Ask the Expert, Reporting, Technology and Innovation

Ask the Expert: Dr. Chuck Pettinger on Predictive Analytics

In this special EHS Technology Week installment of Ask the Expert, we hear from Dr. Chuck Pettinger, who is a certified behavioral analyst and behavioral program specialist for the state of Florida and other private industries. He is the Vice President of Customer Success and Experience at Newmetrix, a company that combines the data that organizations are already collecting with the best of human and artificial intelligence to create construction-trained predictive models.

We reached out to ask Chuck about predictive analytics and how this type of data is useful in the EHS industry. Here’s what he had to say. 

predictive analytics

Q: What is “predictive analytics” and how is it applicable in the EHS industry?  

Predictive analytics is using historical data to find patterns to better identify potential risks, opportunities, or to suggest actions to take for optimal outcomes. Today’s companies are swimming in disparate pieces of data that live in many different databases, applications, log files, sensors, videos, images, and many pieces of paper stuffed into filing cabinets. Predictive analytics takes all this information, and through statistical modeling, data mining, and machine learning, makes predictions about future outcomes.  

Unfortunately, many of these data streams are siloed into organizational departments and never interrelated. For many years, safety professionals have been gathering a plethora of information leading up to and following injuries. With predictive analytics, we can move beyond being reactionary and focus on being more proactive using data to help identify potential gaps in our safety systems and processes before someone gets hurt.  

Q: What obstacles do you think AI and predictive analytics will overcome in EHS?  

For many years, safety departments have been laser focused on reducing incident rates. In immature safety cultures, this focus has inadvertently stifled reporting and learning because of the perceived fault-finding of injury investigations. By breaking down those data silos and letting the data help tell the story, safety professionals can then gather better intelligence, be more proactive, and reduce and/or eliminate systems and processes that are putting employees in a place to get hurt.  

Q: Do you have any concerns about the widespread use of predictive analytics or AI?  

The only concerns are the misunderstanding or misuse of the term predictive analytics. I have attended talks, seen vendors pitch, and heard consultants use tools and techniques that are not predictive analytics, but sound good and sell products. A pareto chart is NOT predictive analytics. Also, we still need humans to interpret the information being delivered through predictive analytics. So, the education of what can and cannot be done with predictive analytics is essential to advancing the field and saving lives. 

Q: What other kinds of technology are you most excited to see enter the EHS industry?  

I am really excited by so many pieces of safety equipment that are now embedded with sensors to help provide critical feedback to workers to keep them safe. However, just because I wear a “Fitbit” doesn’t mean I‘ll be more active! It takes people using this information to make a difference in their lives. We will need those data streams to be captured, interpreted, and used in a way that is valuable to the end user. Make it too hard or inconvenient to use this valuable data intelligence, and it will be ignored. The future “connected worker” could help put us closer to the vision of eliminating death on the job.