Mobility for EHS Management Systems
Stefanie V.: Good afternoon, and welcome to today's EHS Today webcast: Mobility for EHS Management Systems, sponsored by SafeTec, an HSI company. My name is Stefanie Valentic, associate editor of EHS Today.
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I would now like to introduce our presenter. Kraig Haberer is the general manager of EHS with responsibility for the SafeTec strategic business unit. With more than 20 years of active roles in software businesses, Kraig brings extensive product, marketing and operations experience to HSI.
Kraig is the former COO of SiteHawk, an EHS software provider, where he was responsible for business strategy, marketing and day-to-day operations. Prior to SiteHawk, Kraig held senior marketing positions with leading enterprise software companies, including SAP, Edgenet and Platinum Technology.
Welcome, Kraig. The floor is yours.
Kraig Haberer: Okay, thank you, Stefanie. Good afternoon, everyone. In, as Stefanie mentioned, today's session, we're gonna talk about mobility for EHS professionals, and specifically, how to get it right in the field.
As we all know, environmental health and safety work doesn't always happen in the office. In most cases, it's happening in the field. How are EHS professionals keeping up with their dual obligations to keep workers safe on their jobs, but also keep their company in compliance?
Today we're gonna talk about innovations in mobile applications that allow health and safety personnel to take their jobs to the field, enabling on-site and on-demand identification of and responsive action to today's common EHS challenges. The combination of both technology and process are needed to address these needs in the field.
As the title suggests, getting it right in the field means two things. First it means putting data, information and EHS solutions directly in the hands of your field personnel. But it also means taking advantage of mobile solutions to operate better in the field with better feedback, better functions and better action.
Before I get into the discussion, let's start with the why of mobility in EHS. This quote is from Paul O'Neill, the former CEO of Alcoa. Mr. O'Neill prioritized worker safety above all else, which was part of his value system, but also incredibly important to the industry which Alcoa served.
Oddly enough, at the beginning of his tenure, he encountered significant resistance from the board of directors due to his stance on prioritizing worker's safety. However, his point of view was that people have a right to expect not to get hurt at work. In fact, his point of view was that safety should never be a priority; it should be a precondition.
At the time, the total industry incident rate was about five, meaning there were about five incidents per 100 workers each year. Alcoa's was 1.86, clearly better than the industry average and something that they should be proud of. However, he instructed his director of safety that he wanted that number to be zero. His point was that there were a lot of reasons not to expect to get to zero: cost, human error, et cetera; but that's not a reason not to have the goal to be zero.
That goal starts with the belief that, "As soon as we identify anything in our work environment where an Alcoa person could be hurt, we should fix it." He went on to say, "I don't want to budget it. I'm not going to budget safety. We're gonna follow our principle that we're going to fix things that have the potential to harm the employees."
The point of this story is that, while there's many corporate or business reasons to put in safety programs, let's not lose sight of the real purpose of safety programs, which is the [inaudible 00:05:02]. The secondary point is that the only way to achieve this is to be proactive and be proactive in the field at the source of the work. That's where mobility comes into play. Mobile EHS solutions help you be proactive in the field. Mobile EHS solutions help you get it right in the field.
For those of you who are wondering how it turned out for Mr. O'Neill and Alcoa, well, the company's market value increased from three billion to $28 billion during his tenure. Net income for them increased from $200 million to about $1.5 billion. This all happened because of, or maybe even in spite of, Mr. O'Neill's focus on improving Alcoa's safety record.
Today we're gonna talk about a few things, and this discussion will be comprised of three parts. First, we'll talk about the case for EHS mobility. Why it's important, what we can do. Number two, we're gonna talk about some specific use cases for mobile technology in the field that you could take away. Then finally, we'll wrap up with the path forward in terms of, "What are the next steps? What do you need to be thinking about to implement this in your organization?"
What's the state of the EHS function today? First of all, we've got a mobile and diverse workforce. EHS responsibilities exist in the office and the field, supporting workforce in numerous environmental situations from professional offices, to storage facilities, to high-risk production lines.
