July 2018 Issue

Article Published in CoatingsPro Magazine July 2018, pg 22-24

Accidents, especially on construction sites, are not uncommon. That is why companies need to be responsible for training employees not only for productivity but for safety, too. And because legally it doesn’t matter whether the accident is the result of employer negligence or employee carelessness, employers are bound by various regulations to establish processes to protect their employees from injury. It’s important to note that even when the employee’s own behavior leads to an accident when on the job site, the employer is still responsible for ensuring workers’ safety.

To protect employees, customers, and themselves, it is imperative for employers to take measures to safeguard their employees from accidents at work. Safeguards can be as simple as putting up signs reminding workers to wash their hands after visiting the restroom, and they can be as complex as multi-step field inspections. The bottom line is that no safety measures will work without a culture of “safety first.”

So the real question is how can companies instill a safety-first culture? And more importantly, how can employers protect both their employees and their mutual livelihoods?

Benefits of a Strong Culture of Safety

A simple but necessary first step in creating a safety culture is to require staff to conduct daily safety meetings. Often, this is required by law, but even when it’s not, holding regular safety meetings will instill an attention to safety and help build your safety culture. The following are benefits of a strong safety culture:

  • Strong Teams: Safety incidents degrade the performance of the team and the job’s progress, which can impact completion bonuses. Further, repeated incidents erode trust in the company from both employees and clients. Consistent safety training can increase team confidence and performance, give employees a voice in the process, and make for a more profitable company.
  •  Marketability. Any workplace that has a great safety culture — and the data to back it up — is more competitive in the marketplace. Not only is it easier to tap the talent pool, but a strong safety record can be a huge marketing advantage when selling to new customers. A safety record backed up by real data is a huge competitive advantage.
  • Profitability. A culture of strong safety leads to less turnover, better customer acquisition and retention, and fewer costs associated with fixing lapses in safety (i.e., accidents). All of these things hit your bottom line — why let them?

Having a strong safety culture is great, but to protect customers, employers, and employees, companies need to take the next step and document and preserve safety actions. Why? Because accidents happen — even when you’ve done everything reasonable to prevent them — and proper documentation can protect you from the inevitable legal review when a job site incident occurs.

Collecting and storing safety documentation can be overwhelming, and using paper may increase your risk of losing critical, legally-protective data. For this reason, you should consider electronic documentation and mobile data collection technologies to support your safety culture.

Mobile data collection has revolutionized safety-related processes, and it may significantly decrease costs and regulatory liabilities, help build a culture of safety, and ultimately save lives.

Mobile Data Field Collection

Mobile technology is part of all our personal and business lives. Mobile devices are readily available, whether they are personal devices or corporate-owned. This means that many of your workers are probably already familiar with this type of data collection. Additionally, it’s easily accessed from remote sites and can often be obtained through lightweight devices, a plus when working with heavy tools. Leveraging new mobile data collection technologies may improve your processes and increase profitability. Therefore, it’s important that you pick the right one.

There are several things to bear in mind when evaluating a mobile data collection solution:

  • Network. If your team is out of range of a mobile network, either WiFi or cellular, your system should be able to still collect data, then seamlessly sync and upload it when you are in range.
  •  Foundation. Mobile data collection solutions can either be web- or app-based. We recommend the app-based approach as that allow will you to continue your work unconnected (i.e., you don’t have to have web access to make it work). This doesn’t mean that the solution shouldn’t have a web portal that you can use to generate reports or analyse results — or even make those reports available to your customers — but it does mean that you need to be able to use the application in the field, just as you would with paper and a clipboard.
  •  Connection. Your mobile app should be flexible enough to map to your current (and evolving) safety meeting work process. Most of this will be standard, but if you need to change something, it should be easy and cost-effective to do so, whether this is done by your vendor or by yourself.
  •  Storage. Once the data is collected, you need to make sure it’s stored appropriately and securely — and that it’s available only to those who should have access. Consider leveraging the cloud for this. Some vendors offer on-site storage, but this can be more expensive to maintain the storage servers and to staff them. However, not everyone is comfortable with the cloud yet, so take that into consideration.
  • Reporting. Your system should be able to generate reports that both your team and your customers can use. These can be custom reports based on your safety processes or standard industry reports, but they need to be available both online and offline. Having this data will also aid in the analysis of your safety procedures and history.
  •  Accessibility. By having the data always available, you will be able to show auditors, customers, prospects, and even employees that you are maintaining safety records appropriately and instituting a culture of safety. If the reports are accessible, sharing pertinent information will be difficult.

Safety and Beyond

Documenting your safety meetings and procedures using a mobile device can be easier and more cost-effective than traditional paper-based forms. You can map the forms, notes, and photos directly onto your smartphone or tablet, then push that data into whichever reporting format your company uses. The data will always be there — no more transcribing back at the

office or, worse, in the hotel room at night. And this may mean fewer mistakes or missed opportunities for you.

The problem with handling paper documentation is that you must keep them safe and secure somewhere, then take on additional costs to prepare, send, or retrieve the information from the job site. Paper-based data is not immediately available to everyone and may not be easily accessible but digital data can be.

Proper and accessible documentation is invaluable when working with auditors, lawyers, or others who need access to your safety data. Building a legal case and protecting your company can be much less painful with good data. Through mobile collection and presentation of required documentation, you can immediately demonstrate that diligent, standard processes were maintained in making the workplace safer for everyone.

Accidents can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. We can’t prevent all job site incidents, but you can take proactive measures to mitigate risks. Creating proper safety procedure is only the first step; you also need to focus on developing a safety culture through regular safety meetings — and then document them for analysis, improvement, and legal protection. A culture of safety may reduce risk, save lives, and ultimately minimize organizational liability. And using mobile data collection technology may make the process much more efficient and cost-effective for you to do so.

 

Article Published in CoatingsPro Magazine July 2018, pg 22-24