By Paul Holden, associate director, HSE Operations at Capita’s property and infrastructure business
Occupational safety in large organisations is an area that requires robust governance processes to ensure compliance across all levels. This compliance can often be difficult to manage due to outdated methods of process management.
Health and safety management has traditionally been a process of conducting risk assessments and developing control measures for any areas of risk identified. However, this is never a simple process and after over 200 years of health and safety legislation and controls organisations still get it wrong and often end up on the receiving end of criminal or civil action. The main reasons for this are often down to control measures not being adequately followed by the people carrying out tasks on behalf of the organisation.
Control measures rely on the completion of forms, often checklists, which presents the risk that someone will fail to complete the required document to satisfy the risk control measures in place or the form goes missing or is not handed back to the correct person. These issues ultimately point to a failing in the management system which can have significant consequences. Ensuring people complete documents accurately and know who to hand documents back to is an important part of compliance management.
The question is – can we use the tech savvy skills of the next generation of employees to help us develop a high standard of management system compliance? These employees have distinctive behaviours lending themselves to be dubbed the ‘touchscreen/smartphone generation’.
Recent research from Neilson shows that millennials are the largest group of smartphone owners, and their adoption of devices is still growing. By the second quarter of 2014, 85% of those aged 18 to 24 owned a smartphone, along with 86% of those aged 25 to 34. In addition, a study from Tecmark has looked into the amount of times that British smartphone users check their handset and carry out a task on it — and the answer is 221 times a day, on average.
Knowing that employees will look at their touchscreen on average 221 times per day presents a case to digitise the management system to ensure requirements for compliance are followed.
Imagine you manage a site that has a number of contractors and suppliers visiting each day. Part of the health and safety management system is that all employees undertake a site induction relevant to the day’s scheduled activities. A paper-based induction will present challenges such as:
- Is the induction form provided the most up to date version?
- Is there someone on hand to explain any issues or clarify any elements?
- Is the induction supervised to ensure each person completes it and not one person in the group completing them all?
- Where does the induction go when completed, can you ensure it has been left where it can be found?
Digitising the system can remove some of these pains. Imagine a hazardous zone on a site that has a number of touchscreen devices mounted for use where the person seeking access needs to register and complete an induction form or enter in a code previously provided to them before access is granted. This system would remove the need for updating paper checklists and ensures that all records are safely stored should they be needed.
Another example could be that you manage a portfolio of public access buildings across a large geographical area. Your management system requires daily property inspections to ensure certain criteria are met in line with your due diligence requirements. Having a paper based system presents the same challenges as above. In addition we often entrust this process to others who may not understand the importance of accurately collecting data, or to those who do not fully understand the questions being asked. The risk here is that the process becomes a simple tick box exercise without due consideration. A digital version can improve this by:
- Providing easy links to documents, images, videos or other sources directly from the inspection form should someone need more information before answering;
- Allowing for simple changes to be made so that the questions asked are always relevant in line with current risks;
- Providing easy collection and storage of what can become business critical data.
This is just a scratch on the surface of potential benefits of digitising the safety management process. Some other benefits could include:
- Instant awareness of issues no matter where you are in the country;
- Easy to translate system requirements to the languages of your work force;
- Greater data integrity and security;
- Easy reporting on trends;
- Last minute issues can be provided to relevant people instantly creating a better informed workforce;
- Access control to sites, equipment and vehicles can be linked to simple pre-use checks
As with all technology solutions, the process needs to be well defined and properly designed to ensure it achieves business objectives. Working with the right transformation specialists will be a critical step in ensuring that the technology will work for the organisation and the users.
Paul Holden is associate director – HSE Operations at Capita’s property and infrastructure business
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