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Health and Safety Hindsight is Not 2020: Why Digital Is The Way Forward for safety management

In the last two decades, disruption has almost become the norm. Nimble web, cloud, and software companies like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have quickly spun up products, services, solutions, and apps that have altered multiple market landscapes. In addition, they’ve turned industry giants on their ears or heads. But no amount of agility and innovation could have prepared even the most forward-looking disruptors for what has happened in 2020. We are being quickly forced into looking at the way we work—and even live—differently.

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What the disruption of the 2020 pandemic means for the future is not completely clear, although there are signs that some employees will not want to return to the office. What is clear is that when companies do reopen fully for business, there will be no return to the former way of working. Hindsight will not be 2020 or 2021, especially not after a pandemic. New processes will need to be put in place, and any company that does not make health and safety investment a top priority is likely to falter.

In the past, many companies have not prioritized investment in environmental, health, and safety (EHS) solutions or digital platforms, choosing to “play it safe” and avoid any risk that a major technology upgrade might cause. What the pandemic has shown us is that sticking to manual, paper-based processes and shying away from risk when it comes to EHS programs is likely to be the opposite of playing it safe. Playing it safe by managing health and safety with pen & paper is no longer an option as that method can increase the chances of COVID-19 transmission between employees. With that in mind, let’s look deeper into why you should be moving to digital solutions for EHS.

Revealing gaps in the health and safety status quo

Organizations have been somewhat hesitant to prioritize investment in health and safety management technology because most believe that everything has been working fine. However, the COVID-19 crisis is highlighting the gaps and, in some cases, increased risks of maintaining the status quo. Just by doing their jobs, many workers are in danger of getting sick. What the crisis has shown us is that the old way of doing things is not effective in a pandemic, massive economic downturn, or prolonged natural or manmade disaster.

Unlike with pre-2020 health and safety digital transformation, which was seen by many organizations as a “nice to have,” there is an urgency associated with today’s crisis. And there are new nuances. The way many employees are working is different. Some are working from home. Others have different shift times. Still others are either out sick or are distracted, waiting for word about a family member’s test or trip to the hospital. Maintaining a functional health and safety program is a labyrinth of communication tools, irregular availability, misplaced paperwork, and no single source of truth or centralized management.

New challenges

Companies are facing new health and safety challenges because of the current crisis. Employee engagement is hindered by stay-at-home orders and telecommuting. Because most EHS professionals are working from home, there is an added layer of difficulty to accessing, reporting, and receiving EHS information. Staying connected and promoting a strong EHS culture are not easy when employees are remote working, furloughed, or out sick.

With some offices, factories, and job sites shuttered and others deemed essential, there is a lack of visibility into health and safety performance across companies. And, because workforces are more distributed, sharing information with everyone quickly or planning for a safe return to work that protects both the business and workers is problematic and sporadic.

If you add those to the problems with manual or only partially digital health and safety processes that existed before the crisis, you can begin to understand why you cannot keep limping along with what you had before the crisis.

The digital transformation imperative

Digital transformation is a proactive and coordinated approach to using software and other technology to improve operations and employee, customer, supplier, and partner experiences. At the core of digital transformation is the analysis of data for information and insights that supports better and faster decision-making.

In the health and safety space, digital transformation automates, integrates, and streamlines manual and disparate EHS processes with health and safety systems while relying on data and analytics for continuous process improvement. Companies can leverage out-of-the-box health and safety functionality that is easily configured for specific needs: forms, process flow, permissions, reports, dashboards, and more.

The “digitalization” of health and safety processes also connects office workers with people on the front lines through mobile access and delivers health and safety reporting and compliance from a single source of truth. It enables access to health and data information and systems from anywhere there is internet and Wi-Fi access and can be configured for health and safety planning—either for a return to work and after or to be prepared for the next crisis. Maintenance and upgrades are regular and behind the scenes with no action required by users.

As you can see, health and safety digital transformation is no longer a “nice to have” or an initiative that can be put off to a later date. Companies that have not adopted health and safety management software and digital platforms really need to add it to their “to-do” lists for now and in the future. It will help them weather crises by keeping everyone safe, engaged, connected, and communicating.

Don’t Return to Work with Manual Process & Dispersed Systems.

If you haven’t digitally transformed your health and safety program before, now is the opportunity to dip your safety toes in the water. Safety management doesn't have to be done with pen and paper anymore, or massive spreadsheets that no one looks at.

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