In 2019, UCOR, the US Department of Energy's primary cleanup contractor, was named one of America’s safest companies by EHS Today magazine. Scot Forge, a provider of metal forging solutions, and United Scrap Metal, a scrap metal recycler, also made that list. In the UK, Glassdoor says that Anglian Water is the safest. What do these companies have in common? They all include mobile technology as part of their health and safety programs. For example, Scot Forge allows workers to complete equipment inspections on mobile devices. Also, in Safopedia’s list of important health and safety technologies, various types of mobile applications were front and center.
So, why does mobile technology play such an important role in world-class safety programs? The overarching answer to that question can be found in simple lyrics from the Who song: “Goin' mobile… Keep me moving.” The biggest benefit of mobile technology in the health and safety space is that workers can report or record incidents and complete other health and safety task and keep on moving. In this article, we distill “keep me moving” into five top reasons why the top safety programs use mobile technology.
1. Easy and quick access that embeds worker engagement into organizational DNA
The easier you make a task, the more likely someone is to do it. For example, suppose a worker needs to report an incident or share equipment inspection information. If it’s a complicated process that requires paper documents or going to a computer and logging in, that worker is likely to balk at having to stop everything to get the report done. An additional benefit in the current climate is using your own device vs a shared computer or paper – both of which carry the possibility of covid transmission.
Offering workers the ability to handle safety incidents and other safety activities with devices they use every day encourages them to be more active and engaged participants in safety. Taking a photo with a phone or scanning equipment enables them to report an incident or complete an inspection and keep on moving. These kinds of mobile solutions are making it easy for everyone to participate and engage in health and safety from any location.
Interested in other ways to increase employee engagement in health and safety? Read our blog on engaging employees.
2. Higher audit data quality due to information collection at the scene
Apps that enable instant, on-the-scene data collection make a big difference in the quality of data that can be audited. Think of the game of telephone, where one player whispers a sentence in another player’s ear, and that player whispers in another ear, and so on. The last person in the game might have part of the original sentence, but odds are it will be mostly garbled.
In a health and safety scenario, if someone has to go somewhere to provide information, and another person transcribes it, and a third person has to input the transcription into a system, the quality of the data deteriorates with each touch. When data is captured right where it happens, nothing is “lost in translation.” Mobile technology delivers that first-touch capture, often with additional data such as photographs or reports for comparison, so that your data quality is never in question.
Is quality data for audits high on your list? Check out our thoughts on health, safety, and data.
3. Real-time hazard observation and incident reporting
When workers must stop what they’re doing to use older technology or paper forms, observed hazards or incidents are already history by the time the information is shared. The problem with history is that it is difficult for workers to remember everything about an incident or a hazard. Something important might be left out or a critical detail that might have seemed insignificant at the time might not be part of the report because of form template limitations.
Mobile technology has a profound impact on the way organizations gather and report hazards and incidents. Instead of going through the process of scribbling down information on paper and then sorting through documents to analyze it, workers and health and safety staff can see what happened as it was going on. Accurate information is captured as it emerges ‘at source’, and local teams can conduct audits, inspections, or assessments.
4. Improved ability to monitor, protect, and manage the safety of lone workers
Lone workers do their jobs alone, away from other employees. Many perform their tasks offsite. Field technicians, oil tank inspectors, social workers, security officers, delivery agents, realtors and in-home healthcare providers are examples of lone workers. All encounter unfamiliar and potentially volatile situations, some nearly every day. That’s because the nature of isolated work environments poses unique risks that need special attention and action.
Mobile technology can help keep these workers safe. Instead of cameras, manual alarm systems, and other analog safety solutions, they can have technology that is accessible through a smartphone or tablet. GPS technology in mobile devices and mobile application can be activated to enable real-time monitoring of employee locations. Plus, the same mobile technology that other types of workers use can also enable lone workers to record problems, hazards, and threats.
5. Protection of worker mental health
Did you know that there is a direct correlation between mental health and increased safety risks? According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), employees with unresolved depression caused by high-risk environments contribute to a loss to the US economy of $210.5 billion a year in absenteeism, reduced productivity and medical expenses. Similarly, in the UK, absenteeism, reduced productivity, and medical expenses cost firms about £31 billion.
With proper care, however, up to 80 percent of employees treated for mental illness report improved levels of work effectiveness and satisfaction. Health and safety software can help companies develop and manage data on worker health and wellbeing programs by offering the ability to configure forms and set KPIs that help collect and track worker wellness data. In many cases, the EHS software includes mobile technology for worker mental health assessments and communication. These mobile apps can support mental health and wellness programs by delivering self-assessments and communications directly to frontline workers.
Go mobile and keep moving with SHE Software
It’s clear that efficient health and safety management, incident and hazard reporting, real-time data capture, and employee mental health and wellbeing can’t happen behind a desk. Assure’s mobile-first technology enables employees and contractors to identify and report health and safety information at the point of work.
Is becoming a top safety program something you’re interested in? Why not chat with us to learn more?