Whether in construction and civil engineering, manufacturing, transportation or facilities management, organisations need to put in place a system of HSEQ procedures to ensure the safety and well-being of workers and to evidence compliance to regulatory bodies.
However, annual statistics on workplace incidents, injuries and fatalities in all these industries, accompanied by frequent news reports, unveiling hazardous labour conditions suggest that these procedures are not optimally implemented.
Let’s look at the way mobile technology can help to optimise the specific design and implementations of EHSQ processes and empower a safety culture of collaboration and compliance.
What is the current approach?
According to recent LNS Research, 70.7% of companies do not have a mobile EHS strategy and have no plan of implementing one . This suggests that data capture in the field and on site, in most cases, is still performed by using pen and paper. The information then needs to be manually transferred to a database before it can be analysed, costing time and increasing the chance of manual error.
In the instance of collecting data on a work-related injury, illness or near-miss event, immediately identifying the root cause and eliminating it can be crucial to preventing subsequent incidents. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency of the US department of Labour, provides the standard operating procedure in the format of an injury form . The 5-page form collects information on the causes and workers involved in the incident.
How can using a mobile device to collect the same information be an improvement to using a paper form?
More and better data in less time
Mobile enables companies to deep-dive into hazards and incidents by collecting more data in less time. Rather than sifting through a lengthy form, trying to identify the relevant sections, workers can use a mobile to guide them through the reporting process. For example, a worker who wants to report an accident caused by fatigue will only see the relevant questions to this accident-type. Using mobile, workers can capture images and add audio and text notes to their report, providing an additional layer of detail with a few taps on their mobile devices’ screen.
This way mobile enables the structured collection of data in a standardised format. Whether a worker is reporting the accident from a factory plant in Bangladesh or Romania, they will submit their observations in the same format. This enables the head office to analyse data across locations and can provide greater visibility over location-specific issues as well as global recurrent operational inefficiencies.
Real-time visibility and communication for continuous process improvement
The information captured by frontline workers is directly recorded at the backend, meaning that management gains real-time visibility over field operations and can proactively use the data to immediately respond to hazards, incidents and accidents.
For example, a worker in a fast food chain outlet can report that she has suffered a burn due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). The head office can immediately act on issuing a warning to other workers to suspend activities that put them in risk until the necessary PPE has been provided. This helps to uproot the hazard and ensure workers’ safety. Consequently, organisations can provide evidence to regulatory bodies of pre-emptively eliminating risks rather than allowing the risks to escalate into numerous worker injuries and then facing the implications of:
- Worsened safety culture, worker well-being and productivity.
- External inspections, fines or closures.
- Poor organisation image, eroding the trust of workers, partners and clients.
Mobile can help to establish two-way communication between workers and management and disrupt a negative culture where there is a rift between the frontline and head office. McDonald’s workers taking to social platforms to voice their injuries that had been inadequately or not at all addressed by management highlights the need for improved, more collaborative culture of health and safety.
From grudging compliance to a shared culture of safety
As part of a good safety culture, there are standard operating procedures, pre-defined by regulatory bodies, that organisations have the legal responsibility to implement. However, simply imposing them to the frontline workforce creates a sense of grudging compliance. Instead organisations can use a mobile approach to HSEQ training and on-site execution to engage workers in building a culture of safety together.
Sharing the SOPs and best practices in a mobile, gamified format, can help to increase workers’ understanding of regulations and best practices and drive engagement and operational compliance. Rather than giving workers on the shop floor a handbook on how to work with high temperature materials, management can share with them an explainer video, followed by a fun quiz, that workers can access on their mobile at any given point and can refer to at the point of action.
Mobile enables organisations to better communicate extant operational knowledge as well as put in use the knowledge and experience accumulated in the field. For example, a worker on the shop floor, can record and share with the head office and the frontline how a suggested procedure can be improved. In addition, management can use gamification to make the learning process and the implementation of knowledge more fun and rewarding. Workers can earn points for following best-practice or be awarded digital badges for completing on-the-job training or contribute towards their team’s on-site compliance score.
A mobile approach to HSEQ can also enable organisations to make better use of their live data sources in ensuring safety and complience in the field. Data from an IoTgas detection sensor, for example, can be used to push an alert on workers' mobile devices about a leak and instruct them on the required actions.
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