As an EHS leader, you know that data is one of your biggest assets.
It's also likely one of your biggest headaches.
Sometimes it can feel like you're drowning in data. So how can you keep your head above water?
Below are 6 data management tips for busy EHS leaders:
1. Standardize your workflows
If you've been hanging around our blog, you've probably noticed that we talk about standardization all the time. That's because we've seen time and time again that standardization is the key to successful data management.
What do we mean by standardization? It's about creating a consistent process for how you collect and measure data, what information you collect, and what that data means.
EHS data can vary greatly, even from one facility to the next. Data is collected for different purposes, like regulatory compliance, risk management, and internal reporting. This data may be stored in different formats, using different naming conventions and different databases. That can create a lot of confusion when you're entering and working with your data, and make it very difficult to get information out of the system for reporting.
Here are some ways to standardize your data management:
- Use consistent naming conventions for fields so everyone enters data the same way
- Create a data dictionary that describes every field in context, in case someone needs clarification
- Use templates or standardized forms for audits, inspections, and assessments
- Create standardized workflows for tasks like audits and corrective or preventive actions
2. Centralize your data
Instead of being spread out across spreadsheets, paper records, and multiple databases, your data will be most useful if it's collected, stored, and maintained in a single location.
Centralization creates a single source of truth for employees at all levels, from senior management, to your core EHS team, to facility managers and workers. It lets you search for information quickly because you don't have to look in multiple locations. Centralization also helps you keep more accurate records because you won't have duplicate data or multiple versions of files.
3. Make it accessible
In order for your data to be usable, it needs to be easily accessible. Storing all your data in a central database makes it easy for both your core team and casual users to access the data.
Lets be clear, though: Not every employee in your organization needs access to all the data, nor should they have it. The challenge, of course, is how to make your data accessible while still keeping it secure. The best way to do this is with an EHS software system that allows you to assign different permissions to different groups or users.
4. Keep it simple
EHS data can be incredibly complex, but the systems you use to manage it shouldn't be. If your data management system is too complex, people won't use it (or won't use it correctly) which can lead to bigger problems that you had before.
A data management system is only as good as its users. Whichever tool or system you choose, it should be designed around the lowest common denominator: a casual user, like an employee recording safety observations on the factory floor.
5. Keep it secure
EHS data contains a lot of sensitive or personal information. It's important that you consider how you'll protect that data against unauthorized access, changes, loss or destruction. Your data needs to be secured physically (protected from fires, floods, and theft), as well as virtually (encryption, password protection, etc.).
Of course, properly implemented data security can get expensive. One advantage of software as a service (SaaS) is that the costs of security are shared among all customers that use the software. Most midsize businesses find that the security features available through a SaaS provider are much greater than what they could afford on their own.
6. Back up your data
In addition to securing your data, you should also back it up regularly. A backup is simply a way of making extra copies of data in case the original is lost or damaged. Regular backups protect your data against lost due to computer crashes, viruses, power failure, and human error. The cloud is the safest place to backup your data because it allows you to have a copy of your data off-site.
In addition to backing up your data, you should test to make sure you can recover your data from your backup files. Otherwise, you could suffer a second catastrophe when you discover that your backups don't work.