The impact of technology has been felt in every facet of life in very specific ways. This is because technological advancements have simplified complex and exacting processes. Tasks that could have stretched into weeks and months have been executed in hours and days by the proper application of technology. It is no surprise that technological advancements have also altered how inspections and observations are carried out.
The term technology refers to creations and innovations that are presented as both hardware devices and software (Grübler, 1998). Due to the evolving sphere of humanity, these creations are continually updated to install new features, alter user interfaces (Vaniea and Rashidi, 2016), and, in short, meet changing human needs.
Safety inspections and observations involve preparation, active engagement, and follow-up activity, such as preparing a report. All these processes can be improved by technology. Interestingly, technological advancements make room for what the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, 2018) calls “technology convergence.” The term loosely describes how distinct or similar digital platforms are utilized towards providing solutions in workplaces. This means less time but more productivity in given tasks.
Tips for implementing new technology.
- Test the device and/or software days before the inspection proper. Such test runs help uncover process discrepancies as well as the potential need for additional equipment or trainings that may be required. Test running also allows for more familiarity with the user interface.
- Train the inspections and observations team members. Training is essential not only for them to be able to efficiently use new technology for conducting inspections but also to be able to explain findings to other essential personnel.
- Identify additional factors that could affect the application of certain technological innovations. For example, if a site has a specific camera-use policy, provisions must be made prior to the inspection activity to ensure compliance.
- Ensure that the technology itself is added to the company asset inventory and scheduled for regular maintenance.
Once a team has selected and fully integrated a new piece of technology, it will become a regular asset in their inventory of tools for conducting inspections and observations. The following are just a few of the ways in which inspections and observations have been improved by advancements in modern technology.
Inspectors can easily call up completed aspects of ongoing inspections and observations and know what has been done and what is left. With this, it is easier to give progress reports on ongoing projects. Ordinarily, there would have been documents to pore over to know what has been done, especially if it were a periodic inspection. A powerful inspections and observations management platform can allow inspectors to save relevant information offline or online and to access native applications that perform on Android and iOS for the most user-friendly experience and mobile convenience.
Data Collection, Processing, and Presentation
Mobile access and devices have made data collection more convenient and accurate than ever. Additionally, technology often offers features (high-definition cameras, remote connectivity, voice-to-text, etc.) that enable more accurate data collection than is possible with traditional methods. Cloud storage has expanded the amount of data that is possible to be stored and accessed by a single organization. Even with the seemingly excessive amount of data those technological advancements have made it possible to accrue, the demand for tools for data analysis that can keep pace with this growth has been satisfactorily met (Serrat, Banaszek, Cellmer, and Gibert, 2019). This is seen in the dashboards and other visual mediums for data analytics that make finding patterns and trends a much simpler task.
Digital Forms and Customized Checklists
Software platforms provide digital forms and data in the place of hardcopy documents and files. With these digital forms come the power and access to checklists that are fully customizable to meet regulatory needs specific to the organization, industry, location, etc. This expedites every part of creating, altering, and submitting inspections and observations.
Without proper follow up actions, inspections and observations are just words without deeds. Software for inspections and observations management cut down the amount of effort needed for completing the administrative tasks associated with this kind of procedure and empower employees to follow through on necessary corrections, communications, etc. With the capability of scheduling automatic notifications to be dispersed to appropriate personnel when the audits have been finalized, team members can review details and carry out corrective actions as soon as they are available. Reports can also be immediately exported to relevant external parties.
Technological advancements are a plus where they are adopted and applied, largely due to the possibility of eliminating monotonous and redundant steps. A comprehensive EH&S management platform can provide an interface that assists in conducting every part of inspections and observations, including access to older reports, data collection, processing, presentation, digitization of forms, customizable checklists, and post-inspection processes.
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 in a collaborative community environment.
Grübler, A. (1998). Technology: Concepts and Definitions. In Technology and Global Change (pp. 19-90). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781316036471.002
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (2018). The Technology and Innovation Report 2018: Harnessing Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development. Technology and Innovation Report (TIR). https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/tir2018_en.pdf
Vaniea, K. & Rashidi, Y. (2016). Tales of Software Updates: The process of updating software. in Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, pp. 3215-3226, Computer Human Interaction (CHI) 2016, San Jose, United States, 9/05/16. https://doi.org/10.1145/2858036.2858303