3 reasons why your Health & Safety Software won't save lives


I spent upwards of a decade of my life developing and implementing enterprise health and safety software, and I passionately believed that what I was doing was morally and technologically great. Having implemented the software at mines, plants, factories, airports and other high-risk areas, I've come to believe that the implementations, although technically successful, often fell short of actually saving lives, and here's why:

Reason 1: It's all about reporting for compliance

Some years ago, I was leading a project that implemented a class-leading software solution at a global mining company. As a bridging solution between the decommissioning of the old system and the implementation of the new, the risk manager decided to distribute a very simple set of spreadsheets to safety and production officers, allowing them to merely identify hazardous acts or conditions easily, and enabling him to access that data quickly and respond rapidly at the end of each shift. While this sounds extremely archaic by today's real-time standards, and his tool would have failed every system audit known to man, his results from the perspective of actual incident frequencies blew everyone away. What he realized was that a singular focus on early response to actual workplace conditions, even to the detriment technological maturity delivered tangible safety improvements that outstripped the value of certification for the sake of compliance a hundredfold.

So here's the rub Mr. Risk Manager: Certification and compliance should be an added benefit of a system designed to save lives, not the other way around.

Reason 2: HSE systems won't (and cannot) work alone

Precious few managers today understand the impact of non-integrated technical systems on the ability of a company like a mine to effectively reduce risk. A completely integrated, fully ISO and OHSAS compliant HSE system is of little value when production supervisors have no, or grossly outdated visibility of geological features, rock mechanics and related data that impact on the safety of the workplace.

The ability of a mine to make safety an operational function relies greatly on its capability to share datasets such as geological, planning, survey and production scheduling in a way that empowers employees to identify and act on potentially dangerous future conditions before they happen. And while we're talking integration: unless your integration enables 3D spatial integration and analysis, you're wasting even more time. While the world is looking at predictive maintenance to save money in the logistics supply chain, risk management professionals are at the mercy of deeply fragmented, poorly integrated mining technical solutions that hold a golden key to radically improved, safer workplaces.

Reason 3: Looking at the past to predict the future

Conventional wisdom teaches us that we have to understand the past in order to make wise decisions in the present. That's not disputed, and in the world of information management, that's the staple of business intelligence tools used to do data mining and analytics. There's an underlying assumption though that is often overlooked when we use extrapolated descriptive analytics to predict future events: descriptive analytics or inference-drawing review of historical data assume that the conditions influencing the data remain the same, or move within a narrow band.

In reality, the world of mining is changing. Digital transformation has mines intensively drawing on IoT and real-time condition monitoring and automation technologies for everything from mundane tasks to highly precise, operationally critical planning and control activities. The function of mine planning is changing from paper-based drawings to real-time cognitive plans, with manual, person-driven shovels changing to millisecond-controlled, digitally instructed automated mining devices.

Where to now?

Mining health and safety systems that are anything less than operationally focused, fully integrated, cognitively enabled enterprise solutions leave real people vulnerable. From operators at risk of catastrophic events underground to investors exposed to major economic and reputational or legal risk, no modern operation can survive the future while focusing on the minimum standard or looking in the rear-view mirror at meaningless fragmented data.

For the uninitiated to enterprise mining technical systems integration, here's a good overview of MineRP's approach to providing a digital platform for end-to-end enterprise integration of the technical and commercial mining worlds.

I'd love to hear from you about your company's approach to enterprise integration, advanced analytics and the best way to digitally transform the mining industry.

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