Editor, SHP

Author Bio ▼

Ian joined Informa (formerly UBM) in 2018 as the Editor of SHP. Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in business to business trade print media, in the automotive sector. He was Online Editor and then moved on to be the Editor of two publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.
July 4, 2022

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Karl Simons – one year at FYLD

After just over one year at FYLD, characterised by impressive growth and substantial gains in health, safety and productivity of field workers, Karl Simons sat down with SHP to share his experiences so far and his hopes for the future…

Let’s begin at the end – what does the future hold, Karl?

Karl SimonsKarl Simons (KS): “Great question. Two things immediately spring to mind:

  1. ‘The Extinction of Paper’ – by this I mean the removal of all paper-based risk assessment solutions on site. This may sound a strange place to begin, but think, right now how often do you use a pen in your personal life? For me, I do the crossword on a Sunday, but that’s about it… and it’s even a struggle to find a pen in my home nowadays! I say to any company still using a pen and paper in the field, there is a much smarter, efficient and productive way to operate.
  2. ‘The Removal of Dumb Systems’ – by that I mean all the digital versions of paper forms that are just tick-box exercises that don’t effectively contribute to reducing risk and improving the safety for employees. Companies compelling their field workers to type masses of text or select from lengthy drop-down lists will and should quickly become a thing of the past in my view. The technology that exists today is incredible and AI is at the forefront of a rapid digital revolution in which companies in all sectors can benefit if they’re open and willing to change.”

How did your career in health and safety start and what led you to FYLD?

(KS): “My journey toward a career in health and safety started with a 13-year stint in the British Army, where they took a dysfunctional young teenager and turned me into a moral citizen with a real passion for preventing harm. They put me through five years of academic and practical training to become a mechanical and electrical engineer, whilst also sending me to numerous conflict zones around the world. In the military, I learned the philosophy of preserving life above all else. This approach and the experience of the physical and mental stress of conflicts led me to pursue a career in health and safety.

“Over the last 30 years, I have dedicated my career to the preservation of life, working in major corporate environments across a multitude of industries like oil and gas, minerals, construction, mining, utilities, energy, roads, and rail. My goal in each company has been simple, to send workers home safe and well every day. This has always made my direction very clear, and the initiatives introduced by the teams I’ve worked with have always served to deliver on this goal. However, when I first saw the FYLD productivity and safety solution, I immediately saw the impact that this AI technology could have on preventing harm on a much wider scale than I could ever achieve in a single organisation.

“Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed an explosion in products and services in the health and wellbeing arena, but there has been little, if any, major breakthroughs in tangible safety solutions. Enter FYLD – a solution built by field workers for field workers, makes it a unique tool that totally transforms the risk assessment process for field force operations. I was attracted to FYLD because of its potential to make a significant positive change to the safety and wellbeing of field workers at scale.”

What are some of the highlights of your time at FYLD so far?

(KS): “It has been a real privilege to see a concept develop into a complete commercial solution. I remember the excitement of our FYLDers working with the first customer to roll out the solution to their employees. It was incredibly rewarding to see the speed at which field workers adopted the technology and how useful they found FYLD for their daily work.

“Many digital tools fail because they don’t engage users in a way that adds value to their work. But FYLD’s use of video and audio inputs gets field workers out of vehicles and site huts and gets them talking about the job they are about to execute and the hazards they are likely to face. Using FYLD makes a direct and immediate impact on the quality and duration of field work risk assessments. It adds value to the worker from their first interaction with the tool.

“We have seen an overwhelmingly positive response from users in customer feedback surveys which is currently running at 9.4 out of 10 on our CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) score, and direct in-app messaging escalates on average by over 30% per customer. This tells me that the solution is self-sustaining in our customer organisations. Managers don’t need to spend excessive amounts of effort enforcing compliance. Also, because of the efficient workflows and communication channels in place, the FYLD team can focus energy and time on further developing the features and benefits the platform can bring to organisations.

How have you seen FYLD improve the psychological health of workers?

(KS): “Two of the primary sources of stress for field workers are the safety of the job as they start and the condition of the site when they leave. FYLD manages both these activities with natural language processing, imagery analysis and predictive reasoning.

  • FYLD uses AI with machine learning and visual processing to identify hazards and propose control measures for the point-of-work risk assessment. The risk assessment is also visible to remote managers so that they can add to the process with expert advice. This collaboration means that workers have confidence that the primary hazards are known and addressed.
  • At the end of the shift, workers make a video and audio recording of the condition of the site. This evidence ensures that other crews have an adequate handover of the site. They can also defend against complaints or fines if the site is tampered with after their departure.

“Fatigue management is another feature of FYLD that contributes to field workers’ mental wellbeing. The solution has the ability to remove the single point of failure that many organisations are suffering from and is the reason many client organisations have recently been issued with improvement notices from the Health & Safety Executive. FYLD has enabled the lifting of an improvement notice in a major client organisation, and it was very rewarding to see the solution impact the outcome, which ultimately was to keep the workforce safer!

“The power of FYLD is also demonstrated through risk visualisation becoming very tangible indeed. For example, recently a remote manager picked up an unusual tone of voice in the risk assessment video he was watching. This triggered him to reach out to his field worker simply asking the question, ‘is everything ok?’ The intervention helped identify and manage a situation of personal stress, that in turn was affecting his ability to concentrate at work. Ultimately this is exactly the kind of issue that concern me as they can lead to incidents and injuries occurring.”

Are there any new developments coming in FYLD?

(KS): “I love how agile the FYLD organisation is in serving its customers. The team is constantly working on innovative solutions, based on our insights, customer feedback and requests, and then incorporating those features into future versions of the product.

“When a customer asked us to help respond to a series of low voltage incidents, we quickly added that hazard to every job even if it didn’t appear in the video risk assessment. This change enabled us to use FYLD to highlight a current issue to every site in a seamless and effective approach.

“One of the things that excites me about the future is the integration of FYLD with other databases and applications to add even more value to users. One very exciting example is the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR). This is a government initiative to map and collate underground assets in a digital form, enabling access to the data for companies whose workforce may have to penetrate below ground. I’m presently an Adviser to the superb team at NUAR and my hope is that the very near future will see FYLD’s AI machine talk directly to the NUAR machine, via an API (Application Programming Interface). This will mean extracting the data required, which will then be provided directly to those working in the field, so they have full knowledge of what lies beneath the ground at their point of work.

“The FYLD AI Machine has the exact GPS location of field workers’ point of work. That means when FYLD interacts with NUAR’s data and it identifies, for example, a low voltage electricity cable is in that GPS location, it will then extract that data and immediately make that particular hazard visible to the field workers – whether they are aware of it or not. That’s pretty ‘ground-breaking’ in my book!

“Central visibility of all the field jobs in a region or depot is another benefit for customers that I see expanding in future. Creating a remote command centre where all the live field jobs are visible allows remote managers to focus on the jobs with the highest risk and make interventions that have the greatest chance of preventing incidents. Establishing these command centres is a trend we see more and more from our customers. We are putting significant time and effort into developing smart and user-friendly dashboards that give real time and relevant information to remote managers.”

Where can we expect to see FYLD in the future?

(KS): “The international expansion of FYLD, which has already begun! We have just launched in the United States with a very progressive major global contractor. It’s been an exciting process taking FYLD offshore and see it be embraced and add value to field workers in another country.

“Due to our product market fit, we are in conversations with organisations across the world, which is great for the team and those customers ready to adopt change for good.”

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