RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) performance in asset-intensive industries has plateaued, leaving “getting to zero” a distant aspiration.
  • To break out, companies must harness the power of digital to unlock new levels of EHS delivery while also creating wider business value.
  • Progress towards zero incidents will require companies to collaborate across the business on digital EHS solutions that are focused on people.


Progress towards zero safety incidents in asset-intensive industries has stalled. It’s time to kick-start it again

Improving workplace Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) performance has never been more vital. Yet statistics suggest it has also never been more difficult – with the formerly improving trend having stagnated across oil & gas, chemicals, mining & metals, transport, utilities and more.*

The catalyst for renewed progress is the rapid, enterprise-wide penetration of digital technologies – mobile, cloud, social, automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and more. Used in combination in the right ways, these herald a new era of safety powered by analytics, taking EHS performance to a whole new level.

In fact, the increasingly pervasive use of digital is already preparing the way for this transformation, by triggering three key shifts within asset-intensive companies:

  1. Digital safety is increasingly going hand-in-hand with digital advances in EHS-related functional areas, creating opportunities for cross-function collaboration and investment.
  2. At the same time, EHS functions are moving away from customized and local-use only applications to implement platforms that serve the entire enterprise, and share data.
  3. The move to platforms is seeing a digitally-enabled safety culture and continuous collaboration become embedded across the enterprise.

The way forward: Architect and implement digital EHS solutions – with people in mind

The key to breaking the EHS performance plateau? Apply analytics in combination with technologies ranging from AI to social platforms, and from mobile Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to drones, to reinvigorate EHS performance. The resulting advances – including enhanced predictive capabilities – can enable companies to generate Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) reductions.

How can such gains be achieved? By architecting and implementing digital EHS solutions that are integrated across the enterprise and generate wider business value. And by using “design thinking” to ensure that digital serves humans rather than the other way round.

To achieve these goals, companies should map out a journey consisting of three steps:

  1. Identify the key areas of operational risk that are impacting both EHS and operations performance. This means moving away from an outdated ‘safety-versus-production’ mindset and recognizing that safety and operational performance are inherently linked.
  2. Collaborate with other business functions to understand where they want to invest – and are already investing – in digital technologies, and determine if that investment can be shared with EHS. Accenture research finds that the top five areas for investment in emerging technologies are IoT/smart sensors, AI, blockchain, augmented/virtual reality, and robotics/automation. These all bring major potential not only to improve operations, but also to enhance EHS.
  3. Leverage the new digital landscape to access more data, and implement analytics that progress the organization from reactive to predictive models. This means pulling together higher volumes of data from the full range of available sources, and applying analytics to anticipate issues before they emerge – again generating clear benefits in terms of both operations and EHS.

A brighter future for EHS – founded on digital collaboration

Historically, when asset-intensive businesses have allocated corporate IT dollars for technology investment, the EHS function has often missed out. Why? Because EHS had to compete against other functions offering a more immediate, visible and compelling return on investment (ROI). Only a high-profile critical incident would see the investment taps for EHS turned on again.

The digitally-driven approach we’ve described puts an end to this reactive, knee-jerk response to EHS, and lays down the bedrock for ongoing improvements in EHS performance and ROI. It achieves this by enabling EHS functions to collaborate with other functions, in a joint quest to seek out and seize mutually beneficial opportunities to embrace the digital revolution.

In asset-intensive industries, good safety is good business – and digital technology supports both. Now is the time to break out from the EHS performance plateau. And digital enables you to do it.

* Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor

Peter Sullivan

Industry X.0 Senior Manager, EHS Lead – North America


Florian van Keulen

Industry X.0 Principal, EHS Lead – Europe and Russia


Evelyn Chee

Industry X.0 Senior Manager, EHS Lead – Asia Pacific

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