Measures of Success: How Co-op Used Historical Data to Proactively Improve Workplace Safety

In today’s cost-conscious environment, business leaders are being asked to do more with less. At the same time, the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic mean well-being is more important than ever before. Meeting these needs requires businesses to lean on digitization and automation of health and safety processes. These digital tools must also be integrated with central IT systems, allowing for greater accuracy and alignment as businesses grow and evolve.   

It comes as no surprise then that most organizations now view safety culture as a key pillar of corporate identity, on par with compliance. Yet only 40%[1] of businesses have a well-defined roadmap for safety performance improvement, and just 36%[2] use lessons learned to prevent future incidents. Given the dynamic challenges of today’s business environment, this is a significant missed opportunity. Historical data can provide insight into how to build a safer workplace for colleagues, a better product for customers and a more resilient business. Read on to learn how Co-op, one of the world’s largest consumer cooperatives, used Sphera’s health and safety software to deploy incident data as a tool for prevention. 


The Co-op Story

Co-op is the United Kingdom’s fifth biggest food retailer, its top funeral service provider, a major insurer and a legal service provider. They employ over 57,000 people, in addition to contract workers. With its primary business in the retail sector, Co-op colleagues are vulnerable to a range of incidents, including crime and workplace accidents. To improve their safety culture, the organization deployed SpheraCloud Health and Safety Software in October 2019. The software includes modules for Data Collection, Action Items, Advanced Analytics, Risk Assessment and Audits. Through this partnership, Co-op extended reporting access to all colleagues and contractors who have collectively reported over 1 million events as of July 2022.    

“If you really want to know what’s going on in your organization and you truly want to drive a positive safety culture, you need to give everybody the opportunity to raise concerns and to tell you what’s happening in your organization,” said Louise Atherton, Co-op safety business partner, in a recent webinar.  

The benefits have been numerous. Co-op’s data showed 5% of its reports were related to incidents such as property damage, injury and illness. Another 5% were near misses. This indicated that the ratio of incidents to near misses was approximately one-to-one. “This is a massive validation of the positive safety culture that we’ve created within our organization,” Atherton said.  

What is more, Co-op has been able to use this data to drive reductions in high-severity incidents. Since 2021, Co-op has seen a 26% reduction in high-severity incidents, which means fewer colleagues have been seriously impacted by workplace safety incidents. This also translates to less sick time taken, reductions in the disbursement of sick pay and broad improvements in well-being. Automatic notifications enable managers to offer support in real time, rather than after the fact. Enhanced access to a wider range of key risk indicators (KRIs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) means managers and business leaders can use incident information to make better business decisions and ensure strategies reflect their workforce’s current needs.  


Bigger Than the Co-op

Importantly, Co-op’s data revealed the vast majority of reports stemmed from crime-related incidents. While this is a well-known risk in the retail industry, Co-op used its real-time incident data to quantify the issue and drive positive change. Within its own stores, Coop has reduced physical assaults by 53% in the past year — meaning 366 fewer colleagues have been exposed to workplace violence compared to the year prior. But the impact goes further than that. Co-op’s crime reporting helped highlight the issue at the industry level and drove legislators to pass a bill that made assaulting a shop worker an aggravated offense in England, Scotland and Wales. Now the Co-op triage process is recognized as a market-leading strategy by the National Business Crime Centre and is being shared nationally.

“This has become bigger than the Co-op now. This is helping drive change in our whole entire sector,”
-Louise Atherton

Key Recommendations

The Co-op story includes important key learnings for businesses in any industry that want to create a positive safety culture. Atherton’s top tips:  

  • Engagement at all levels of the organization is key. To fully capture the direct and indirect impacts of incidents across the organization, the best health and safety systems will be valuable tools for end users across the organization.   
  • Output is king. Businesses should think about what they want to get out of their systems while designing them. That way, data input supports efficient processes and produces valuable output.  
  • Think beyond direct impact. Improved data collection means accident rates will appear to increase. It’s important to remember this is still a win — better data means better strategies to reduce incident severity and reduce the rate of future incidents. This data can be used to drive change more broadly and establish your organization as an industry leader, as it has at Co-op.

