Manager of Regulatory Intelligence,
WorkSafe New Zealand
Safety in Numbers
WorkSafe New Zealand leads reduction in workplace fatalities and injuries using intelligence-led approach
On the afternoon of 19 November 2010, an explosion ripped through the remote Pike River mine on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island, killing 29 men. A subsequent investigation revealed a startling lack of workplace health and safety regulations.
To address this shortfall, WorkSafe New Zealand was established in 2013 and given the ambitious goal of leading the country to a reduction in serious workplace injuries and fatalities by 25% by 2020. Prior to WorkSafe, workplace health and safety regulation had been a reactive process that lacked a clear understanding of its strategic environment.
"We were information rich and knowledge poor," says John Munro, Manager of Regulatory Intelligence at WorkSafe. His team supplies intelligence to stakeholders with the goal of reducing workplace fatalities and injuries. SAS® Visual Analytics is used to provide strategically focused reports for senior decision makers, as well as tactical reports for frontline staff to enact strategic decisions in the field.
Aside from the obvious health benefits, safer work environments have been shown to increase productivity as well.
From phone books to dashboards
WorkSafe collects, analyses and publishes data from multiple government agencies including personal injury insurer, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). Armed with insight, it uses education, engagement and enforcement where necessary, to improve health and safety outcomes.
The agency has a number of inspectors who proactively engage with businesses on safe work practices. Prior to Visual Analytics, inspectors would scour the yellow pages searching for businesses to target. Now they use sophisticated dashboards to pinpoint which organisations are most at risk, and can dedicate resources to educating them on ways to reduce harm.
"We call that our company risk model," says Munro. "It enables inspectors to be at the right site at the right time for the right reason." These evidence-based approaches have been shown to influence behavioural and system changes, and will ultimately reduce injuries at the companies engaged with. WorkSafe uses SAS Visual Analytics to both create inspector dashboards and report on the programs to stakeholders.
High risk sectors targeted
In addition to working with high-risk businesses, WorkSafe analyses the drivers of workplace harm in priority sectors. In New Zealand, manufacturing, construction, agriculture and forestry combine to make up 52% of severe work-related injuries.
Working in collaboration with industry leadership groups, WorkSafe curates sector specific dashboards to provide these groups with insight into dangers on the job.
For example, agriculture is a particular focus, accounting for 2,100 injuries in 2014 that required more than a week off work. Within that sector, quad bike accidents are a leading cause of injury. To help raise awareness and promote safer practices, WorkSafe teamed up with Quad Bike Safety Action Group, supplying them with bespoke dashboards to help shine a light on intervention opportunities.
"They realise there's a wealth of information out there," says Munro. "We're designing dashboards based on their wants and needs so they can start using them on day one."
Making a difference
WorkSafe measures its success using three key metrics: workplace fatalities, serious non-fatal injuries and injuries that require more than a week off work. Evidence shows their intelligence-led strategy is working. Workplace fatalities and serious non-fatal injuries appear on track to meet the 2020 target. There is not the same progress with injuries resulting in more than a week off work. Following a sharp decline between 2008 and 2011, each year has seen a gradual increase. Estimates do, however, suggest the rate of increase is slowing.
"Aside from the obvious health benefits, safer work environments have been shown to increase productivity as well," add Munro. Although good progress has been made to reduce workplace harm, he notes that a continued focus on addressing the drivers of harm is needed to ensure that the overall positive trend continues.
On the horizon
WorkSafe is expanding its use of Visual Analytics to the next bastion of workplace risk. Deaths from work-related health issues are ten times higher than deaths from injuries. The agency will deploy its intelligence led approach to help stem work-related health risks. The goal being to reduce the number of people who die of work-related diseases or develop serious work-related health conditions.
"The project will be the first of its kind in the world," says Munro.