Tell employees what management is monitoring, and they will tell you what is important to management. Information drives behavior. Information must be timely, accurate, and relevant.
A good example of data driving behavior would be a scoreboard at any sporting event. Fans and team members watch the scoreboard intensely. It has all the information that is relevant to the sport, listing score and remaining time. Remove the scoreboard, and you no longer have a game. You have practice.
When was the last time you went to a sporting event where they were manually changing the numbers on the boards? I can’t remember the last time I saw an old-style scoreboard, where the numbers were on large cards hung on hooks. Most scoreboards are now electronic. They provide real-time information. Beyond what’s happening on the playing field, the scoreboard is the focus of attention at any sporting event. The board creates a sense of urgency and dynamic tension as teams race the clock and drive up their points.
What is a safety scoreboard?
We need to follow the sports scoreboard example when it comes to our businesses. Many of today’s safety management systems are as out of date as the old-style sports scoreboard that must be manually updated. Managers and employees need a sense of urgency and dynamic tension for driving safety. Doing this with a dated system sends the wrong message.
For seven years, I was responsible for safety in the world’s largest fluorescent light factory. In one year (2009), I saw a 50 per cent reduction in OSHA recordable injuries and a 75 per cent reduction in lost time injuries by applying a “scoreboard” approach to our safety program. We set a factory wide goal of reducing accidents by 50 per cent, and we tracked this goal as visibly as possible.
We set up safety scoreboards in three locations throughout our factory. We had one main safety information center in a high-traffic area and two smaller boards near plant entrances. All boards were electronic, just like sports scoreboards. They displayed our goal and where we were in relation to it.
We used traffic lights on the scoreboards:
- Green meant no accidents had occurred in the last 24 hours
- Yellow meant we had a near miss or minor accident
- Red meant we had an accident that required off-site medical attention
Mobile platforms keep scoreboards up to date
To support our new safety information boards, we needed to streamline all accident reporting. As with the sporting events, the scoreboards need to be updated as soon as possible, or they are no longer useful for driving behavior. The best way to keep scoreboards up to date is with mobile devices and electronic forms.
Mobile platforms can streamline most aspects of any safety management system. Safety teams can efficiently gather rich data for accident investigations and submit reports to key stakeholders with the touch of a button. When we use paper forms to collect information, it is like using the old-style manual scoreboards. Why not use the most efficient methods possible?
Paper-based processes come with many drawbacks. Lack of efficiency is just one. Required information can be left out, and handwriting can be misread. Electronic forms allow more control by making sure that needed fields are completed before the user moves on. Thought can be put into the form design to make sure the user collects all required information with little effort in the least amount of time. Data can also be shared with back-office systems, cloud services, and people immediately.
We create dynamic tension when we see a gap between where we are and where we need to be. By setting goals and showing where we are in relation to those goals, we create dynamic tension. We are all competitive by nature. We like to succeed. We like to win. To improve safety standards and reach EHS targets, employees need to know how close they are to reaching that target.
I recommend using electronic forms and creating scoreboards to drive behavior and improve safety. Success rarely happens without data to drive efforts. We need to see where we are and where we need to be. Make key information as timely and visible as possible. Let human nature do the rest. We are all more resourceful than we think. We need a goal, a plan, and timely feedback for our efforts.