Partners in Change

Sphera partners with organizations like Co-op to build better change management processes, leading to better risk identification, assessment, control and mitigation. Contact Sphera today to learn how to start your safety journey.  

How EHS Software Can Enhance ESG Reporting Performance: Sharpening the Focus   

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy is one of today’s hottest topics in boardrooms around the world. Now forward-thinking businesses are tapping Environment Health & Safety (EHS) frameworks to grow ESG’s impact beyond compliance. 

A Dynamic ESG Landscape  

The momentum behind ESG legislation in Europe, the United States and other regions is driving enormous interest in ways to update processes and technologies. Over the next couple of years, nearly 50,000 companies will be required to start reporting their ESG impacts under the European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). At least 10,000 non-EU companies will be subject to the regulation.  

In the U.S., large publicly traded companies will likely soon be required to report their Scope 1 and 2 emissions, and some may also need to report their Scope 3 emissions under the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) proposed climate-related disclosure rules. Understandably, the new regulations have led to a focus on compliance, yet ESG provides a useful framework for performance improvement. 

As businesses increasingly seek to approach ESG in more meaningful ways, we are beginning to see a convergence between EHS and ESG. Traditionally, EHS functions have concentrated on ensuring that business services, products and processes are safe for employees, surrounding communities and the planet. ESG can be a natural extension of that work. To take ESG efforts to the next level—and sharpen the focus for both ESG and EHS functions—these two business units need to work together around shared goals. Read on to find out how EHS and ESG can work together to move beyond the status quo.  

5 Steps to Drive EHS and ESG Performance  

1. Identify what data is most material to business decisions. The best way to begin the process of ESG-EHS operationalization is by conducting a materiality assessment. This approach provides insight into current operations and assures that resources are allocated to the highest-priority sustainability issues throughout an organization’s value-chain.  

2. Understand current data and determine gaps. Many overlaps exist between EHS and ESG data-gathering and reporting. Take stock of available EHS data—this may include emissions, energy consumption, environmental incidents, employee safety, accident rates, policy and documentation, and compliance data. The process will also help ESG teams identify information gaps and prioritize future data collection strategies.  

3. Evaluate existing technology. While ESG is new to many organizations, one of your first steps should be to review your current EHS infrastructure. In fact, often EHS processes and systems can be adapted to incorporate all relevant ESG topics and provide state-of-the-art capabilities, such as automated data collection and quality checks; auditable, traceable data storage; and analytic functionality to set targets, measure progress and report it to key stakeholders.   

4. Establish collaboration frameworks. EHS and ESG teams can partner for greater efficiency and support. To facilitate collaboration, organizations should establish communication frameworks early on, outline respective responsibilities and integrate workflows. Equally important is identifying areas where ESG and EHS do not overlap. Cross-training on ESG and EHS solutions can ensure both teams function in a complementary, but not redundant, fashion.   

5. Think about investments to complete a successful transition. Lastly, business leaders can begin to strategize investments to drive greater EHS and ESG performance. Companies can improve ESG ratings and attract new investors, partners and talent by reporting through the following reporting and disclosure frameworks including but not limited to: CDP, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), International Sustainability Standards Board’s (ISSB) SASB standards and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).  

These five steps can help organizations harmonize ESG and EHS functions. Collaboration will help organizations efficiently manage the expanding scope of ESG and sustainability initiatives. Being successful in this process will be all about clarifying business priorities, collecting the right data and using the right technology to support your people.  

EHS Excellence Is Essential 

It is important for businesses, especially those in high-risk industries, to have a scalable, configurable and easy-to-use solution for traditional EHS activities like health and safety management and performance improvement, integrated risk management, and environmental and operational compliance. Now it is also increasingly important that those solutions incorporate ESG elements. 

This year, Verdantix named Sphera a market leader in EHS software solutions and gave our platform top rankings for management of ESG and sustainability, greenhouse gas emissions and air emissions. Our comprehensive offerings currently are being used to support EHS, ESG, operational risk management (ORM) and product stewardship efforts around the world. 

“Verdantix finds that customers are increasingly seeking to eradicate the data silos that have historically existed between EHS and adjacent functions,” said Verdantix Industry Analyst, Chris Sayers, in a press release. “Firms intent on deploying a comprehensive environmental management platform that combines functionality across EHS, ESG, ORM and product stewardship should ascertain the value of leveraging Sphera.”   

