STEM in the News

How big data, modeling and machine learning are shaping safety in BC

Lori, an electrical safety officer with BC Safety Authority (BCSA), scans her mobile device. Late last night when the servers crunched the data, some construction activity without the legally required permits was detected, and sites with the highest probability of safety hazards were flagged. Data on wholesale and retail sales related to appliances, copper and piping, as well as changes in energy consumption patterns, is used to provide information on areas where oversight may be required. Every day, BCSA analysts use various forms of data to set up tags in each safety officer’s compliance and risk portfolio. Those installations identified by the algorithms as being highest priority for follow-up are automatically placed in a task list for the day. Lori heads to her vehicle knowing she has a busy day ahead of her, but confident that she has the facts to inform where she can best impact safety in the province.

Smarter safety

The above story provides a look at the future of safety oversight, but BCSA is already turning data into knowledge to help achieve safer communities in BC. Open source data, sensor technology, information modelling and predictive analytics are just some of the many tools the organization is exploring to focus resources on high-risk areas, enhance knowledge sharing, and improve compliance with regulations designed to keep the public safe.

“In the past, our work at BCSA was very focused on physical assessments of regulated work, like electrical and gas,” explains Phil Gothe, Vice President, Technical Programs. “But today there’s an incredible opportunity to use real-time data to really focus in on problem areas where we can impact change. And we are also looking to technology to improve the services we provide to our clients.”

Predicting issues, prioritizing risks

Currently data gathered by BCSA shows that licensed contractors working without permits are four times more likely to produce public safety hazards. This information forms part of the extensive knowledge base that helps guide safety decisions within the organization. For example, BCSA’s Resource Allocation Program (RAP) uses data-driven algorithms and expert system rules to direct efforts towards the most high risk areas. But that’s just the start – looking ahead to the future, BCSA has big plans for data and will be looking to turn this shared knowledge into insights that can be used to drive behavioral change.

“We’re only at the beginning of our journey,” Phil says. “We’ll be looking to tomorrow’s STEM leaders to help evolve our safety system, enhance knowledge sharing opportunities, and shape the future of safety in our province.”

It’s all part of BCSA’s goal to deliver “smarter safety” – and it means challenging career opportunities for creative thinkers and problem solvers with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) backgrounds. Individuals with technical skills in analytics, and an interest in using information to solve complex problems will be in high demand.

“BC SAFETY AUTHORITY IS PROUD TO SPONSOR THE STEM SPOTLIGHT AWARDS AND SUPPORT THE BRIGHT MINDS AND EMERGING VISIONARIES WHO WILL BE WORKING TO SOLVE THE TECHNICAL SAFETY CHALLENGES OF THE FUTURE.”

BC Safety Authority is an independent, self-funded organization managed to oversee the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment. In addition to issuing permits, licenses and certificates, we work with industry to reduce safety risks through assessment, education and outreach, enforcement, and research. www.safetyauthority.ca