When people are held accountable, things get done. In this environment, projects are completed, goals are met and success is achieved. For years, organizations have struggled to find better ways of communicating and measuring objectives and outcomes. Information technology has greatly enhanced our ability to gather, sort and analyze data so that we have a better understanding of what's going on within our organizations. EH&S data is just one segment of the overall picture and it's one that until recently, for most companies, has lacked sufficient resources to develop the sophisticated systems found in other parts of the business, such as accounting, process controls and inventory management. In my opinion, this is not due to a lack of commitment for EH&S. It has more to do with the seemingly endless number of EH&S issues and the complexities associated with each one. Recent software developments have greatly reduced this barrier and placed EH&S systems on equal footing with other key aspects of the business. The main focus of this article is to describe some of the tools available to assist us in driving accountability throughout the organization.
In 1999, PPG Industries Lake Charles, LA facility, partnered with a software development company, Syntex Management Systems, Inc., to configure a data management system that would integrate several of our existing processes for managing EH&S. The key focus items were; incident investigations, audits and observations, corrective action tracking and routine reporting. The hub of this system was an electronic notification and tracking system that assured timely follow up and closure of action items. Prior to this system, we had numerous tools to try to manage this information. For example, we had an in-house database for the reporting of injury types, body parts, departments, personnel information and so on. We had a separate system for reporting incidents, spills and releases and near miss events. And, yet another system for capturing corrective actions, summary reports and statistical reports. Needless to say, they were as hard to maintain, as they were to communicate. The data management system, Impact Safety Performance Management System, was configured to replace our existing systems and eliminate duplicate data entry and standardize our reporting mechanisms. This in itself was a significant advancement. The unanticipated benefit was the performance management aspect of having the data arranged in a way that pointed to improvement opportunities. To put it bluntly, we were able to see who was getting the job done and who wasn't.
In order for the electronic routing and e-mail function to work correctly, we had to spend a good deal of time mapping out the organizational structure and the plant hierarchy so that we could pinpoint data transactions to the right groups and departments. Downstream of this work, was the ability to generate detailed reports describing what action items were closed on time, which incidents were investigated and what departments were conducting audits and observations.