Open the Door to Stronger ESG Performance 

The ESG framework demands effective risk management, and EHS systems and solutions are increasingly recognized for their ability to help organizations operationalize ESG. Learn more about how Sphera’s EHS software can accelerate your journey toward improved ESG performance. Download the Verdantix Report here.  

By Sphera’s Editorial Team 

5 Mistakes that make your EHS software selection a failure

Are you in the process of evaluating EHS software vendors? A software selection process can be time-consuming and challenging.

But you can make things easier if you avoid the following common mistakes.

1) You don’t identify your requirements well

The most important step of an EHS software selection process is to identify your requirements. This is obvious but there are a few pitfalls to avoid.

First, don’t focus exclusively on individual features. We all like software with convenient bells and whistles. But don’t make the mistake of creating a ‘wish list’ of all features you want and thinking that’s enough.

Identify also the EHS processes you want to automate or improve with software. Examples include incident management, incident investigation, audits and inspections, job safety analysis, industrial hygiene, etc.

Also, consider related processes. You want EHS software for incident management? Think also about how the software will help with risk management processes, because information on incidents provides insights into hazards and risks, and therefore the controls you need. You should address all aspects, so you don’t end up with a partial solution.

Second, just like any other organization, you have unique needs. Software vendors may not meet 100% of your needs. Be sure to categorize your requirements as ‘must-haves’, ‘should-haves’, or ‘nice-to-haves’ so you focus on the most important elements.

2) You don’t have clear commitment from leadership

Here’s a scenario: Management agrees to allocate budget for a new EHS software system. EHS defines the requirements, evaluates vendors, goes through demos, shortlists solutions, and makes a final choice.

In summary, EHS does everything right. And now it’s time to work on a final software purchase agreement and sign the contract.

Unfortunately, management says they’ll have to postpone the purchase for an undetermined time because the company had a bad financial year, or experienced some problem, or there’s a new CFO who wants to review all expenses.

It’s very frustrating for EHS teams to go through something like this. Imagine all the time and work that has been wasted.

To avoid this type of frustration, make sure the leadership of your company, including the C-suite, are strongly committed to the project, through thick and thin.

3) You don’t look at the big picture

An EHS software selection takes time and effort. You want to get the most out of it, rather than going through a similar process repeatedly over the years.

A typical mistake is when an organization lacks vision and fails to be pro-active by concentrating only on a current, immediate pain point. Maybe today you have a pressing need for incident management. But what about audits, inspections, action plans, compliance management, etc.? They’re all connected.

Similarly, you may be looking only for an occupational health solution. But there are many synergies between occupational health, risk management, incident management, and chemical management. Look at the big picture!

It’s more efficient and economical to consider a software platform that will empower you to improve all current and future EHS processes, not just one or two. You don’t want multiple, different EHS software solutions, each with a different user interface, thus increasing training costs and complicating user adoption and onboarding.

4) You don’t involve users

The decision to purchase EHS software is made by EHS and financial leaders. But the successful implementation and adoption of EHS software will be determined by users, whether they’re frontline workers, staff, technicians, specialists, etc.

Imagine investing a large amount of money in EHS software, only to have it go unused. The entire business case of the investment and the ROI would be severely undermined.

To prevent this, involve those who will use the EHS software system on a regular basis in the selection process. Be sure they see the demos provided by vendors. Ask what is important for them. Check whether the different applications being considered meet their needs. Get their feedback before making a final selection.

5) You focus too much on technology

When evaluating software, it’s natural to focus on technological aspects, such as features and workflows. And ultimately you want EHS software to align with your requirements.

But be careful about looking only at technology. The vendor’s organizational attributes must also play a role in your final decision. Many companies make the big mistake of deciding mainly on software features or pricing, without considering other factors.

What should you look for in a software vendor? First, try to find out about the type of customer service they offer.

Second, how does the vendor prioritize requests and define product roadmaps? What type of interactions do they have with their customer community?

Finally, will the software vendor be around to help you, and in what form? There have been many mergers and acquisitions in the EHS software space. Therefore, you want to build a partnership with a stable EHS software vendor that has the financial and organizational resources to be around for a long time. Stability will prevent a lot of disruption for your company.

