Predictive analytics might sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but it’s more common than you think. Online dating sites help you find the perfect match by using predictive analytics. Netflix shows you things it thinks you might like with the same tools. Even your doctor’s office might use predictive analytics to determine if you are at risk of developing a specific disease or medical condition. However, one application individuals haven’t explored yet is the use of predictive analytics in industrial workplaces. How can these data sources help reduce workplace injuries in industrial settings?
What is Predictive Analytics?
First, what is predictive analytics? It utilizes machine learning and basic artificial intelligence to extract information from existing data sets to discover patterns. With enough information, it can even predict potential future outcomes with a high degree of accuracy.
In something widely used, such as Netflix, the machine learning algorithms take a look at what you watched in the past. Using that information, the algorithm can predict what you might be interested in watching in the future. It will also compare your watch history with the viewing habits of other similar individuals to see what they viewed to help create the most accurate suggestions for you.
The cost of workplace injuries
Workplace injuries are a big problem, both for the employees who are injured and the company responsible for their safety. One out of every six workplace fatalities comes from improper use of forklifts or other heavy equipment. This doesn’t even address the cost of workplace injuries. According to OSHA, it’s estimated that businesses across the country pay more than $1 billion every week in workman’s compensation claims for work-related injuries or illnesses, which doesn’t include the cost of downtime while an injury gets investigated or the cost of employee absenteeism while they recover.
Workplace applications of Predictive Analytics
How can businesses use predictive analytics to reduce industrial workplace injuries?
It works in much the same way that Netflix can predict what you might want to watch next. Predictive algorithms take a look at the details of any injuries that occurred in the past and identify where and when injuries might happen in the future.
It isn’t a crystal ball. Predictive analytics programs are only as accurate as the information they’ve been given to work with. If you don’t have any information that’s provided — or your data is all in an analog format that you can’t easily enter into a computer system — a predictive analytics system can’t help you.
Look for a system that focuses on the four categories of the Human Factors Analysis and Classifications system — unsafe actions, preconditions for unsafe actions, unsafe supervision and additional organizational influences. This system looks at the impact of human interaction in the workplace and uses studies of human behavior to predict possible injuries.
Installing a Predictive Analytics system
What should you look for when choosing a predictive analytics system for your workplace?
- Data Types: Does the algorithm focus on objective or subjective data? Subjective data is useful for workman’s compensation claims, but is inherently biased, making it useless for analytics. Any information that gets fed into an analytical system should be as objective as possible to create the most accurate predictions.
- Data Sources: Is the system capable of collecting information from a variety of sources, or is it dependent on information provided by human users? A predictive system may not do its job correctly if it is limited to a single source for information.
- Ease of Use: A machine that can predict when future injuries might occur is valuable, but it becomes a paperweight if no one can figure out how to navigate the interface. Look for a system that is easy to use and user-friendly, or offer additional training to your crew.
- Customization: No two industrial settings are created equal. You will need a predictive analytics system that can get tailored to the specific needs and risks of your particular industry. A one-size-fits-all program won’t be as useful.
Save lives and money
Installing a predictive analytics program in your business can take a significant investment of time and money, but it will pay for itself when the number of annual workplace injuries drops because the system can warn you when and where these injuries might occur.
Workplace injuries cost businesses billions of dollars every year. Turning to predictive analytics isn’t just a way to jump on the new technology bandwagon — it can reduce costs and quite literally save lives. Make sure you’re looking for a system that can get customized to your needs. Once you install it, you can breathe easier knowing that it is always looking out for you and your employees.