Additionally, today's workforce is changing in that we have full-time employees and contractors working side by side in a blended model, and all parties need to be on the same page. That means having data and tools anywhere, anytime, is critical to EHS's goal of proactive safety.
Number two, data is exploding. Data's coming from all sides: from corporate, from the field, from peer functions in the organization, even from sensors in the machines now. How do you get your hands around that data when and where you need it? That's one of the points we'll discuss today, as mobile solutions are not just a great way to collect data in the field; they're a great way to push data when and where you need it, typically to the front lines.
Number three, I think we could also all agree that EHS's professionals are stretched thin. My view of the world is that EHS professionals are the true firemen of the industry. When not advocating for health and safety measures, you're on the front lines fighting fires, sometimes literally.
Most of the EHS professionals I know resemble a restaurant server in the busiest restaurant that you can imagine, bustling from meetings in the office, to walking the floor in the production facilities, to creating preventative safety action plans, to preparing and submitting corporate or maybe even regulatory compliance reporting.
In fact, in a recent AIHA survey, the number-one concern was not enough resources. When this group was asked whether additional resources were in the budget, only a third of them said yes. The takeaway here is that help isn't necessarily on the way, so we're gonna have to find a way to get smarter and more efficient about how we're working.
Then the last point, here, around transparency and accountability. Transparency and accountability start with commitment from the organization to support the EHS function. This has been a struggle for some of us because it's not always easy to connect the dots between health and safety initiatives and the corporate bottom line. That's where the leadership of a man like Paul O'Neill of Alcoa clearly establishes accountability at the top.
Somewhere, I recently read the phrase, "Risk managers are from Mars, and EHS professionals are from Venus." That's a fairly adept strategy or analogy of how different but collaborative organizations can view the world.
Let's review a couple of charts. There was a study put together by the Aberdeen research group, which is a technology analyst firm. This first chart examines EHS data storage, data collection and monitoring of metrics. It compares best in class to all others, and in this case, best in class refers to those organizations that employ mobile solutions.
What do these metrics tell us? First of all, best-in-class organizations are 1.6 times more likely to store data centrally. Number two, they're 1.7 times more likely to collect data automatically. Those two factors combined make those same organizations almost three times more likely to monitor key EHS metrics.
What does this all mean? It means that mobile-focused organizations are gaining advantages in collecting data, storing data and using that data critical to their health and safety initiatives.
Automated data collection is important because, number one, it increases the likelihood that data will be collected and reported in the first place. Secondly, it reduces the number of data transposition errors to increase data accuracy. Where mobile comes into play is that mobile in-the-field technology enables you to augment basic data reporting with pictures, videos, or even recorded commentary about a situation.
Additionally, the Aberdeen Group, who performed this research, found that companies using mobile were 45% more likely to digitize paper-based processes. The value of this is obvious. Number one, there's less errors. Number two, there's less time on data collection and reporting. Number three, there's better information for decision making because the data's collected automatically at the source.
A couple of other outputs from this study from Aberdeen. Here are two additional insightful charts regarding specific outcomes in mobile versus non-mobile environments. In the first chart, we see that organizations considered best in class had nearly twice the ability to monitor and escalate adverse events in real time to decision makers.
As we all know in the safety world, the response is oftentimes more important than the actual issue. The issue can be solved at a later time, but the response will dictate the outcome of that situation, good or bad. My own manager articulates this in a simple equation, which is E + R = O. Events plus response equals the outcome. This is a simple yet insightful way to look at how outcomes come to be.
The second chart isn't quite as specific, but it's telling, none the less. The research suggests that data is three times more likely to be available in a mobile environment than a non-mobile environment. Generally speaking, I try not to make too many decisions where I've got a greater than 50% chance of not having the right information. Now, my wife probably wouldn't agree with that, but that's my goal, none the less. From these charts, you can see the importance of mobile in identifying, reporting, and responding to issues in the workplace.
