No More Paper

Don't waste time pushing files in a cabinet when you don't have to.

EVERY day, minutes are lost as U.S. companies hunt for documents, fill out forms, chase down files, and respond to information requests. In the 1990s, documentation management was a problem. Today, it is a crisis.

The burden of documentation is a significant problem negatively facing occupational health and safety visibility to information, timeliness of reporting, and access to information for emergency response. In an era of tight budgets, dollars spent on documentation constraints drain two of businesses' most precious resources: budgets and people. Compounding this problem is the fact that the occupational health and safety industry is one where time truly does matter.

Issues that demand swift, immediate attention and action occur daily, including work with asbestos, mold, lead, and mercury. When an occupational health and safety issue arises, the entire community may be affected and, thus, a quick response to prevent potentially disastrous consequences is called for. Every delay in documentation slows the cleanup, containment, and resolution of an environmental hazard and puts companies and people's health at risk.

The good news is that technological solutions are available that can help solve these documentation problems. Today, organizations and people that are empowering technology to solve their problems and streamline their processes are getting people's time back. If an organization can get self-management around its information--an electronic administrator that is managing information--then, all of a sudden, people have their time back. They can go back in the field and do their jobs instead of chasing information all of the time. Instead of taking money and plugging holes, organizations are able to create solutions. This creates a safer work environment and reduces the burden of documentation costs against the budget, freeing up more dollars to get done the things that need to be done.

New, affordable technologies are available that create automated workflow, automated alerts, and self-managed information. The important thing is that now people have to touch the document only once. These technologies self-file e-mail, as well as inbound and outbound faxes, and do not let these things turn to paper. This enables wasted and budget-crippling human effort spent pushing documents in a file cabinet to be replaced with workers getting out and doing their jobs.

Advantages of Electronic Document Storage
Specific documents must be maintained and submitted for businesses to maintain compliance, including Material Safety Data Sheets, accident reports, and worker training documentation. Not having instant access to Material Safety Data Sheets put everyone at risk. Updates are hard to manage, access is often restricted, and too often, MSDS inspections are reactive rather than proactive. Enabling vendor and safety department collaboration with documents streamlines the information and document flow while ensuring the updates for the workforce that needs them.

Details of accidents are also critical to ensure proper processing, reduction of liability, and the building of programs to prevent future accidents. The reality is that the majority of accident information is often locked up in documents in a file cabinet. Enabling e-form data collection and electronic document storage allows access to documents and the management of complete record sets, ensuring accuracy and enabling accurate trend reporting.

Without a doubt, workforce training is one of the best methods to create a safe workplace. Managing training is tedious and difficult with paper files and Excel spreadsheets. The automation of training course management can ensure an up-to-date workforce. Whether the training is lockout/tagout, CPR, or a respiratory protection program, managing the workers' participation is critical to maintain compliance with OSHA mandates.

Investing in technology is a good investment, whether you're a private contractor or someone working in a warehouse, plant, or some other facility. By doing so, everyone involved will be free of the documentation burden, enabling those responsible for dealing with safety and compliance issues to stay focused on the hazards of the job and allowing for the use of allocated resources for the actual problems at hand.

Do you homework; you will be surprised what you can find out there today.

This article appeared in the September 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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