Data drives the operations of today’s largest organisations and the mantra ‘what get’s measured gets managed’ has never been more important to health and safety management professionals. With new safety management software technology comes the opportunity to collect, analyse and compare data on near misses, the relative safety performance of branch sites and facilities, staff training levels and much more. Collecting great data leads to great safety management systems.

But collecting data is one thing; acting on it another thing entirely, and you can’t act on it if you’re not collecting the right data in the right way. If you’re not using a database, instead relying on a Word or Excel health and safety management system, then I’m afraid you’re in no position to build a safety strategy around data.  SHE Software often meets with customers that manage data via lists in Word, tasks in Outlook with backup from Excel for reporting purposes. Word is great for documents and Excel is a titanic calculation or reporting tool, but neither comes close to what’s known as a relational database.

Relational databases can track just about anything and relate one set of data to another, unlocking the door to in-depth analysis of trends and variations that are otherwise hidden from view. That makes for an extremely powerful safety management system.

We’ve only ever come across a handful of company safety management systems using Word to manage workplace safety data but Excel is used much more commonly. However, while Excel is not really fit for purpose in the first place it is made less so by users putting too much information into a single cell. By segmenting data into separate fields it is of far more use, allowing for the sorting, querying and grouping of information for analysis and trend-spotting. This is exactly what a relational database does. Proper segmentation allows for potentially very powerful calculations to be made and there are not many limits on what can be done as long as data is accurately entered and correctly linked together – and this is the case for good data versus bad data.

There is a famous maxim in the software world, if you like that kind of thing (and we do!): rubbish in = rubbish out. Similarly there is a world of difference between a health and safety management systems software with bad data and one with good. A purpose built database system for safety professionals will provide a lead on what data is useful and what isn’t, especially if it has been produced in partnership between the user’s organisation and the developers. This way you end up with a database that helps you to successfully direct your safety strategy – and your valuable time – to the proper places, where it can actually do some good.