We're gonna talk about a concept later called time to decision. This concept is exactly what it sounds like: the speed at which your organization can make decisions. As we can all imagine, this is a critical element to get right in the EHS world, as our decisions have an impact on worker safety and worker lives as well as our community.
What are the qualitative reasons to employ mobile solutions in the field? Although the strategies of implementation and deployment of a company's health and safety program may come from the corporate office, the real moments of incident prevention and response happen on the job, itself, wherever that work may take place.
EHS professionals are the bridge between those two worlds, spending time each day on the floor or out in the field as well as behind a desk, so it's important that your EHS software applications move with you.
The first reason is to engage the edge user. Edge users are those users who might not typically utilize traditional software applications. Think about that population of your workforce that aren't in front of a computer for much, if any, of the day. Mobile EHS applications work wherever your team is, putting safety management in the hands of those edge users.
That could occur when it's not practical to use these applications when they're in the field, or maybe because the complexity of the desktop software makes its use a burden. The goal is to remove barriers for employees to do their jobs. It's human nature for us to avoid things that are difficult, but by introducing technology in the field, you can eliminate some of those barriers.
For example, safety audits and inspections can be incredibly time-consuming and an onerous process. People just don't wanna do them. Not because they're not important or the don't care about the results, but rather because they can be difficult and time-consuming to create, conduct and report on the results, especially when conducting across multiple facilities or locations.
The second point is around eliminating the telephone game. A robust connection between mobile and desktop functionality makes the organization's EHS group more efficient by cutting down on the time spent between the field and office staff communicating about basic details of safety issues. Not only is it more efficient, but it's more accurate.
We're all familiar with the telephone game, right? Without in-the-field solutions, imagine the telephone game where a description of events pass from one person to another through the organization until it gets recorded into the system of record. Is the final result still the same accurate description of events that occurred in the field maybe a day or two ago?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In fact, there's one study that suggests eight percent of paper documents are lost altogether. The additional benefit, here, is that mobile technology solutions can build in automatic workflow, answer sets, and recipients so the employee doesn't even have to worry about the process; they simply report the facts.
Number three is improved auditing. Auditing is simply an offshoot of better data capture and reporting. It stands to reason that, if we're able to capture data at the source and report it in a structured, controlled, real-time manner, then we're more likely to not only get it right, but have that audit trail from the source and go back all the way through the channels throughout the organization.
The fourth idea: real-time data and reporting. Not only do you get real-time data capture, it can enable real-time decision making. Although operational environments are becoming more complex, our decision window is shortening. That is, the timeframe in which a decision must be made or an action be taken is tightening.
Safety teams are put in a particularly challenging position because, unlike other corporate functions, safety decisions often need to be made on the spot to either prevent an incident or remedy something that's already occurred so that others also don't get injured. This isn't like a financial accounting system where a data lag is okay. People's lives and livelihoods are at stake, and mobile apps are one of the best ways to operationalize that decision making directly in the field.
The last point is risk identification and management. Mobile solutions can help your field employees become the eyes and ears to better identify potential and actual risk areas. We talked earlier about how stretched EHS professionals have become. This is an excellent way to extend your coverage throughout the organization.
Here's the topic that I'm really excited about right now: the idea of making safety personal. An interesting twist with EHS technology today is not only how you can put technology directly in the fields' hands, but how you can make safety and compliance personal. Here's an example of how you can shrink all those health and safety requirements down to each employee with what I would call a personal compliance portal.
In this example, I've got a tablet that's logged in to my health and safety management system. This is our regular enterprise-wide software, but what's different about this use case is the experience and the content has been tailored to my specific needs. In it, I can quickly see the relevant health and safety information related to my company, my job and my location.
I see the following tabs on the left side. There's chemical information, which this provides direct access to the safety data sheets in my area, outlining the chemicals in my location, the risks and hazards of those materials, and even protective measures that I might want to take.
Number two, there's a document section. This provides access to key safety operating or company information such as SOPs, building maps, really anything that you want.
