Losing paper to improve safety
By GREG NORRISConstruction Health & Safety Software
Five advantages of electronic data capture and analysis for safety processes.
Safety is a top priority at almost every construction company, but many overlook the risks of relying on paper as a cornerstone of their safety processes. Making the switch to electronic forms and an online, mobile solution for the distribution, collection and analysis of safety related data can help minimize risk and increase compliance.
It can also reduce the administrative burden on their employees by moving away from paper-based safety processes, while gaining the ability to turn real-time data into actionable intelligence.
GETTING INFORMATION TO THE FIELD
Regular safety meetings, or toolbox talks, are a proven tool that helps prevent injuries, improve compliance with regulatory requirements and sustains a culture of safety. Managing this process can be an ongoing administrative headache, however. Delivering safety materials and forms to the field can limit portability and accessibility, and may create lag times.
With an electronic process, users in the office can distribute safety information and forms instantly. Users in the field can access them right away.
CUSTOMIZING YOUR FORMS
Electronic forms provide the flexibility to generate safety forms quickly and easily, and to customize them. Contractors can add, delete and create new fields and sections as needed to capture the exact information they need about a specific activity, process or piece of equipment. The updated forms can then be immediately distributed to those who use them during their work.
With paper, contractors are often forced to settle for generic, one-size-fits-all forms. And images, attachments, time stamps, and GPS information can also be included with electronic forms. These can validate safety data from the field, providing a much higher level of detail and utility.
PREDICT AND PREVENT
When contractors use paper forms to document accidents, incidents, near misses and other safety-related events, analysis is a manual process. That can take a lot of time and administrative effort. Turning data into actionable intelligence may be delayed and deferred as a result.
Electronic forms for data capture and analysis make it easy to aggregate safety information automatically and populate routine or customized reports and dashboards. Contractors can then use these valuable tools to measure their safety performance and drive continuous improvement. They can also identify trends that could potentially help them to predict and prevent future incidents.
For example, a report that compares injury, near-miss and toolbox talk statistics across the enterprise could reveal a need for increased training or compliance steps at specific jobsites. Similarly, efficient analytics could identify an accident trend involving a single person, alerting supervisors that additional training is needed.
Real-time alerts and notifications have far-reaching utility and advantages across digitized construction workflows. These tools, made possible through the switch from paper to electronic forms, can improve safety too. An event like an injury or an accident reported on a form field can trigger an immediate alert.
A foreman checking “yes” on an accident form field asking if there was bodily injury could prompt an immediate message to a superintendent or safety officer or an operator using a similar piece of equipment. Getting the information right away can help them to respond appropriately or prevent a similar incident.
Inspections are an everyday process for most contractors. Documenting progress, driving quality and cutting costs are primary goals, but there are important safety aspects to site and equipment inspection processes as well. Catching problems as quickly as possible can prevent injuries.
When paper is part of the inspection process, it may take a week or two for inspection forms to reach someone who can take action, and lag time could be catastrophic. Since electronic inspection forms can be submitted instantly, they help close the time gap between the field, the shop and the office. Potential risks identified in a site inspection can be addressed promptly, in a more timely manner.
Greg Norris is director of marketing communications at B2W Software.