Employment in the U.S. manufacturing sector has grown steadily over the past eight years—some 222,000 jobs were added in the first quarter of 2018 alone—emphasizing the need to maintain safe working environments for an expanding contingent of engineers, operators, assemblers, and compounders.
Working with, or in proximity to, heavy machinery, conveyor belts, combustible liquids, or explosives, raises the safety stakes considerably compared to other sectors, yet organizations still face problems with compliance and employee engagement.
Employee engagement was the most pressing safety concern for environmental, health, and safety professionals surveyed for the 2017 Annual Safety Report, published by the website EHS Daily Advisor.
The report quizzed 698 organizations, over a third of them manufacturers, and 53 percent said employee engagement was their most common safety challenge. The second most pressing safety challenge, selected by 48 percent of respondents, was employees taking shortcuts or ignoring rules, followed by supervisor participation in safety programs, at 39 percent.
Organizations often encounter problems engaging staff in health and safety due to pre-conceptions of red tape and bureaucracy. An appropriately designed EHS app, with an intuitive user interface and attractive graphics, can help change this attitude and empower employees to get onboard with the safety journey.
Health and safety happens out there in the real world yet many professionals in manufacturing organizations are tied to their desks. EHS apps help take many processes out into the field, understanding our aims, preferences, and location to present relevant information and functionality, such as nearby reported hazards or providing advice on precautions when there are icy roads.
Already, organizations are changing safety culture by empowering employees to make a difference. EHS apps can empower every employee to report an incident or near miss, access a risk assessment, or record a safe or unsafe act. They help make the safety experience interactive and ensure every employee knows they have a role to play. Safety becomes part of “the way we do things.” EHS apps can be transformative for health and safety culture, further enhancing existing functionality by mimicking that found in the consumer world.
The EHS Daily Advisor report also asked respondents to choose a statement that best described safety compliance within their organizations. The majority, 44 percent, said they are trying to take their safety program to the next level, beyond compliance. However, a significant 22 percent said they are not yet fully compliant with OSHA standards, and 17 percent said they are compliant with OSHA standards but have made no efforts to go beyond minimum compliance.
Issues capturing and systematically storing data can create a significant barrier to organizations meeting their legal responsibilities. Staff might spend too much time filling out paper documents, entering and reentering data into spreadsheets, or grappling with outdated IT systems.
EHS apps can help them fully digitize this process, then transition from a ‘reactive’ to a ‘proactive’ stance. Some organizations are effective at applying lessons learned from incidents, near misses and audits, but very few are able to dissect their data and identify trends that allow them to track leading indicators (such as safe and unsafe observations) and predict where preventative measures will be most effective.
If relevant data is captured, it is often hard to access—think of paper reports lost in filing cabinets—and even those organizations that effectively store data rarely have the tools available to turn it into actionable decisions that can improve safety in the workplace. This missed opportunity can be highly damaging, given the financial, reputational, and legal repercussions of a health and safety event.
Apps in EHS help to eliminate the burdensome manual reporting processes that health and safety managers are responsible for, and can provide a real time view of your safety performance rather than just a weekly or monthly snapshot (often using outdated data).
By automating the health and safety process, EHS apps free up time for health and safety professionals to do their job, rather than spending time managing paperwork. This time can be put to better use learning from the safety data available, benchmarking, identifying trends, and taking preventative action. Relying on data-driven insights, rather than individual stakeholder opinions, reduces the potential for human error and uncovers the unexpected.
Apps in EHS can combine complete out-of-the-box health and safety functionality with an exceptional level of configurability—of forms, organization, permissions, reports, and dashboards. This meets all but the most bespoke requirements and satisfies most organizations.
Matthew Elson is CEO of SHE Software