Manager of Regulatory Intelligence
Safety in numbers
WorkSafe New Zealand reduces workplace fatalities and injuries using intelligence-led approach
On the afternoon of Nov. 19, 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, the New Zealand government established WorkSafe New Zealand in 2013 and gave it the ambitious goal of reducing serious workplace injuries and fatalities by 25 percent by 2020. Prior to WorkSafe, workplace health and safety regulations were reactive processes that lacked a clear understanding of their 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 injuries. In need of strategically focused reports for senior decision makers, as well as tactical reports from frontline staff, WorkSafe turned to SAS® Visual Analytics.
Aside from the obvious health benefits, safer work environments have been shown to increase productivity as well.
From phone books to dashboard
WorkSafe collects, analyzes and publishes data from multiple government agencies including its personal injury insurer, the Accident Compensation Corporation. Armed with insight, it performs the role of both educator and enforcer to improve health and safety outcomes.
The agency has a number of inspectors who proactively engage with businesses on safe work practices. Prior to SAS Visual Analytics, inspectors would scour phone books searching for businesses to target. Now they use sophisticated dashboards to pinpoint which organizations are most at risk and can dedicate resources to educating them on ways to reduce harm.
“We call that our company risk model,” Munro says. “It enables inspectors to be at the right site at the right time for the right reason.” These evidence-based interventions have been shown to reduce injuries at the companies targeted. WorkSafe uses SAS Visual Analytics to both create inspector dashboards and report on the program to stakeholders.
Dangerous sectors targeted
In addition to working with high-risk businesses, WorkSafe analyzes the drivers of workplace harm in priority sectors. In New Zealand, manufacturing, construction, agriculture and forestry combine to make up 52 percent 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 particularly dangerous industry, accounting for 2,100 serious injuries in 2014. 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 it with bespoke dashboards to help shine a light on intervention opportunities.
“They realize there’s a wealth of information out there,” Munro says. “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 its intelligence-led strategy is working. Workplace fatalities and serious non-fatal injuries appear on track to meet the government’s 25 percent reduction target by 2020. While there is not the same progress with injuries resulting in more than a week off work – there have been gradual increases since 2011 – estimates suggest the rate of increase is slowing.
“Aside from the obvious health benefits, safer work environments have been shown to increase productivity as well,” Munro adds. 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 SAS Visual Analytics to the next bastion of workplace risk. Deaths from work-related health issues are 10 times higher than deaths from injuries. The agency will deploy its intelligence-led approach to help stem work-related health risks. The goal: Reduce the number of people who die of work-related diseases or develop serious work-related health conditions.
According to Munro, “The project will be the first of its kind in the world.”
The agency needed to more accurately assess where risks occur in workplaces so safety programs can be devised.
Self-service dashboards enable inspectors and industry groups to pinpoint workplace risks and design intervention programs.