Noise-cancellation required: EHS’ billion-dollar data problem

The big data movement is creating a multi-billion-dollar problem for Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) management information systems (EMIS).

Companies are adopting a dangerous mindset. They believe that by simply collecting more data, they’re mitigating more risks. However, the increased volume of data is generating more clutter than clarity. Critical insights that could save companies from disaster are going undiscovered.

If you’ve ever used noise-cancelling headphones, you know the luxury of drowning out distractions at the flick of a switch. That’s what you need for your company: enterprise-wide systems in place to consolidate data into digestible, actionable insights.

EHS survey findings: To turn clutter into clarity, EMIS must evolve

So how are other companies dealing with the data crunch? Arcadis recently surveyed more than 50 EHS experts to identify emerging trends for data acquisition and the benefits companies realize from streamlining data efforts (access the full report). Emerging key themes that help companies turn clutter to clarity centered on the following:

Embracing big data and digital applications. The new workforce is asking more questions about companies’ reputations and risk issues. Employees want comprehensive analyses of the processes and systems designed to keep them safe at work. Further, they expect data and technology to influence their day-to-day decisions on the job.

Creating digital solutions that keep employees trained and engaged in safety is quickly becoming a priority for EHS organizations.

Building turnover-resistant data systems. Another emerging trend among the younger workforce is a willingness to redirect their career paths. 21 percent of millennials say they’ve changed jobs in the past year, costing the U.S. economy an estimated $30.5 billion annually.

What’s this have to do with EMIS? Some of those costs stem from the insights that walk out the door with departing employees. A strategic enterprise data collection strategy helps secure valuable information that might have been lost to staff turnover.

Prioritizing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting. Attitudes toward sustainability and corporate responsibility are renewing companies’ ESG reporting efforts. Workers care about how their company affects the world around them, and investors are paying close attention to how companies manage long-term safety and environmental risks.

Major investment firms are taking note. Larry Fink, chief executive at BlackRock (the world’s largest investor in private companies), stressed how ESG can provide essential insights into a company’s long-term progress in his 2017 corporate governance letter to chief executives.

While most companies track ESG metrics, many miss opportunities to leverage their EHS data for stronger ESG reporting. Proper ESG reporting can translate to millions of dollars in investments and potentially billions of dollars in shareholder value, and EHS data can be a key tool for optimizing reports.

Adopting mobile and Business Intelligence (BI) tools. 55 percent of survey recipients said mobility is impacting their EHS business. The ability to capture real-time data ensures all pertinent details (especially those typically lost in after-the-fact reports) are disclosed. Plus, it allows teams to immediately receive, asses, and act on a reported incident. BI tools will play a larger role in the future as well. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, drones, and other emerging technologies help expand organizations’ EMIS capabilities.

The possibilities of next-gen EMIS are endless. We worked with a client that used BI technology to produce a human body diagram that indicates the severity and number of incidents as related to specific body parts. It was intuitive, practical, and engaging. Advances like these can help you produce captivating presentations that heighten interest in EMIS across your organization.

Software is a tool, not a solution

Your comprehensive EMIS plan should dictate the software you use and not the other way around. Identify your priorities and requirements first, and then determine how your centralization structure will organize the information.

Be sure that your plan eliminates any organizational silos, too. EHS and ESG data need to be viewed holistically across the enterprise to ensure business continuity.

Establishing your process at the forefront — rather than jumping straight into software shopping — helps make data an asset for streamlining operational and integrity management systems.

Maximize your signal-to-noise ratio

Using your organization’s data to manage risk is becoming increasingly important, but your enterprise reporting and analysis tools must be more than an ever-growing repository of reports. The key is filtering out the noise so that only useful EHS “signals” remain.

It all starts with a comprehensive EMIS plan. Design one that integrates your systems, processes, and data across business functions, structures, and geographies to use the information as an asset. Align these components correctly and your EMIS will turn the clamor of enterprise data into crystal-clear insights.

Joanne Schroeder, P.E.

Vice President +1 949 887 0173 Ask me a question
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