Future is now for injury prevention

08/06/2017 - 14:01

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Researchers are planning to shake up the safety sector with a new forecasting technology that can compute the likelihood of workplace incidents.

Marcus Cattani (left) and Russell Jones say analysing an organisation’s historical data can be a good indicator of future safety performance. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Two Perth researchers have brought the future to the present with a predictive tool that can calculate the likelihood of workplace accidents, and therefore help prevent them.

Injury Alarm, which has been developed and launched by Marcus Cattani and Russell Jones from Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical Health Sciences, is based on an algorithm that analyses an organisation’s historical injury and incident data.

Work-related incidents cost the Australian economy more than $60 billion a year, according to Safe Work Australia.

Dr Cattani said Injury Alarm had the potential to reduce this figure.

“Research shows that most injuries have happened (to others) before, somewhere else,” Dr Cattani told Business News.

“We provide recommendations on how to improve safety performance based on an organisation’s historical information and data.

“Injury Alarm is being developed (the present version is a ‘lite’ or abbreviated option) to help organisations to understand their level of risk and forecast the future level of risk.”

Users answer a series of questions about safety in their organisation and upload a spreadsheet of data on past injuries, which the algorithm analyses to inform a forecast report that includes an alarm rating and suggested recommendations.

The forecasting tool has had just more than 100 registrations since it launched online in April.

“Injury alarm is based on some work I have conducted over the last eight years in association with my Journey Program safety and leadership course,” Dr Cattani said.

“There were issues engaging with users and the user interface of the early versions – individuals didn’t want to spend time entering data, even simple data.

“Now, the algorithm is populated with existing data; it’s like a cross between an audit and looking at the likely outcomes of the organisation’s performance if they carry on as they are.”

He said data analysed by the current version of Injury Alarm was similar to the data required by government legislation following any significant workplace injury, including variables such as date, location and scope of the injury, as well as how much time the employee spent away from work.

Professor Jones, who specialises in emergency response and is also the director of ECU’s Health Simulation Centre, joined the project last year to contribute his emergency management expertise.

He said an alarm metaphor was chosen to better communicate what the algorithm did without the need to overload users with statistics.

“People don’t go to work expecting to get injured but the reality is there are 100,000 injuries across the country every year, and most of these are easily avoidable,” Professor Jones told Business News.

"Being prepared for a workplace injury is incredibly important and the Injury Alarm analysis provides users with some guidance of what to do to be prepared.

“Even though Injury Alarm is fantastic, it’s not going to be able to remove all injuries overnight; there is an argument about complacency in business.”

Professor Jones said the technology had been launched online and was free in an effort to get organisations over that hurdle of complacency. 

Dr Cattani said the development process was ongoing and the team wanted to talk to users and tailor the tool to their needs, with plans to create an automated model in the future.

“For this project to succeed we need data, so we can continue testing the process, and more funding,” he said.

The state government have contributed data as well as $40,000 to the project prior to its online launch in April, and Dr Cattani said he was seeking more sponsorship and partnership opportunities.

“Having a safe workplace is incredibly important to business success,” he said.

“Incident reoccurrence is much more costly than preventing things in the first place.

“So if you’ve got a free tool that can help you understand your level of risk, you’ve got the data available, and the ‘alarm’ goes off … why wouldn’t you do something about it?”

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