Three Ways Mobile Solutions Safeguard Employee Health & Safety

Regulations and laws mandate that employers provide a certain level of security in the workplace. Within the scope of environmental, health & safety (EHS) regulations, certain standards are set in place to ensure that employee safety is established and maintained. However, as technology progresses, so do EHS reporting practices, which provide opportunities to set and achieve higher safety standards.

EHS breaches can lead to lawsuits, regulatory penalties, or, at the very least, a tarnished company brand, with all outcomes dealing a blow to the bottom line. Serious safety breaches can deliver a hit so hard that a company may have to spend years salvaging its reputation – if there is a reputation left to salvage. Following any accident or lawsuit, faults and errors in reporting are often at the forefront of questioning. In retrospect, looking back at captured data can reveal how the devastating error could have been avoided and lessons learned can be applied to future processes.

Mobile reporting solutions have equipped an array of organizations, from SMBs to large enterprises, to reach and even exceed stringent compliance standards. Here are three ways that mobile solutions safeguard employee health & safety.

1. Mobile solutions allow for the efficient capture of rich and accurate data. Antiquated, paper-based data collection processes are vulnerable to inaccuracies and don't allow for the capture of rich multimedia data. Solving critical, time-sensitive EHS issues requires detailed and accurate data, which the supposedly "tried and true" method of pen and paper may fail to deliver.

Leading mobile solutions are equipped with an array of features designed to expedite data collection and raise accuracy, such as buttons and drop-down menus with pre-populated responses.

Sometimes, only pictures are able to fully convey issues and concerns found during an inspection. Leading mobile forms solutions allow EHS field teams to capture site photos and annotate on top to pinpoint any problems, with the final images seamlessly integrated into the mobile forms.

Inspectors often can gauge the health of a piece of equipment just by the sound it makes. Some higher-caliber solutions allow field workers to capture audio and integrate the files into their mobile reports for later review. Mobile solutions also clear the haze of uncertainty inherent in manual data collection by eliminating the simple act of deciphering penmanship from various team members. Relying on outdated processes means that office administrators are tasked with manually inputting data recorded on paper forms into a back-office system. Field notes may be incomprehensible to anyone but the team member who recorded them. But the process of digitally inputting information ensures that a "0" will never be confused for a "9" – a seemingly minor mistake that could have devastating ripple effects.

While not the cure-all answer, the digitization of EHS processes has been proven to mitigate workplace incidents due to increased accuracy and the ability to provide more detailed data, offering stakeholders a clear picture of the current situation.

2. Instant form submission and decision-based logic ensure stakeholders quickly receive crucial data. Manual records are difficult to track and maintain throughout the data collection process. With the evolution of cross-country offices and international teams, data recorded on paper is vulnerable to loss during transit. According to a report by Visioneer, Inc., an average of 7.5 per cent of all paper documents are lost altogether. When critical EHS data is misplaced, it puts your company at risk of not meeting industry compliance and, worse, puts your employees' safety at risk.

Once any required paper document is lost, it's imperative that the team recreates and recirculates the information. Because the main goal of these forms is to guarantee the safety of employees, the information is top priority. However, it takes time to recreate the data accurately, ultimately hindering the productivity of the entire team.

Digital forms circumnavigate the need to recreate lost records. Leading mobile solutions allow field workers to easily send EHS reports to multiple destinations with the touch of a button, eliminating constant trips back to the office and ensuring that not a single form is lost. Field workers don't have to manually select individual recipients as each form can be pre-configured to automatically submit to your back-office system, specific personnel, and your analytics engine. If an inspection yields a potential issue, that form can be automatically sent to an EHS professional who specializes in that area. Inspection forms can also be scored to rank the issue's severity – and whether it should be dealt with immediately or filed away for later. If a critical safety breach is discovered, SMS notifications can call key stakeholders to action.

3. Analytics identifies common EHS shortfalls. Many EHS teams strive to achieve zero serious safety incidents. Target Zero may seem like an elusive goal, but you stand a better chance of reaching it if you replace your subpar reporting practices with a sophisticated mobile alternative. Paper-based processes are not only sluggish and inaccurate; they fail to help easily identify common EHS shortfalls, which is critical to achieving Target Zero.

Antiquated manual processes leave supervisors with limited insight into trends in submitted data. While they can import that information into a software program or review at a later date, the constant ebb and flow of information often results in outdated data.

Modern analytics tools now allow companies to leverage large amounts of data to drive compliance. Analytics drills down to identify compliance challenges by region, work group, site, or even individual employees. Analytics dashboards provide a clean visual summary of historical EHS data. With little more than a glance, EHS workers can spot the common safety shortfalls plaguing their business. Teams are able to quickly provide prescriptive analysis with the data, which results in more beneficial and cost-effective courses of action.

Proving compliance is nearly as important as actually being compliant. When regulators or other stakeholders request EHS data, you have to deliver. Analytics provides quick access to data that can be used to confirm compliance to address legal, regulatory, or other requests from partners and/or management. Safety incidents decline as compliance tools evolve.

An independent study by BLR reported that nearly half of EHS professionals still use paper forms. While pen and paper have sufficed throughout history, this method does not allow for clear and comprehensive data, efficient data delivery, and intuitive analytics.

Evolutions in technology and the work environment have reduced the number of workplace accidents. In 1970, an average of 38 workers were killed every day in workplace accidents in the United States. In 2014, that number was down to 12 a day. However, that doesn't mean the train needs to stop there. The changing world mandates the adoption of new technology to stay competitive. Through digitization, companies can continue to thrive while decreasing the number of workplace safety incidents.

With all these powerful digital tools at your disposal, why settle for the status quo?

Mark Scott ([email protected]) is vice president of marketing for ProntoForms Corporation, a company based in Ottawa, Canada. He brings more than 20 years of marketing experience to the leadership team at the company. He has written multiple white papers on the topic of mobilizing businesses processes with smartphones and tablets for leading companies, including Apple, AT&T, Samsung, and Panasonic (Toughpad), and is also a contributor to Forbes on the topic of mobile applications for business and industrial use.

Posted on Aug 08, 2016

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