Health and Safety Management Systems (HSMS) for construction and other high-risk industries have traditionally relied on lagging information from incidents, that is, after they occur. But is this dependence on after-the-fact data the best way to prevent worksite falls, strikes and collapses?
Safety feedback processes are static, complacent and retrospective.
“Reliance on lagging information, the vetting of companies solely on past results and not current efforts and the focus on compliance and liability only has the potential to motivate short term,” says Jon Wickizer, founder/CTO of Salt Lake City, Utah-based Acknowlogy, which provides solutions to improve workers’ experience.
Wickizer and invited participants reviewed safety systems and opportunities for improvement July 12 at the Big-D Construction Corporation office in Salt Lake City. Among the attendees were representations of Utah Occupational Safety and Health (UOSH); mining companies and mining service groups; insurance brokers and carriers; construction and subcontracting companies; researchers; facility owners; and technology companies that have helped create and enhance the platform. 
Because of the positive response, Wickizer has scheduled a second meeting Oct. 8 in Salt Lake City: “What we heard from the different industries was, ‘It’s about time. Why has it taken so long?’”
Avoiding the Risks of Stale Safety Data
Wickizer’s software offers site-specific real-time data to the participating company, including those in construction, mining, manufacturing, power generation and refining.
“Names and all information remain private, and each company maintains ownership of the data,” Wickizer says, adding that companies can customize the program with their internal software team, by a developer of their choice or by Acknowlogy staff.
The platform engages and motivates workers, from blue-collar employees to upper management. First, participants answer questions every day about their work environment and tasks. Next, they provide critical feedback about risks they’ve encountered or those they believe are possible, such as near misses and behavioral observations. Thirdly, they acknowledge other employees through communication and shared learning. As part of his work, Wickizer also trains workers, safety professionals, supervisors and company leaders in the use of the platform.
“Basically, we are selling participation,” Wickizer says. “Acknowlogy is a simple technology tool that enables all workers to engage in their specific work routines while capturing inputs and ‘Safety Big Data’ that has historically become complacent, done without purpose, not measured and especially not used for the purpose of improvement.”
Workers and management want more and deserve more, he explains. “When you give people a choice and let them help create their own work expectations and experience, they begin to take ownership of their choice and engage with purpose,” he says. “Every day you are a teacher and every day you are a student.”
Big D Corporation, for example, calls its version TH!NK-OPS. Todd Manley, senior director of Environmental, Health, & Safety says it has already begun to “bridge the gap between field crews and upper management with regard to safety efforts.
“Every day our field crews on every project around the country were engaged in great safety efforts to plan their work activities to reduce and mitigate risk. At the same time, every day our executives, corporate support teams and project management teams also put in great effort to help our field crews, subcontractors and the public remain safe.” 
The problem: No one noticed.
“The effort was not measurable. It was not transparent. No one could see the great daily efforts of others,” Manley explains. “For the first time, we can measure real-time leading indicators of safety effort and performance instead of relying on trailing indicators that only measure our failures. We have already seen a significant difference in our first-quarter safety stats with only a couple of hundred users. I can’t wait to roll it out to all of our employees.”
The New Rules of Engagement 
“People throughout the company want to be measured by their real efforts, their ability to create, their performance as team members and the value they add to the industry. Everyone offers and has potential to add value but in different ways,” Wickizer says. “Why not put some numbers to all the different ways and see what we can accomplish?”
His goal is to combine preventive leading numbers with lagging results, such as traditional EMR (Experience Modifier Rate) and regulatory accident-occurrence figures including lost time and recordables. “With technology, there is no reason why we cannot balance leading efforts with the lagging results,” Wickizer says. 
He compares the traditional safety paradigm to a basketball game recording a winner and loser but no end-of-quarter or, better still, running scores. “That’s great; you know who won. But, part of the game that is important is the ability to make adjustments and changes so that you can enhance your opportunity to win.” That final score is EMR, he explains.
With a by-quarter update, you know who leads at that moment and how to adjust as an individual and a group. That’s similar to OSHA recordables, incidents and accidents, he says.
But a real-time scoreboard is a safety game-changer: “You can make adjustments quicker, you can create plans to give a higher likelihood of success. You see player fouls, turnovers, rebounds: all of the individual statistics. You get to strategize and run plays that give you even more chance to win. Technology, safety measurement and visibility combine for success.”
Individuals and organizations can monitor their response to safety and health objectives. “We can show knowledge gained, we can show experience gained, we can determine overall individual safety and health as determined by the experience in the workplace,” he says. “Workers demonstrate an ability to day in and day out practice specific process and procedures to enhance the workplace safety effort.
“We can make that effort more meaningful to the individual, more relevant to the circumstance, more engaging with one another and more educational,” he adds. “I believe the majority of accidents that we now have or have had in the past would be prevented if we were measuring this type of data.”
Receiving information immediately empowers companies to identify and address those concerns quickly without waiting for events to occur, he explains, noting that a beta testing group is identifying potential issues quickly and engaging workers to communicate them for mitigation.
“By tracking leading indicators, we can see our efforts to prevent accidents, illnesses and incidents. Is what we are doing effective? Do we have an increase or a decrease?” says Ron Lindsay, ASP, CSSM, HSE manager from the Tucson office of Winnipeg, Canada-based Hudbay Minerals, which has begun a $1-billion mining project south of Tucson.
“If we are not tracking those and just implementing more programs, we are just spending more money, perhaps without purpose,” he adds. “So, it’s good as an industry that we do programs like this.”
Traditional measurements such as EMR, lost time and recordable rates will still be important, Wickizer says. “But those numbers will be used as a comparison to how accurate the current risk effort number is being calculated, how to enhance its accuracy –– and how to improve.”
Reduce Costs, Improve Workplaces, Lifestyles
Workers will see improved lives as they are actively engaged in the daily effort to ensure safety. Organizations, including insurance companies, will show enhanced profits as costs decrease. And, in turn, communities also benefit from happier citizens, Wickizer argues.
“If we can align incentives and motivations toward empowering the worker to be safe, quantify that into dollars companies can see, then we will be able to change the industry,” says Grady Marshall, director of Alternative Risk, Sequoia Risk Partners, a captive insurance company based in Salt Lake City.
Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., one of the world’s top insurance brokers, began looking at a program similar to this about 17 years ago when it needed a way to measure how safety and risk mitigation was reducing the net total cost of risk, recalls Robert C. Pettit, CIC, CRM, senior vice president, who focuses on logistics, transportation and heavy-industrial clients from his Salt Lake City office.
“People are looking for a system that gives them the ability to track and achieve a positive stewardship. A.J. Gallagher supports a global initiative to capture critical leading indicator data and to help bring the high-risk industries to Zero Harm.”
Zero Harm will make for positive change on the worksite and off: “Rather than saying everyone goes home the way they came,” he says, “we really should be saying, everyone should be going home a little bit better than the way they came.
“Fifty years, ago we said, ‘Just think if we could get to six accidents per 1,000 workers. Eventually, we passed six and started saying, ‘Let’s focus on three and now, zero,’” says Wickizer. “It’s an amazing objective and will be an even greater accomplishment, and to not create another way or another number that is measurable would stifle improvement to our safety methodology.”