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Employee safety in the logistics industry starts with data collection and analysis

Logistics organisations are under unprecedented pressure to improve not only efficiency, but also employee safety. The COVID-19-inspired spike in demand has highlighted endemic performance problems and created new workplace challenges; how can companies recruit and retain staff in a highly competitive market when the transport and storage industry exhibits a higher rate of injury at all levels of severity compared to other sectors?

Digital transformation provides a chance to improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance responsiveness to customers, and transform the day-to-day experience for employees. This can only be achieved, however, if organisations get the right data collection and analysis solutions in place that quickly and effectively deliver new insight to logistics teams, explains Peter Ruffley, CEO, Zizo, and Ian Brown, CEO, Excelpoint…

Data Capture Challenge

While there are many technologies associated with digital transformation, in essence it is about data; using data to both automate processes and gain better understanding to drive business improvement.

For many organisations, however, that simple statement is the stumbling point. What data is required? Where is it located? How is it accessed? Can it be used in combination with other sources? Is there any contextual information? How often does it change?

The first question, of course, is: how can data be collected? For warehouse operations still reliant upon many manual, even paper-based processes, data collection is complex and time consuming. It can require significant effort to entice any insight from systems – information which is then out of date in this fast moving environment.  Inefficiencies remain unchecked and safety risks ignored.

Extracting Value

Achieving fast, effective data capture is a priority. No-code automation software that can be configured into a range of solutions for business-critical processes can quickly improve access to information, eliminating the need for multiple inputs across numerous systems. Such software helps businesses to streamline the way they manage people, systems and information, in turn, improving the workforce’s welfare, achieving flexibility and significant cost savings.

For example, from a safety perspective, simple, automated solutions for logging, recording and resolving incidents can both ensure Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) compliance and provide vital insight to ensure the incident is not repeated in the future; while automated safety audits create a structured process where information driven insights support employee safety while meeting compliance regulations.

In addition, the deployment of sensors or wearable devices, connecting to an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform or at the edge, can very quickly deliver new business insights.  For example, data from smart controls, such as loading docks, blind intersections and door openings can be used for operational improvements, as well as ensuring employees are safe and following protocols.

Employee Safety

With a holistic overview of operations, logistics managers gain confidence to make better decisions regarding both performance and employee well-being.  Workforces can identify areas where incidents could happen, highlighting risks before an accident occurs. In addition, information gathered from wearable devices can pick up an individual’s lifting techniques, body temperatures, heart rate or distance travelled in the workplace – providing managers with the ability to intervene in any unsafe practices in real-time.

This insight also creates a unified picture of what is happening across the factory or warehouse by highlighting patterns of behaviour that previously may have been undetectable, information that can be used within a feedback loop to drive continual improvements. For example, employees can be offered specific interactive and data-driven training – which will not only enhance employee wellbeing, but also improve employee productivity, in turn, increasing their satisfaction.

This is crucial as, according to the Health and Safety Executive,training helps people acquire the skills, knowledge and attitudes to make them competent in the health and safety aspects of their work.’ Such programmes, driven by data-insight, can ensure that individuals performing a task have the competence to do so without putting the health and safety of others or themselves at risk.

Conclusion

Good employees are hard to find right now. For an industry experiencing a significantly higher number of safety incidents – for example forklift accidents account for approximately 85 deaths and 34,900 serious injuries each year – more must be done to both improve the operational risk environment and create tailored employee training and education.

Furthermore, employee safety is a great place to kick off a digital transformation programme. With wearables and no-code solutions, the process is simple and creates zero disruption; and the insight is both immediate and accessible for logistics staff. Critically, it builds confidence in the value of data amongst logistics teams, accelerating their commitment to transformation and helping to create an appetite for data driven change.

Once businesses realise the benefits and can see the impact, such as better employee safety, warehouse managers will begin to question what else they can do. What else can be improved? What else can be changed for the better? And this is the foundation to driving the digital transformation process forward over time.

Fleets ‘need to be aware of growing impact of pandemic on driver mental health’

Fleets need to be aware of the growing impact of the pandemic on mental health and any subsequent safety risks to drivers, FleetCheck is warning.

Peter Golding, Managing Director at the fleet software specialist, pointed to a new poll that showed 40% of people believed their mental health had become worse during the crisis.

He said: “This is just the latest in a series of polls and pieces of research showing how the last nine months have had a very negative effect on the mental health of many, many people.

“We know that mental health problems of all kinds can have an impact on driver performance on the road. With people saying that feelings of anxiety, stress and depression are particularly apparent, there is a genuine case for fleets to take action.

“Essentially, employers should be fulfilling their basic requirement of checking that drivers are fit to drive and of course, their mental wellbeing should arguably be as much part of this assessment as if they had a physical problem.

“It should be taken as a given that anyone who feels that their mental health has deteriorated to a point where they should not be driving should be taken seriously, and employers should also make it clear that such situations will be dealt with sympathetically.

“Probably the starting point for most fleets would be to seek professional human resources and medical guidance in order to ask drivers a few questions regularly in order to flag up any immediate issues that need attention.”

Golding added that FleetCheck was examining the introduction of basic mental health tools into its Vehicle Inspection App, which included not just daily walkaround safety checks but also incorporated questions about the driver’s health.

“We modified the app last year to cover coronavirus symptoms and now seems like a good moment to add further questions about mental health. We are taking advice and hope to be able to do this soon.” 

BIFA offers guidance for business life after lockdown

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has published a guidance blueprint on the steps businesses should be taking in order to facilitate a return to work once the current lockdown restrictions are eased by the Government.

BIFA says that whilst it was difficult to provide precise answers to the many questions it has received from members because there are numerous variables to consider, it has outlined a series of measures companies should consider.

It says that the safe return of all staff to work must be the primary concern of all employers, but also acknowledges that there may be some preliminary concerns.

The guidance blueprint outlines what should be reviewed, such as cargo handling procedures, the provision of PPE, and a ‘staggered’ start-up of business depending on how premises can function under social distancing and office layouts.

Robert Keen, Director General at BIFA, said: “It is likely that the post-lockdown situation will be an evolving picture and it is important that companies monitor staff feedback and ongoing government advice/regulation to adjust their initial policies and procedures as applicable. Any procedural changes will have to be promptly advised to staff and implementation monitored.

“We obviously wish all our members a successful return to work and will assist wherever we can. Salutary lessons can be learned from recent experiences, and all seem to agree that greater resilience and flexibility will have to be built into business processes, and there will have to be new realities about areas such as credit control procedures and the level of cash reserves held by businesses.”

Click here to read advisory document in full.