To accelerate your EHS software selection, download your complimentary copy of the Green Quadrant: EHS Software 2023 report from independent research firm Verdantix. The report provides a detailed fact-based comparison of the 23 most prominent EHS platform vendors. Use the report to benchmark the capabilities of leading EHS software applications and to determine which EHS software vendor can be a reliable partner for the future.




Three Keys to Improving Safety Performance 

Safety has always been important but never more so for businesses than during the past year. While the world struggled to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the hard reality is that frontline workers faced severe health risks. For health and safety professionals, this meant increased pressure to keep their company’s workers safe. Sphera’s Safety Report 2021 shows heartening improvements in the overall safety culture. But it also points to a concerning gap between “Safety Intent” and the reality of safety practices. 75% of respondents said that safety is part of the corporate culture, but only 40% said they have a well-defined roadmap to improve safety performance. 

Need For More Leading Indicator Data 

To understand safety performance, accurate and up-to-date safety metrics are needed to capture risks by recording incidents, near-misses and safety-related observations. This brings us to our findings on how companies conduct incident reporting today: 56% report, in addition to incidents, near-misses and observations. 35% report incidents and near-misses. 27% report only incidents. 

Safety metrics based on existing data need to be analyzed, acted upon, and learned from to improve safety performance, anticipate and prevent future incidents. There is a driving need to allow the complete workforce to report (Key #1). The benefit would be more leading indicator data that include near misses and behavioral-based observations in addition to incidents. 

Call For Digital Tools For Incident Reporting and Data Analysis 

The concerning gap between safety intent and reality is better explained when we look into the tools used to report incidents: 26% record events on paper only. 29% record events in Excel-based logbooks or similar apps. 43% record events with an appropriate software tool. 

More than 50% of event data seems to be hidden on paper and in Excel documents rather than made available to all concerned parties across the organization. When only 43% of companies use software to report incidents, and only 40% of the complete workforce can report these events, we see why such a yawning gap exists. 

Digitalization has immense potential to support nearly all mission-critical business processes. Why is there so little technology adoption for health and safety management processes? We found some more surprising facts: 49% adopted a software tool to increase efficiency in their health and safety program. 20% use health and safety management software to support automated data collection. 25% use analytics, and only 37% use structured actions and remediations. 

Leading indicator data is key to preventing future incidents, which increases productivity and lowers costs (Key #2). But only 43% of companies record events with a software tool, only 20% use a health and safety management software tool to automate their data collection and only 25% use data analytics. 

Based on the existing data of leading safety metrics, analytics tools must be used to drive learnings which are then incorporated back into the culture. (Key #3). Based on leading indicator data, information needs to be shared across the organization for collaboration and training that meets local and global needs. Analytics and leading indicators will drive safety performance together. 

Increased Safety Performance Drives Business Performance 

So, if it is clear that effective safety culture and efficient safety tools help ensure a healthy workforce, which results in enhanced business performance, why don’t more companies see the link between safety and business performance? Do some businesses still look at health and safety management as a cost factor rather than a major contributor to the overall business performance? 

“The connection between a healthy workforce and superior marketplace performance is becoming increasingly clear. It is estimated that for every dollar saved in direct health care costs, employers save an extra $2.30 in improved performance or productivity.1 

How to prove that health and safety contribute to overall productivity and, therefore, to business performance? Will it help to use reliable, accurate, and up-to-date safety metrics that show your actual performance, progress and identify areas for improvement? Automation and digitalization are cost-effective ways to protect workers and keep profit margins strong. 

Where to Begin? 

SpheraCloud Health and Safety Management software is a powerful, integrated platform that enables automated data collection, provides an incident reporting tool for all employees across the entire organization and provides analytics for fast and informed decision-making. Based on the collected data, actions and remediations are set and training management is planned that is visible to all relevant stakeholders via insightful dashboards. 

Author – Steve Tomlin  


Source: Three Keys to Improving Safety Performance | Sphera 

Trust Your EHS Data, but Talk to Your Workers Also

There used to be a time when companies did not have the same quantity and quality of EHS data that they have now. That certainly was a problem. But do we have another type of problem now?

