How workforce management helps to reduce accidents at work

A worrying situation: in 2019, the number of employees becoming victims of accidents trended upwards, according to the figures released by the SZW Inspectorate. The number of fatal accidents has nevertheless decreased slightly (69 in 2019 compared to 71 in 2018). One in every four victims is a temporary or holiday worker. The majority of work-related accidents occur in warehouses. However, elsewhere on the shop floor, accidents are lurking around every corner, too.

Employers held responsible for most accidents

First and foremost, a safe and healthy working environment is an employer responsibility. This is required to identify potential safety risks and health hazards for employees and to take appropriate precautions. They must ensure a safe working environment with proper logistics and infrastructure arrangements, protective equipment and tools, unambiguous work and safety instructions, regular inspections and maintenance of machinery and equipment, and the necessary training facilities. The adage “Prevention is better than cure” is nowhere more true than on the shop floor. Employers are nearly always held liable if anything should go wrong, even where errors or accidents are caused not by the victim employee, but by a colleague (read more).At present, however, fewer than half of the companies have carried out a risk assessment and evaluation (RAE). That is why the SZW Inspectorate will this year focus primarily on information and enforcement. ATOSS, too, wants to assist employers in preventing shop floor accidents with the aid of digital Workforce Management, a connecting link that is still too often unknown or ignored.

High work pressure and flexible non-core workforce: a particularly vulnerable combination

High work pressure is one of the most frequently cited reasons for the rising number of accidents (read more). Mistakes are made more easily when working under high pressure. In logistics, the recruitment of suitable - and above all young - personnel is a structural problem. In order to reduce work pressure, employers frequently resort to hiring temporary or holiday workers. According to the figures, workers from the flexible non-core workforce are also the most vulnerable. As a rule, they are less aware of the procedures and processes to be followed. Employers and clients should therefore pay sufficient attention to the induction period, provide clear instructions and facilitate proper guidance during the work. For planners, it is key to have a clear understanding of their specializations and qualifications. Still, not every hiring party has sufficient insight into, let alone a direct link with, the workforce system of the temporary employment agency. This is, however, perfectly possible with a modern Workforce Management solution.

Workforce Management: an untapped potential for accident prevention

Digital workforce management enables accurate forecasts, work plans, and time records. In addition, workforce management contributes in many ways to preventing work-related accidents, in all phases of the process.

Workforce Forecasting

Using as many relevant demand drivers as possible, modern workforce management software calculates the future demand or order situation already at an early stage - and consequently the long-term personnel requirements. Applying this knowledge in the subsequent steps of the workforce management process, generates extremely accurate capacity and workforce plans resulting in less over- or understaffing. This reduces work pressure, translating as less stress and less negligence, and in higher safety levels.

Personnel structure optimization

As soon as the long-term workforce demands and requirements are calculated, managers and HR can build the necessary workforce structure and start hiring, training, retraining and exchanging staff between departments and teams. In this way, there is no need to hastily hire temporary or holiday workers, with all safety risks this entails.

Capacity planning

In the medium term, workforce planners match the available capacity to the needs. They review whether the workforce includes sufficient available staff with the right skills and qualifications for a given period of time. Moreover, the contractual terms, balances of hours worked and overtime and the rate of absenteeism are also taken into account in order to achieve cost-optimized planning. If there is a shortage of workers or specific skills at any given time, planners can first try to call in employees from other teams or locations, or arrange for further training of employees to fill the gap.

Preparing the holiday year planning as early as possible provides a better insight into the capacity and result in a better distribution of available employees. In this way, it is possible to fill gaps with local, properly inducted staff, with the appropriate qualifications.

Workforce Scheduling

Workforce scheduling is usually done 3 to 4 weeks in advance. It is the most concrete step in the planning process and a multitude of variables have to be factored in. Examples include:

  • Who, where, when and what activity, workplace or machine?
  • Laws and regulations, collective bargaining agreements, acquired rights
  • Sickness notifications and holiday requests
  • Working time accounts
  • Qualifications
  • Etc.

Proper scheduling requires many data. Centralizing data and integrating systems, improves reliability and facilitates compliance. In addition, it enables better observation of legally prescribed rest periods, thereby reducing the risk of accidents due to fatigue. Companies will be able to schedule a maximum number of employees per workplace so that everyone has sufficient working space, which avoids accidents. Individual comments can be posted on a grid to draw employees’ attention to specific clothing instructions or current safety requirements.

Managing and steering personnel

A characteristic of managing and steering personnel is the fact that companies must be able to swiftly respond to sudden changes in staffing needs or short-term absences. In this case, compliance with relevant safety standards must be ensured - at optimal costs in accordance with applicable regulations and in line with employees’ expectations. A digital workforce management solution with intelligent automation and maximum data transparency assists in making the most efficient - and safe - decision.

Time & Attendance Management

A modern workforce management integrates both workforce planning and time recording. This ensures that the balances are always correct, and facilitates compliance with laws and regulations with regard to labor and rest periods. By comparing planned versus actual hours worked, the number of contract hours that have been worked are visible at a glance. When replacing sick employees, employees who have already too many hours can be omitted, in order to ensure their safety.

Unprecedented opportunities with digital workforce management

There are many other options of how Workforce Management can contribute to a safer working environment. Interested in discovering them? Then contact our local experts to discuss your sector-specific needs. We would be happy to help you in getting ahead safely.



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Excursus: Qualification Management

Without the appropriate qualifications, productivity falls or stagnates, and the risk of accidents increases. Keeping track of all qualifications, with all their individual conditions and periods of validity for all employees, is not possible without a digital solution.

Consequently, a special qualification management should be part of the Workforce Management system that also covers the planning process. This integration ensures that, in the event of an acute planning problem, an employee does not need to perform tasks or operate machines that he or she is not qualified for and which could lead to accidents.

Want to learn more? Check out our whitepaper.

How many people have a first aid certificate? Are there any special training courses required for working with machines? Have a sufficient number of employees completed these training courses? When will the qualification certificates expire? Should an employee work more hours in a workplace so that he/she is sufficiently competent and independent to acquire or preserve a qualification? Is further training needed to preserve qualifications? The system provides direct insight into all these matters. Managers and planners can also set automatic notifications. In this way, the scheduling of employees without valid qualifications can be prevented. 

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About the author

Jelle Kuijper

He helps large companies in Logistics, Port, Rail and Aviation in the selection and initiation phase for new Workforce Management projects. With his client-oriented approach, he supports them to make solid choices and achieve their strategic objectives. In his personal life he is interested in biology, theology, and history. 

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