Adaptive Spaces

Integrating QHSE Best Practices into Your Data Center Strategy

Lessons from a Live Data Center

August 9, 2021

IT professionals at a workstation

Research demonstrates that no matter how resilient engineering infrastructure appears, nearly 90% of preventable failures relate to human error or process failure. Tracking, reporting and analyzing QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety and Environment) performance should be part of a data center operator’s risk mitigation strategy, using underlying root causes to take action to prevent failures.

Advances in technology capability, engineering longevity and materials are changing the way in which sites are managed with less reliance on people to monitor and intervene. Therefore, the need for robust, effective and efficient QHSE management has become paramount. As human involvement decreases, QHSE management becomes more critical to ensure that employees are correctly performing their tasks.

Improving QHSE relies on an integrated approach, placing an equal priority on people, engineering and technology.

  • People

    Commonly overlooked in the data center industry, employees’ well-being is crucial to how employees perform in their jobs, as it’s fundamental to happiness, health, motivation and the ability to overcome day-to-day challenges. Well-being encompasses a range of interlinking factors, including mental and physical health, employment, living conditions, social issues and education. Well-being also impacts communication. When employees are stressed, burned out or frustrated they are at risk of miscommunicating, making errors on who to communicate with, when to communicate and how to listen.

  • Engineering

    To improve quality and environmental management, the modern data center’s engineering should focus on maximizing efficiency, minimizing impact, and sourcing sustainable and reusable materials that are not only durable but safe through the lifecycle of the facility.

  • Technology

    To operate leading data centers the technology needs to be robust, value enhancing and reliable, while providing transparency and actionable information. Therefore, as technology becomes more automated, human interaction at a data center will typically occur only in a crisis, which are stressful scenarios for employees involved. Preparing employees for effective crisis management, while mitigating technology errors, improves employee mental and physical safety.

CBRE’s Human Factors Training program:
CBRE, a global manager of 700 data centers in 45 countries, has developed the Human Factors Training program—with professional psychologists, QHSE, human resources and operations/reliability experts—to manage and reduce human error. CBRE requires all data center employees to take this training, from on-site technicians to finance managers.

Chris Pendergrass, CBRE’s leader of the Americas QHSE program states, “The resulting program covers well-being and other factors that can affect a technician’s ability to perform well, particularly in stressful situations. This training is achieved through classroom learning, facilitation, group discussions and practical exercises, and aims to increase safety, quality and efficiency in critical maintenance operations by reducing human error and its impact on maintenance activities.”

Robust, effective and efficient QHSE management depends on the holistic management of risks and opportunities through methodical identification, evaluation, mitigation and monitoring.

As businesses make changes that positively affect QHSE, it’s important to track and then demonstrate to people, the business and stakeholders outside of the site boundary. Tracking may involve showing energy usage and CO2 emissions to meet customer requirements, showcasing business continuity plans and follow through or recognizing programs that support employee mental health. Measuring, collating, analyzing and sharing data in ways that demonstrate leading positions and the ability to compare and learn is a key element of continuous improvement.

Just as data centers play an increasingly important role in daily life, QHSE has implications well beyond an employee’s professional life. The discipline is rooted in understanding how people make decisions and use tools and systems to accomplish tasks, and it aims to eliminate or manage the human errors that sometimes do occur—all applicable to personal life as well. As work and life become more intertwined, QHSE becomes a workplace necessity to holistically benefit our employees.

The Global Leader in Data Center Operations

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