Data is Key to Safety Improvements

Author: Veronica Coyle, Altis Transport & Logistics Practice Lead

The 2015 Major Accident Investigation Report notes that there has been a 35% reduction in serious crashes in Australia in spite of a 30% growth in freight transport. This is a fantastic result which shows that transport companies have been making great strides in improving safety.

I attended the recent Supply Chain Safety & Compliance Summit in Sydney and heard some very good first-hand stories about how companies are ensuring they meet their obligations under the National Heavy Vehicle Legislation. The message that all parties in the supply can be held legally accountable for breaches of fatigue, speed, mass, dimension and load restraint laws has smart companies taking action, and data is a big part of the story.

One of the speakers at the summit observed that having hard data takes the emotion out of discussions with employees and sub-contractors as the facts speak for themselves. Simply being able to call up the details of an event means that discussion can quickly move from ‘what happened’ to ‘what needs to be done’.

There is also an increasing awareness of the importance of hard data should it become necessary to demonstrate that ‘all reasonable steps’ were taken. This means not only recording what happened, but also taking positive steps to identify and address issues. Capturing and storing data is an important tool for identifying where safety improvements are needed. Data can be used to: 

  • Measure current state
  • Identify and manage problem areas
  • Measure the success of improvement programs. 

With good data in hand, companies can measure performance against defined safety goals. This information can be used to identify areas for improvement and to develop targeted programs. Continued data monitoring means that the effectiveness of each program can be measured, and further improvements made.

It’s easy for companies to limit themselves to using the data they are already collecting as they devise and implement safety monitoring and improvement plans. However, it is just as important to consider what data is not being collected.

An important first step is to look at the company’s information supply chain to identify any data gaps and to create a roadmap to address them. For example, driver arrival and departure times could automatically recorded at distribution centres; or photographs can be taken showing load restraints every time a truck arrives or departs. Mobility devices (including smart phones) mean that capturing missing data can be done more easily than ever before.

In order to continue the great strides in improving supply chain safety, companies need to leverage not only the data they have, but to also think beyond current state to identify what they can’t see. The exercise of taking stock of data gaps is an important first step in developing a holistic safety improvement strategy.

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