In recent years, many businesses have begun investing in different types of new digital technology to challenge traditional processes and revolutionise the way that they work.
This process, known as digital transformation, can be a great way to drive business efficiency and improve productivity, saving companies both time and money.
When devising digital transformation strategies, businesses should not overlook their health and safety functions; new technologies are now available that could hold the key to even better levels of compliance.
For industries in which a lot of work is carried out in the field, for example construction or utilities, among the most useful of these new technologies are digital data capture solutions.
Digital data capture solutions and apps allow health and safety information to be collected and stored remotely via digital versions of forms and reports, instead of relying on outdated paper-based systems. These solutions improve not only the quantity, but the quality of data that health and safety managers have access to, helping to ensure employee safety.
Digital vs analogue
While data capture itself is clearly not new, the mode of capture is currently evolving. In the past, all data has been captured manually which has typically presented some fairly significant challenges that have, somehow, limited their usefulness. The question is, what are the common challenges when reliant on analogue systems, and how does digital data capture help to overcome them?
In order to be able to successfully make informed health and safety decisions, a lot of information from many different sources must be collected. The danger with paper-based systems is that much of this information will remain separate, either because it is not efficiently shared with the appropriate teams, or because employees only look at the data they believe to be relevant to the task at hand, while neglecting other important documents.
This can result in silos of data, which prevent businesses from seeing the whole picture and can mean that red flags are missed, putting workers at risk. Digital data capture solutions ensure that all information is easily and instantly accessible, by saving it automatically to a central cloud-based system.
Crucially, it is also possible to integrate these systems with business intelligence software. This gives businesses the power to analyse large amounts of figures incredibly quickly, enabling them to gain meaningful insights from all of the information available to them and vastly improve employee safety.
While human error means that occasional mistakes are inevitable when capturing data, the likelihood of this happening increases with the number of times a particular set of data has to be recorded.
With paper-based systems, health and safety documents will most likely be completed by hand out in the field. They are then returned to the office, where any essential information has to be manually inputted into a computer database, and the paper documents filed away in bulky storage units. This greatly increases the chance of mistakes being made, which would result in inaccurate information, and consequently, potential missed opportunities to act on health and safety incidents reported.
In contrast, with digital data capture solutions, the data only needs to be entered once, at source. This not only saves businesses significant amounts of time, but also reduces the probability of incorrect information being collected, and therefore the threat of a significant safety failure. Some digital solutions also make it possible to attach photos and signatures to documents, which are then automatically saved together. This further limits the scope for human error.
One of the biggest concerns for health and safety managers is that other members of staff will not submit the data required for health and safety reports at the correct time, or even at all. Late or absent data can result in missed reporting deadlines, and also the inability to make informed decisions about how to improve safety management. This can lead to failed audits and inspections and potentially even fines or serious legal consequences.
Simple, user-friendly systems make it more likely that employees will complete their own documents on time. Digital data capture solutions make recording information quicker and painless for workers, while also removing the need for them to return documents to the office to be filed away correctly. As an additional benefit, digital systems can also be set up to provide notifications and alerts to employees’ mobile devices when a health and safety task or check is overdue, prompting them to complete the activity as soon as possible.
These are just a few of the ways that digital data capture solutions are far superior to their paper-based counterparts. Making it easier for workers in all areas of the business to record essential health and safety data, and ensuring that this information is saved correctly to the cloud, these solutions help health and safety managers have access to a wealth of useful information.
All in all, businesses should find it easier to remain compliant, while also keeping employees as healthy and safe as possible.
Colin Yates is chief support officer at WorkMobile
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