Data Driven Safety Management Works for Team Chatham

Take stock of your safety program during upcoming Safe+Sound week.

August 06, 2018

Safe + Sound week Aug 13-19 is a great opportunity to proactively identify and manage workplace hazards before they cause an injury or illness at your organization. A well thought-out safety and health program can also help your team improve sustainability, worker morale and the bottom line.

Taking a data-centered approach to create a safer fleet in Chatham County, Ga., was one way we put our safety and health program to work.

With a county population of about 290,000 covering 632 square miles, our team of about 1,800 public service workers are constantly on the road. Data analysis showed that collisions – rear-end collisions especially – were a major contributor to our injury rates.Rear-end collisions accounted for almost 52% of the costs associated with these incidents. How would we reverse this trend and keep our people safe?

In 2015, our local government set out to reverse the injury trends and created an Occupational Safety and Risk Management department. With personnel focused on safety compliance, safety training, risk management and disability services, we had a firm understanding of the impact injuries have on employees, their family and the community.

We all believe in the value of leading indicators, but also the importance of lagging indicators that show the results of our actions.Starting small with data we could access, our Balanced Score Card was born. Within a month of assembling the team, we identified 17 indictors of safety performance.Today we have over 40 indicators that show a complete picture of our safety culture. While that may sound labor intensive, it’s not. The indicators were selected with purpose, and many are calculated based on the input of “smart data.”

Utilizing tools like fishbone diagrams, Pareto analysis and brainstorming sessions we began the journey to zero. According to NSC, a safety management system is "a systematic, explicit and comprehensive process for managing safety risks that provides for goal setting, planning and measurement of performance against defined criteria." These systems come in many forms, whether you choose a formal system or deploy only elements of a system based on the size and needs of your organization.

We already utilized the NSC DDC6 program to equip our drivers with knowledge. However, 60% of the time the collision was the fault of the other party. Extensive research indicated that degraded perception was likely our largest contributor. We could only control our team with administrative policies.Degraded perception was going to require a change to the only other resource we could control. Drivers were simply unable to detect slow-downs and stoppages as they were looking ahead but not “seeing” ahead due to distractions and/or inattentiveness.

With one to two rear-end collisions each month, we had to implement an engineering control to protect our people. We had to make our vehicles stand out among all the other visual clutter many drivers face. Forgoing the typical fleet marking schemes, we decided the NFPAs recommendation of yellow-green and red offered higher daytime visibility, while retroreflective materials would improve visibility at night.

A local vendor custom-made our conspicuity tape with minimal investment, and the results were amazing. In the 41 months since implementation, we’ve only experienced six rear-end collisions with two of those involving a hit and run. Through data analysis, we successfully lowered our rate from one to two per month to only 0.14 per month. This contributed to a 64% reduction in lost-time injuries over the same period.

Like us, you can participate in Safe+Sound Week to help get your program started or energize an existing one. The OSHA Safe + Sound Campaign encourages every workplace in the U.S. to have a safety and health program that includes management leadership, worker participation, and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards in workplaces. Getting started is easy, so let’s work together to eliminate preventable deaths and injuries for our colleagues, our families and our communities!

Nathan Benson

Nathan Benson is the occupational safety and risk management director for Chatham County, Georgia. The program he describes was recognized as a 2017

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