Digitization adds incredible value to the field of environment, health, and safety (EH&S). The benefits include increased efficiency in communication, regulatory compliance, and overall safety performance. Despite the many advantages, however, the commitment and complexity involved with adopting a new system can leave some on the fence about digitizing EH&S programs and processes. Identifying the four stages of implementation will help make digitization a less daunting task for any organization.
When making a change, there must first be a need. Assess the need for digitization and establish achievable business objectives. This creates a clear rationale and serves as an immediate countercheck to every issue or suggested intervention that may come up during consultations.
One potential experience that could merit digitization is having to inspect every nook and cranny of an office looking for safety logs to complete a government reporting form before the deadline. This consumes person-hours that could be used for more productive endeavors. Worse is the instance of missing deadlines, resulting in substantial fines.
Apart from helping with compliance problems, the following are other reasons for embracing digitization:
- Supporting employee growth and development
- Increased employee productivity
- Reducing incidents at the workplace
- Maintaining market competitiveness
- Employee retention
- Reducing insurance costs
After identifying the specific needs for an EH&S program, it is important to take note of the business’s current performance in those specific areas and set realistic targets.
2. Budget/Request Funding
Once a need has been established and measurable targets have been set for EH&S program digitization, the next steps are outlining the required budget and requesting funding. The cost of safety management software solutions can vary significantly according to the features that are included. However, the initial cost of investment is not the only number to highlight during a budget proposal. The person in charge of approving the proposal should be made aware of the costs of not digitizing (or not handling the process of implementing EH&S software well).
Paper-based systems or free spreadsheet software can be used to keep logs of every safety and environmental detail. Specific employees can be assigned the task of recording or editing all these data points on such paper logs, spreadsheets, or audits, but doing so is inefficient and prone to human error, as any alterations to the logs are challenging to track. Additionally, when problems arise, who is held accountable—the individual who made the change, the employee in charge of the records, or the EH&S program manager? Moreover, using free spreadsheet software to handle sensitive data exposes a business to considerable hacking risks. This endangers employee data and puts vital safety records under a permanent cloud of suspicion. In addition, tracking these details beyond a single location or facility poses an insurmountable problem for gathering accurate and timely company analytics.
The red flags are only the tip of the iceberg. More accurate safety analysis will minimize safety accidents and prevent mismanaged safety records that could lead to lost person-hours and other negative consequences. The National Safety Council estimated that there was a $164 billion price tag on work-related deaths and injuries in 2020. Moreover, in its 2021 Workplace Safety Index, Liberty Mutual Insurance reported that US companies spend more than $1 billion every week in direct workers’ compensation for severe and nonfatal workplace injuries.
The availability of dedicated EH&S management software makes it possible to rewrite these statistics. New tools have reimagined data entry and storage, putting a premium on safety and efficiency. A prime example would be incident management software that allows for the easy entry of incident data and its automatic output as OSHA 300 reporting forms. The data analytics capability of modern software also makes deriving meaningful insight from safety issues a much simpler task.
The third stage in implementing digitization for an EH&S program is employee training. Knowing that the success of an implementation hinges on acceptance and understanding of the new software, solution providers typically include training in their packages. These “out-of-the-box” training programs should cover the essential operations within the software. Tailor-made, in-depth discussions for department-specific tools or modules will save time and keep employees from being overwhelmed. When choosing software for EH&S program management, finding one that assigns a dedicated individual to oversee training and answer any questions that may come up during the implementation can be very helpful to the overall success of the transition. Safety digitization training not only benefits the sustainability of an EH&S program but also serves as a means of employee development, making employees more accustomed to utilizing technology and more aware of the latest safety trends.
Lastly, there should always be a review process in place to assess whether the implementation is proceeding at the expected rate. Doing so requires milestones and communication channels to be established. Having milestones will make it easier to check whether the digitization is addressing the issues outlined in the rationale and delivering on target outcomes.
The tools provided by EHS software for data visualization will aid the process of assessment. With digitization, real-time data can be pulled out to easily compare and identify trends. In addition to collecting quantitative data, the review process entails requesting feedback from the employees who will be using the software. Qualitative data based on user experience adds nuance to a review’s quantitative results and opens up more opportunities for the continuous development of an EH&S program. This final step ensures that the technology is being used optimally and pinpoints gaps in user training, revealing actionable takeaways.
Digitizing an EH&S program is a long-term commitment that requires careful planning and execution. Assessing the need is the first implementation stage, as it forms the foundation of all subsequent endeavors. After setting attainable objectives, funding must be planned for and requested. For this step, it is important to shed light not only on the upfront cost but also what may be spent by not digitizing. Lastly, regular employee training and program reviews will solidify employees’ technical know-how and keep them up-to-date with the latest developments in the safety arena.
The SafetyStratus Research Advisory Group (RAG) brings together thought leaders from the global environmental, health, and safety community to promote best practices and provide key insights in the profession and the industries they serve. The Research Advisory Group also advocates, where practical, the intersection of and advances with the use of technology, such as the SafetyStratus enterprise EHS software platform. Group membership consists of representatives from across varied disciplines and market sectors as well as select members of the SafetyStratus team.
The primary objectives of the SafetyStratus RAG partnership are to:
- Build a strategic partnership between EHS practitioners and the SafetyStratus team.
- Provide engaging and practical content to the global EHS community.
- Provide discipline and market feedback specific to SafetyStratus products and services.
While the objectives of the RAG are varied, the primary public-facing outcome will be available through engaging and practical content found on the SafetyStratus resource pages. Various articles, papers, and other valuable resources will be produced and shared as part of an ongoing effort to cultivate a robust community. Ultimately, the SafetyStratus RAG will expand to have a broader reach and provide opportunities for more inclusion by all interested EHS professionals a collaborative community environment.
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OSHA Penalties. OSHA Penalties | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2022, from https://www.osha.gov/penalties
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