Breaking down siloes of information across an organization helps connect your frontline to your management team. If all the data and analysis is left with your safety manager, the ability to create scalable impact stops with that person’s ability to reach out to enough groups and enough people. When looking at our safest companies, we notice a 64 to 70 per cent increase in data communication across the organization. This includes a hiring criteria that ensures new managers are skilled in data analysis and communication.

One of the most effective ways of communicating insights is through dashboards that are not restricted to the C-Suite or a safety manager. I’ve always been amazed at what happens when you expose a full organization to the same measures and insights C-suite executives, or safety professionals see. The moment data is shared and communicated broadly, all employees become engaged in the conversation and feel a stake in improving the organizations.


The first four steps are required before getting started on predictive analytics, yet time and again, companies want to begin here. The number one conversation I’ve heard across all organizations tends to follow a similar pattern. “We’ve collected all of this data, why can’t we just use AI (or ML or BI) to just solve this problem,” they say. Our response tends to be the same: garbage in will always result in garbage out.

To truly get into predictive analytics and, eventually AI/ML, every organization needs to ensure the data collected is optimized for what they want to measure, the data captured is streamlined, the reports are identifying the trends you need to evaluate, and the organization sees and understands those trends to act on them. Once those four are complete, high-performing safety organizations can create the right BI dashboards that begin driving predictive analytics. We see high-performing organizations layer in third-party data sources, such as weather, traffic patterns and time of day. They also analyze team composition in scenario driven exercises, execute war-game like predictions using chaos theory, and they get safer through predicting incidents before they occur.


The greatest element of the safety space, whether managing your supply chain, your contractors, or your employees, is the sense of understanding the past to remove barriers that prevent a safer workplace. Data is each company’s greatest asset in achieving a zero TRIF outcome. The safest organizations have recognized this and structured similar programs to help get to zero TRIF and are on a continuous improvement program to keep the number at or near zero. Through implementing these best practices, we know every organization can achieve a safety revolution.


Tyler Davey is the CEO of Alcumus in North America and has more than 20 years of experience working across both technology and business. He is responsible for developing and growing the Alcumus brand and technology solution presence in the North American market and driving the business through organic and further acquisition opportunities.


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