Enterprises in the construction, engineering and manufacturing spaces allocated significant resources toward Environmental Health and Safety programs in 2017. This activity will carry over into the new year, as EHS directors in those industries say they’ll be increasing their budgets for fiscal 2018, according to survey data from Verdantix. Where are leaders planning to invest the majority of these new funds? Information Technology (IT).
Here are five of the most significant developments affecting IT-based EHS improvements initiatives in 2018:
1. Enterprise mobile growth
An estimated 77 percent of Americans now own smartphones, according to analysts at the Pew Research Center. This enthusiasm for mobile connectivity has translated to the enterprise arena, where corporate IT teams maintain bring-your-own-device policies and manage robust backend platforms that support data-driven, on-the-go workflows. With the continued expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), which Gartner says includes more than 8 billion devices, there is no turning back.
Enterprise mobile investments will continue in 2018, leading to further expansion of the IoT. EHS stakeholders are likely to participate in this IoT implementation rush, introducing cutting-edge workplace safety tools such as mobile inspection applications. EHS managers have to provide and enforce appropriate procedures for the use of mobile technology that keep workers safe AND allow for greater efficiency in operations.
2. Telematics adoption
An increased focus on automotive connectivity has given way to telematics, a niche technology space characterized by IoT hardware and software that leverages telecommunications features and informatics components to facilitate vehicle monitoring and data collection, according to EY.
EHS departments have embraced telematics technology in an effort to mitigate the risks that accompany one specific workplace hazard: the open road.Thousands of workers die annually due to injuries sustained in occupational automobile accidents, according to OSHA. Roughly 31 percent of U.S.-based businesses have adopted telematics solutions with their sights set on reducing roadway accidents and injuries, Verdantix found.
Telematics can provide EHS professionals with a variety of real-time metrics, including location coordinates, speed and distance metrics, and driving conditions and behaviors. The data provided can help shed light on the root causes of vehicle incidents.
3. Renewed OSHA recordkeeping rules
OSHA announced the impending publication of an amended workplace injury reporting rule in May 2016. The proposed regulation required businesses functioning in high-risk industries or employing 250 or more workers to submit injury data electronically for public consumption. The rule officially took effect in January 2017. Organizations required to submit OSHA Form 300A data under the new regulation must do so by Dec. 15 via OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application.
In 2018, applicable organizations will be required to submit even more data electronically including 301 and 300 via OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application by July 1, 2018.
4. Microlearning advancement
The mobile revolution has catalyzed numerous enterprise developments, including the rise of microlearning, an instructional methodology centered on paired-down content delivered through digital platforms. This approach not only optimizes knowledge retention in an era of shrinking attention spans but also allows employees to use their mobile devices to consume key safety training content during off hours or at the point of need, according to the Association of Talent Development.
Microlearning has opened up new opportunities for EHS directors, as the methodology has the potential to greatly increase knowledge intake and lay the groundwork for safer operations. As a result, EHS departments are likely to continue with microlearning adoption in 2018.
5. Data security
Although safety technology facilitates immense operational productivity, it also poses new risks. EHS professionals should be mindful that safety data can contain a great deal of Personably Identifiable Information (PII), including the names, addresses, and contact information of employees.
Therefore, it’s crucial that organizations implement EHS technology that safeguards PII and follows best security practices. Ideally, administrators of a safety software system should be able to easily control users’ access to sensitive data.
In addition, EHS departments must also be mindful of external security threats, as organizations with digitized workflows can find themselves the targets of cybercriminals and hackers. In 2016, these nefarious actors executed more than 42,000 attacks against businesses, many resulting in large-scale data breaches, according to research from Verizon Wireless.
If the worst happens, you need to have faith that your technology provider is going to have procedures in place to protect the privacy and security of your data.
Environmental Health and Safety departments must keep these trends in mind as they conduct business in the new year.