The third piece is I've got incident management available. I can submit an online submission of an incident, injury, near miss, something like that.
Number four I've got chemical approval, which is the last item here. If my job requires it, this is an online submission portal to be able to introduce new chemicals into the workplace.
In the main view, I see all of the training classes and tasks that have been assigned to me. As you can see, the training view outlines what is completed and what's still outstanding. Furthermore, I can launch the training directly from my mobile device. So, this really expedites the training process.
One of the challenges of safety training is often getting everyone physically in one location or finding time to schedule training. With training available on a mobile device, employees can complete that training whenever they like, possibly even during downtime. This is good for the employee and good for the employer.
Who benefits from mobile technology? First of all, the employees benefit. Number one, mobile solutions can help employees stay in the field and be productive. How much time do your employees in your organization spend going outside of their normal working location to gather needed data to complete their jobs or even report data?
Mobile minimizes the time employees spend completing reports in the field. They can be tailored to specific actions, and functions, and data submitted, and rolled up automatically. Finally, it enables faster onboarding when training resources and relevant job information are right at my fingertips.
Number two, facility managers also benefit. It enables them to create a proactive health and safety culture. Now you can provide information to the field in advance and respond quicker when there's an issue.
Number two, it supports collaboration. Getting feedback from the field is critical to maintain a hand on the pulse of your organization. Feedback will help you respond quicker and develop policies and practices suited to the needs of your employees and organization.
Finally, faster identification and analysis of potential health and safety issues. Having incidents reported via mobile speeds up the time it takes to get that information to the right decision makers and identify if the situation is contained, or if there's additional potential exposure.
Imagine a scenario where two unknown but conflicting reactive materials are stored near each other, and there's an issue in one facility that leads to a worker exposure. With incident tracking in the field, safety managers can identify and report the situation immediately and have the information flow to other facilities who might have similar materials on site.
And then, finally, also the corporation, the business as a whole, benefits. You can standardize business processes out in the field, locations and functions that are remote and don't typically have regular interaction with corporate.
Number two is a great source for leading indicators. By putting mobile solutions that act as data gathering opportunities, gives you insights into what's happening in the field early. These are leading indicators to help identify potential issues before they become an issue.
And then lastly, it's easier to deploy information and instructions directly out to the field and into the hands of the people that need it most.
We talked earlier about the concept of time to decision. According to that same Aberdeen study that we reviewed earlier, companies that employ mobile solutions saw a 15% decrease in time to decision. Time to decision is the time from the point of a action or incident to the response.
Being able to make decisions in a faster manner comes down to how quickly you can identify the incident, capture the right data, transmit the data to decision makers, and initiate the response with fully-informed detail. Mobility is the best method to capture these leading indicators. We'll touch on this a bit later, but let me share one example of how time to decision is improved with mobile technology.
Let's say that you've got a safety manager completing an inspection of a storage facility in advance of the end-of-the-year physical inventory that's going to take place next week. She notes in the inspection that there's a strange odor emanating form the space, and she felt nauseous while in the room. While on the inspection, she can quickly complete an incident report highlighting those conditions.
That report is submitted through the mobile app and immediately shows up on the safety director's dashboard for further review. Through further inspection, they determine that higher than normal levels of ammonia exist in the space, so they delay the inventory of that room until the problem can be remediated. This is a great example of how mobile technology speeds up decision making or time to decision.
At the end of the day, mobile strategies help you operationalize your risk management strategy. In fact, it's where EHS meets operations risk management, two sides of the same coin.
And then lastly, just one other point of view on mobility from Verdantix, who I'm sure many of you are familiar with. In Verdantix's view, mobility is the number-one trend in EHS technologies right now. Furthermore, they've found that 57% of companies have adopted some mobile use in their organizations. Therefore, the takeaway, here, is that mobile is a validated and important tool for our arsenal and its adoption is a growth mode for EHS professionals.