Today, organizations have gotten better at collecting data on incidents, near misses, risks, hazards, observations, and environmental metrics. This has been greatly facilitated by EHS software.

Moreover, the technology exists today to analyze EHS data and make sense of it. With a massive volume of data available, organizations can use advanced analytics to gain better insights, including descriptive analytics (“What’s happening?”), diagnostic analytics (“why it’s happening?”), predictive analytics (“What could happen?”), and prescriptive analytics (“What should be done?”).

Here’s a question that you don’t hear often: Is there a danger of relying too much on data?

Not everything that counts can be counted

Almost 60 years ago, in 1963, sociologist William Bruce Cameron wrote ‘Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking’, which included the following passage (emphasis added separately):

“It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

At first glance you may think that the passage is irrelevant because sociology and EHS are completely different. But are they? Aren’t humans at the center or both? Ultimately, EHS is about keeping workers safe and health.

Listen to your EHS data

Let’s be clear: The great progress in technology and data management is a positive development. Advanced analytics present many opportunities for EHS professionals to improve safety performance.

You should trust what your EHS data says. You can gain a competitive edge and better protect your workers if you fully embrace EHS data analysis and new technologies.

Listen to your EHS data to generate these types of insights that will inform your decision-making:

  • The top hazards that are leading to the most incidents. This informs your risk assessments and shows you where controls should be implemented.
  • The locations, job types, or work groups with the most accidents and near misses. This helps you determine where you should focus your efforts and attention.
  • Changes in incident rates following an increase in observations of at-risk or unsafe conditions or behaviors. This allows you to see if you’re successfully identifying or addressing problems.

In sum, it’s good to be data-driven. Numbers don’t lie. Decisions supported by data are more likely to stand scrutiny and to achieve their desired outcomes.

But talk to your workers also

However, there is a danger of relying too much on data.

Why? Because data is rational, precise, structured, and logical. Humans can also exhibit these traits, but they also carry inherent cognitive biases, irrationalities, and emotional complexities.

There are things that EHS data will tell you that you will not learn from conversations with people. But there are also things that conversations will reveal that you can’t learn from data.

For example, go talk to the professional with more than 40 years of experience who is about to retire, and who has a wealth of knowledge. He may give valuable information on how people feel, think, act, and behave, which is something that data may only partially tell you.

Talk to the employee who was recently hired, and graduated from university only last year. She may give great insights about the expectations of your future employees and the new workplace trends that may be common in one, five, or ten years.

Don’t dismiss what people have to say by relying too much on data.

Complementing, not competing

Ultimately, it’s about complementing data insights with what people say. Both are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they strengthen each other.

Data will tell you what happened, where it happened, and when. Through advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, data may even tell you why something happened, and what could happen.

But conversations with workers offer glimpses into the thought processes, emotions, and feelings that people go through, and which may provide critical insights into such questions as:

  • Why are workers reluctant to wear PPE?
  • Why is training material not being remembered?
  • Why do workers hesitate to report near misses or observations?
  • Why do they see processes and paperwork as unnecessary burdens?


In conclusion, always aim to improve your EHS data management through software and technology. But keep talking to your workers and don’t forget the human aspect of safety.

Indicators, culture and performance improvement – what really changes EHS outcomes?

ERM is proud to sponsor the 2022 EHS Congress in Berlin – we hope you’ll join us for coffee!

Meet the ERM Team at booth #4. Our Safety and Digital experts will be on hand to share what we’re hearing in the market – we hope you’ll come say hi and do the same.

Our Consulting Director, Philippa Knapp will speak on September 13th at 13:10 pm. Join us for her talk titled, ‘Indicators, culture and performance improvement – what really changes EHS outcomes?’.

She’ll challenge you to think through whether:

  • Your indicators reflect the different cultures and risk profiles across your organization?​​
  • You capture the richness of human performance data, to learn from it and improve? ​​
  • Your leaders challenge the green indicators? How do they make informed decisions and engage the workforce​?​

As the world’s largest sustainability consultancy, ERM helps clients to build safety programs that are easy to embrace, replicate, and sustain.  With 40 years’ experience, our safety specialists help our clients move beyond traditional compliance and corrective programs – to safeguard lives, protect assets and strengthen their reputation – so they can maximize the return on their safety investments.

Read about our safety insights here

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