As covered in more detail in a recent post, executives surveyed as part of a 2015 skills gap report published by Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Manufacturing Institute indicated that “maintaining or increasing production levels (in line with customer demand)” was at the top of their list of concerns related to the labor and skills gap in manufacturing.
Given studies showing that younger, less experienced workers are more likely to experience higher rates of injury than their longer-tenured counterparts, as well as those indicating that extended working hours and overtime schedules are often accompanied by a rise in injury hazard rates, manufacturers should also be aware of the potential impact the labor and skills gap can have on workplace safety.
Why a comprehensive workplace safety program is critical
An increase in workplace injuries can result in substantial costs. In addition to those associated with lost productivity are the costs of claims and higher insurance premiums. Other costs can include the expense of hiring and training replacement workers, OSHA fines, time spent on paperwork and similar administrative tasks, and increased legal fees, to name just a few.
Since the skills and labor gap may directly influence safety-related costs, it’s essential that manufacturers have in place a comprehensive workplace safety program that is fully supported by management and actively engaged in by workers. Combining the key elements of education and training, hazard identification and assessment, hazard prevention and control, along with a continuous process of evaluation and improvement, such a program can contribute to fewer and less severe injuries resulting in reduced costs and higher productivity.
How RMIS technology can help transform workplace safety
The ability to share accurate, up-to-date safety program information is severely limited when risk, safety, and compliance data is spread across numerous spreadsheets or stored in multiple software systems. An organization with a comprehensive workplace safety program in place can benefit significantly from the use of an integrated RMIS solution that:
- centralizes risk, safety, and compliance data in a single system to eliminate data silos and provide a holistic view;
- offers options for engaging users in data collection processes;
- facilitates data-driven decision making by providing tools for use in analyzing data, identifying trends, and taking strategic actions to prevent losses; and
- provides insight into the effectiveness of safety and loss prevention strategies.
Tools available to users of Origami Risk’s highly-adaptable, cloud-based RMIS include the following:
Incident and near-miss reporting – Data collection capabilities allow supervisors and workers to document incidents and near misses using job/role-specific forms. Information can be entered using an online portal or from a mobile device. This not only increases the likelihood of accurate and timely entry, it can also improve the data available for use in root cause analysis. Beyond standard data, users are able to take photographs or sketch the scene of an accident, both of which can prove critical during the investigation of hazards or injury scenes.
Safety inspections and audits – Inspection and audit functionality can be used to improve workplace safety and compliance by promoting accountability among managers/supervisors and reinforcing the safe workplace behavior of employees. For example, based on overall results or answers to specific questions on a safety investigation or internal compliance audit, corrective actions can be automatically generated and assigned based on configurable business rules.
Flexible audit technology gave Compass Group greater insight into employee safety behavior while improving communication and transparency about their operating units.
Training and certification tracking – Training and certification management tools provide a comprehensive, customizable solution for ensuring safety and compliance training goals are met. Access to this data can be critical when used to analyze the impact of training on safety and loss control outcomes. Safety and compliance leaders can set up an unlimited number of trainings, specifying if whether a training is mandatory or simply recommended. Training and certifications can also be designated as one-time-only or be entered with an expiration date to indicate when retaking/renewal is required.
Dashboards, reports, and analytics – With risk, safety, and compliance data in a single system, dashboards, reports, and graphs can be used to gain actionable insight across the entire risk and safety environment. Role-specific dashboards can be set-up that provide high-level program overviews or more granular specifics. Graphs, charts, and lists are completely interactive, allowing users to make changes to the data they’re viewing or drill down to quickly learn more.
Automated workflows – Following up on the status of investigations or corrective actions contributes significantly to the administrative overhead (and costs) of a safety program. Workflow automation contributes to improved efficiencies, reducing the need for sending one-off emails. For example, as a follow up to the automated assignment of corrective actions, triggers can be set to monitor due dates and automatically remind users (especially those most in danger of missing them) of outstanding items, thus eliminating the need to follow up via phone call or email.
Addressing the impact of the labor and skills gap on workplace safety
There’s no “quick fix” when it comes to addressing the labor and skills gap and its potential impact on worker safety. Even organizations with safety programs in place can be hampered by lack of access to data, uncertainty regarding training protocols, and inefficient processes. Flexible RMIS technology can improve the ability to monitor safety training and certifications. It can also play a critical role in improving the way risk, safety, and compliance-related data is gathered and analyzed. This information can then be pushed out across the organization for taking proactive steps to eliminate hazards, reduce workplace injuries and associated costs, and contribute to productivity.