5 Predictions for EHS and Quality in 2016

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Source: Intelex Technologies Inc.

2015 has been an exciting year for those of us involved in the EHS and quality management space. Increasing regulatory pressures such as changes to the OSHA fine structure, the roll out of FSMA and an update to quality management standards with ISO9001:2015 have added up to a news filled 12 months.

The macro trends driving these changes didn’t stop and in fact seemed to accelerate in 2015. Empowered consumers are increasingly aware of and more communicative (through social media and other technology channels) when it comes to workplace safety, product quality and consumer safety. Government pressures to clean up dirty businesses, or at least tighten the regulatory safety nets in place for citizens, have been a boon to our collective confidence in our employers and in the products we buy, but at the same time are forcing businesses to, in some cases, reevaluate how they operate.

Technology also continued to see advancements. Mobile adoption is at its highest rate with no signs of slowing and Big Data driven decisions went from theory to reality in many industries from insurance to pro sports.

So, what might be in store for 2016?

1. Increased reliance on data driven decisions

It seems that every year data driven decisions and going beyond collecting big data to using big data for strategic decisions is gaining traction in more and more industries. Originally the domain of technologists like online advertisers and advanced financial modeling. We now see machine learning and other big data technologies playing a part in decision making in other industries and use cases as varying as insurance quotes and professional sports player roster decisions.

2016 could be the tipping point year for health and safety (EHS) and quality. Many organizations are sitting on vast pools of data related to health and safety, from incidents to near misses to staff training and certification information. That information, when viewed alongside other corporate data sources such as sales, CRM and logistics could very well uncover new opportunities, for health and safety professionals and quality pros to move the needle from simply reacting to hazards and fines, to proactively and predictively building safer (and more efficient) business processes.

2. Increased scrutiny on data quality

The 4 Vs model of big data has quickly gained acceptance. Volume, Velocity and Variety are core to quantifying big data. But the fourth V – Veracity – will no doubt begin to face the most scrutiny in 2016.

Veracity speaks to the accuracy of the data itself. After all, the adage “garbage in – garbage out” is an old piece of accepted advice for a reason. This is particularly true when it comes to data. Having measures (and the right tools) in place to ensure data quality from the beginning will increasingly become a priority for all of us. For EHS pros this translates into ensuring that the right tools and processes are in place for employees to quickly, easily and accurately add data (from incidents to audits and checklists) into your data management system.

3. Executive level visibility for safety initiatives

There was a time that the strategic table at a large organization was essentially made up of the CEO and the board exclusively. Over time that table had chairs added to it, to include everyone from the COO CFO and CIO to ensure that everything from day to day operations to the budget and the technology tools being used were all aligned to execute on that core strategy.

2016 could be the year when EHS and quality finally gets a core contributing seat at that strategic table. When it comes to brand impact and perception and argument could be made that nothing can carry quite as much downside risk to a business in that regard than safety. Be it worker safety or product safety. Lapses in safety in a world of viral messages and social media could be a nightmare for any brand. This type of thinking is already in place with many organizations how are not only posting but promoting their corporate citizenship and sustainability objectives. The New Year could bring an even wider spread adoption of this type of progressive, strategic thinking.

4. Breaking down departmental and information silos

Implied in many big data discussions is the idea that businesses need to be more focused on acting as a whole rather than discrete and separate departments or functions. Data can and will be a catalyst for accelerating the breaking down of communication silos within organizations that may have historically been a barrier to this kind of collaboration.

For health and safety pros this may also have the added benefit of acting as a significant step in changing the perception of health and safety from being a niche department to becoming a core part of corporate strategy AND corporate culture.

5. Oh yeah and mobility

Would any predictions post be complete without talking about mobility? What once was a fad and the exclusive domain of executives has now become the norm. We’re an increasingly mobile and connected society. Smartphones are ubiquitous and they’ve also had the interesting side effect of changing consumers’ behaviors and attitudes towards technology and data – both creation and consumption. Forward thinking business leaders – particularly those involved in EHS and quality – will look to take advantage of mobile as an exciting new platform to not only gather a richer breadth of data, but also an opportunity to disrupt how, and whom can consume that data.

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