Connected Safety: Five Steps to Drive a Smooth Transition

Building on advances in automation, communication and analytics, today’s wearables for gas detection and lone worker safety have the capability to link employees to live, around-the-clock monitoring; enable real-time information sharing; collect vital location data; and more. (photo courtesy Blackline Safety)

By: Ealat Chaachouh, Contributor

Never has the industrial workplace seen such a rapid digital transformation, giving rise to a new generation of cloud-connected safety devices to keep workers safe on the job. 74% of organizations consider digital transformation a top priority.

Building on advances in automation, communication and analytics, today’s wearables for gas detection and lone worker safety have the capability to link employees to live, around-the-clock monitoring; enable real-time information sharing; collect vital location data; support more informed decision making; and facilitate faster emergency response.

Along with these new developments comes the need for updated, safety-related procedures, policies, behaviors and expectations—to ensure workers embrace and use the technology to its fullest potential—all with a clear understanding of how it can help provide peace of mind, maximize operational efficiency and, most importantly, save lives.

In short, people are being asked to learn new skills and work in new ways, making change management—the application of processes and tools to help people transition from a current state to a future state—a top safety practice priority for Industrial Hygienists.

Managing Change

New research indicates that when a coordinated change-management program is launched in tandem with a new technology rollout, employees feel prepared, equipped and supported. In addition, studies show that projects backed by change management are six times more likely to meet their objectives and five times more likely to stay on schedule.

The goal is to get employees committed to their organization’s connected safety program. But exactly where do you start? Here are five essential steps that I have found to be most effective in driving successful change management and ensuring widespread adoption of wearable technology across any organization.

Align on change approach. The first step is to ensure workers understand why the change is happening in the first place. They may feel existing technologies and approaches to safety are working fine, failing to recognize all the advantages technology brings to the table. An effective change-management program starts by sending a clear, standardized message across an organization about why connected wearables are being introduced; how the new devices will operate; what’s expected of users; and what benefits they can expect.

Provide vocal and visible leadership. Executives and frontline managers must be front-and-center of the change, clearly articulating the rationale behind it and how the new connected safety technology will improve safety outcomes. Research shows that leaders who explain the purpose (the “why” as well as the “what”) of the change—and connect it to the organization’s values—create stronger buy-in for the change.

It’s also critical to keep employees updated regularly during the change process and to demonstrate progress. If people start to resist change, bring their concerns to the forefront and help them see both the individual and business perspective. Take the time to listen, understand and address concerns, so they feel heard. When small wins happen, celebrate them. This will help maintain momentum and encourage further innovation and change.

Research indicates that when a coordinated change-management program is launched in tandem with a new technology rollout, employees feel prepared, equipped and supported. (photo courtesy Blackline Safety)

Build a change network. Studies show that peer collaboration is a preferred method of learning, with benefits that include higher engagement levels and a higher success rate. Select a group of individuals from within your organization who represent each of the areas affected by the change and who have indicated they are passionate about ensuring the technology adoption succeeds. They will become your Change Champions to serve as agents, advocates, ambassadors and catalysts for change. Involve them in the process from the beginning, so they feel invested and will be well positioned to provide valuable feedback from their teams. Encourage them to cheerlead, rally and inspire their co-workers to get excited about using connected safety wearables. They can also be instrumental in helping to organize and lead training sessions on how to properly use the technology, including a mix of self-serve, virtual and on-site options to meet diverse business needs.

Invest in implementation. With any technology implementation, a user’s first impression matters. It will serve as the key indicator for how much—or how little—they will use their device going forward. That’s why it’s critical to follow a coordinated implementation process that is based on change-
management practices. To facilitate a seamless rollout and adoption of connected safety wearables, Blackline Safety provides an end-to-end onboarding and implementation process. Users are supported by client implementation coordinators who guide them at every step, from introduction, configuration, training and testing—through to feedback, analytics, go-live and follow-up—which includes customer care and technical support.

Close the gaps with data. Simply getting the technology to go live without any hiccups doesn’t equate to success. You’ll want to measure the rate of adoption; one of the easiest ways to do that is by monitoring the flow of data between installed connected devices, including information about usage, compliance and trends.

Some connected wearable gas detectors, for example, provide data by location, team or date range to show whether they are being regularly used, bump-tested and calibrated; or are experiencing false alarms—all of which can be used to determine successful uptake and indicate where more training or implementation support might be needed.

In one case study, a national refrigeration and cooling company found using analytics during early implementation stages unlocked awareness into the field for the HSE managers; increased accountability for the area managers; and drove buy-in from field technicians—as they felt heard and supported. Post-training evaluations, employee engagement surveys and post-implementation meetings are also useful ways to gauge adoption and acceptance.

The path to a robust connected safety program can seem daunting. By keeping your eye on the prize—benefits like improved worker safety, real-time visibility, predictive and proactive safety, streamlined safety processes and worksite safety—clearly communicating what is changing and why, and involving employees at every step, you will get there.

Ealat Chaachouh is the Manager, Client Implementations – North America, at Blackline Safety, a global leader in connected safety technology.

Positive Change: Case Study

A good change-management program starts by sending a clear, standardized message across an organization about why connected wearables are being introduced; how the new devices will operate; what’s expected of users; and what benefits they can expect.

NiSource Inc., one of the largest fully regulated utilities in the U.S., is an example of a company that successfully navigated change management when implementing Blackline Safety lone worker and gas detection wearables. Their program, referred to as NiSAFE (Security/Awareness/Foresight/Empowerment), guided the rollout of nearly 3,000 devices paired with 24/7 live monitoring through Blackline’s Safety Operations Centre.

Some of the best practices identified by the NiSAFE program included leveraging super users who trialed the technology and collected input; holding early discussions with leaders who would then pitch the technology to employees; reiterating the benefits of connected wearables through direct messaging from leaders; and gathering, listening and responding to feedback in a timely manner. They also engaged with Blackline Safety on configuration and sensitivity settings to ensure employee concerns about data privacy, access and security were addressed.

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