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Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Ohio State’s New Partnership with NiSource is Shining Brighter Light on Safety
Ohio State University students learn about natural gas regulators while touring the new Columbia Gas training center in Gahanna, Ohio.

NiSource teamed up with Ohio State's Fisher College of Business to look into historical safety data - and both sides won

NiSource tracks a lot of information, including safety data.

It’s done with an eye toward keeping people safe by mitigating risk factors and encouraging best practices. Recently, NiSource teamed up with business data analytics students at The Ohio State University to find ways to further extract trends from data.

Overseen by a former IBM executive, two groups of juniors and seniors were tasked with finding factors around why and when work injuries occur.

The students did not disappoint.

They gained immersive, real-world experience and connections at a leading central Ohio company. And, NiSource received a fresh pair of eyes on its data while establishing a budding relationship with a rising part of the university.

The NiSource team, led by members of the Damage Prevention, Strategy and Planning, and Safety organizations – Ashley Donnini, director of damage prevention and GIS records enhancement, Rod Boswell, director of data optimization and analytics, and Jeff Blodgett, director of corporate safety support – provided data and assumptions to students.

The results

Students found that when field employees marginally alter their standard workweek – say, by taking a half-day or working an abbreviated week after returning from vacation – the risk of injury increases.

This differed from the conventional wisdom that workers might be most at-risk when preparing to go on vacation or holiday.

“The data show that maybe there’s risk, but the real risk is when someone took the morning off to go to the doctor and is now going to work in the afternoon,” Donnini says. “They are out of their normal rhythm.”

How it began

Donnini jump started the partnership between Ohio State and NiSource. She took a one-time class on data analytics while enrolled in Ralph Greco’s course in the Executive MBA program at Fisher College of Business.

“Ashley approached me afterward and said, ‘This would be cool stuff to do with NiSource,’” says Greco, senior lecturer in the Department of Management Sciences and the director for the Nationwide Center for Advanced Customer Insights. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ It gave them a chance to work in the real world.”

Students sifted through masses of information, all of which was masked so that no employee or locations were identifiable. The sheer quantity of data initially overwhelmed the students to the point where they didn’t know where to start – which was music to Greco’s ears.

“The data is wonderful,” he says. “The students spent a lot of time talking to NiSource.”

Greco and the students also toured Columbia Gas of Ohio’s new training center in Gahanna as part of the three-month project.

Ohio State Students Visit Training Center
Ralph Greco watches as an Ohio State University student tests the specialized driving simulator inside the new Columbia Gas training center in Gahanna, Ohio. Greco, senior lecturer in the Department of Management Sciences and director of the Nationwide Center for Advanced Customer Insights, and Fisher College of Business students recently toured the new facility as part of their months-long data analytics project with NiSource.

Students interested in data analytics who are enrolled in an Industry Immersion program have worked with other noted central Ohio companies including JPMorgan Chase, Cardinal Health and Lane Bryant. Those majoring in data analytics and finance participated in the NiSource project.

A group led by Dave Monte, senior vice president of safety, environmental, engineering and training, is exploring more ways to work with Ohio State students this spring, which could include analyzing other safety-related data sets. NiSource sees the partnership as another measure taken to boost our understanding of workforce trends, making the company even more proactive in taking preventative measures to avoid injuries.

Written By News Desk, NiSource

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