Energy Sector Complexity Requires Advanced Health and Safety Solutions
- July 10, 2017
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It’s not shocking that workplace safety is an ongoing challenge for the energy industry. From hardhat-wearing electric linemen to wind turbine technicians to the roughnecks on the oil rigs, energy sector jobs are often dangerous. Hazards include falls, electrocution, heavy equipment accidents, exposure to noxious fumes and flammable gases, and more. If safety measures are not established, followed, and reinforced, these hazards can quickly turn deadly.
Even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has implemented strict rules around workplace safety, it is clear that more needs to be done. More than 4,500 workers die on the job each year, and millions more are injured or made sick due to accidents and unsafe conditions at work.
Health and Safety Issues are Expensive
OSHA investigations are often extensive, detailed, and costly, especially if evidence of serious noncompliance is found -- just ask Big Ox Energy, which was recently issued more than $100,000 in fines. Additionally, losses include productivity resulting from downtime or repairs, rising worker’s compensation and insurance premiums, lawsuits, third party assessors, and more.
Health and safety violations and accidents—often made public through media coverage likely to be seen by current and prospective clients, investors, and employees—impact much more than a company’s bottom line. They damage the company’s reputation through negative press, especially when accidents clearly arise from mismanagement.
For established companies fighting for relevance, accidents can be interpreted as the greedy callousness of the old guard. For up-and-coming outfits in the renewable sector, negative incidents can be held up as proof that the technology or business isn’t ready to compete, or isn’t reliable enough to be part of the grid system. Companies with a compromised reputation for safety will have a hard time recruiting talented workers. In cases of significant negligence, employers can find themselves open to criminal investigations at the state level. As anti-regulatory measures roll out at the federal level, some states may be forced to increase regulations and oversight to ensure worker safety.
Stronger Support for a Dynamic Sector
The energy sector is undergoing a period of rapid change. Buffeted by global competition, market pressures, regulatory confusion, and the meteoric growth of renewable energy companies, the entire sector is on a wild ride for the foreseeable future. In established and upstart companies alike, managers need a more streamlined way to manage and mitigate workplace hazards and their associated compliance activities. Integrated and automated governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) systems will enable safety teams to identify hazards before an incident occurs, and to ensure that policies, controls, and procedures are being followed and communicated clearly throughout the enterprise.
Cloud-based GRC platforms that include a health and safety component support enterprise-wide initiatives to manage risk, improve working conditions, and exceed compliance standards efficiently and effectively. Features like a centralized authoritative document repository, historical record-keeping and reporting, portals for anonymously reporting incidents and unsafe conditions, advanced analytics, and streamlined workflows, enhance your ability to systematize and automate processes in a way that encourages collaboration and accountability across functional units.
GRC solutions also optimize the processes supporting site inspections and safety audits, reducing the risk of non-compliance as well as saving time, money, and headaches. When regulatory standards shift, GRC solutions help compliance teams manage the change by updating policies, revising controls and workflows, and communicating applicable changes to the workforce quickly and thoroughly.
Health and safety processes have traditionally been handled in departmental silos, executed manually through spreadsheets and single-point solutions; this approach creates dangerous gaps in visibility and oversight, does not scale, and is simply no longer viable in the face of complex regulatory and market pressures.
Health and Safety Key to Operational Risk Management
Integrating health and safety compliance activities into a larger operational risk management context enhances process maturity, resiliency, and business continuity. With a GRC platform, safety and compliance teams can efficiently record, track, manage, and remediate workplace accidents, injuries, illnesses and near misses, significantly reducing the time spent on reporting requirements. Analyzing this data from across the enterprise increases visibility into job hazards, preventing accidents. With an integrated picture of how risks in one area of the business impact outcomes in another area, leaders can make more strategic decisions to incorporate safety at every stage, from hiring and training to plant design to operating procedures.
Our society is highly dependent upon the energy sector to power everything from smartphones to schools to food suppliers. We also trust the companies that supply the energy to keep us— and their workers — safe from the potential hazards of transmission lines, generators, natural gas lines, and more. Investing in enterprise-wide technology platforms that yield a marked, ongoing improvement in health and safety outcomes sends a clear message to current and potential workers that working conditions are an active priority throughout the company.
Organizations committed to implementing top-notch, comprehensive GRC systems through technology and best practices will gain a competitive advantage from boosts in productivity, cost efficiencies, streamlined compliance, and risk maturity and resilience. Confident they can absorb a calculated risk, companies can leverage this advantage when opportunities for growth arise, while keeping their employees, partners, and customers safe and sound.