Let's move on to some specific examples of mobile EHS applications in the field, specific use cases where you can apply mobile technology to your organization. The first use case centers around chemical management. There are several scenarios for mobile technology in the Environmental Health and Safety arena, and this first one is chemical management.
Three areas that are applicable, the first one is chemical right to know and right to understand. By definition, chemical right to know and right to understand parameters and data must be available in the field because that's where the chemicals are. By combining deployment of your chemical management system to kiosks strategically placed throughout your facilities as well as directly in your employees' hands via smartphones, you can enhance your right-to-know coverage by increasing the availability and accessibility of hazardous chemical information.
Number two, chemical inventories, which we'll talk about more in a bit. But you can identify and inventory chemicals at any location and directly input your findings into a mobile application that syncs back to your core chemical and safety data sheet system. This is a much more efficient and accurate method than traditional pencil and paper to do inventories.
And then finally chemical approval, which we'll touch on as well and talk about some examples there. The chemical approval is the process by which your organization introduces new chemicals in the facility. You can do this manually or via software, but this is another good example of where mobile technology can play a part.
The systems described, here, can be both reactive and preventative for the workforce. Let's say an employee has had an exposure to a chemical. Maybe they were working with the chemical, their hands were exposed to it, and then they proceeded to eat their lunch without washing their hands. Suddenly, the employee is ill from ingestion.
Having quick access to the safety data sheet on a mobile device will allow the employee, their supervisor, and a treating medical provider to quickly identify first aid measures from the STS on how to respond to the ingestion exposure. This is an example of reducing time to decision in this reactionary example.
However, what all of us want to strive for is a workforce focused on prevention rather than reaction to the adverse event. Using the same ingestion scenario, the well-trained workforce with access to HazCom information in the field would know to access their SPS from their mobile technology to quickly read the type of gloves needed to protect them from the chemical hazard and the importance of hand washing.
Also within the chemical management arena is using mobile solutions to perform a chemical physical inventory. An on-site inventory is the first and most important step for any business to get a true understanding of all of its existing chemicals. By connecting a comprehensive chemical inventory, you'll discover which chemicals are on site so you can accurately determine which need due SDS documentation and what documentation should be archived for safe keeping. No more wasting time maintaining documents for chemicals you no longer have, and no cluttering up your active SDS collections with unnecessary documents.
With accurate chemical inventories, you can comfortably meet regulatory compliance, reduce your liability by actively archiving chemicals not in use, and also identify hazardous work stations, enabling you to provide targeted training to specific employees working in those areas.
The benefits of a mobile option, here, are first, online or offline. The beauty of a mobile solution is twofold. First you can do it in online or offline mode, depending on if you're in a hard-to-reach area without wifi. Secondly, but more importantly, you can have all of the data instantly at your fingertips: chemical names, locations, container types, manufacturers that actually help you perform the inventory, because sometimes it's hard to distinguish what the chemical is in those conditions. Having a guide helps the inventory be more accurate and more complete.
Secondly, you can either scan or do manual input of data. If your materials are tagged with barcodes, you can use mobile technology to simply scan barcodes against the library of materials in your chemical management system, thus streamlining your inventory effort.
And then finally, automatic reconciliation when you're done. An additional advantage of these solutions that we discussed earlier is the ability to quickly reconcile actual chemicals on site to safety data sheet records to determine if new materials exist without safety data sheets or if there are materials in the SDS database that are no longer on site and should be archived.
Furthermore, if you're also capturing quantities, you can reconcile these actual quantities to inventory records in your system, which is important for regulatory reporting including Tier 2, Form R, and a few other state and federal mandates. In work that we've completed, we've seen compliance rates go up by the tune of around 50% for companies that execute chemical inventories.
Then the last piece on the chemical management side is chemical approval. As we say, chemical approval is the process that an organization establishes to bring in and approve chemicals or other hazardous materials into their facilities.
The chemical approval process contains two vital elements, both of which are enhanced and supported by technology. First you have the approval form, and second you have the approval process. The approval form contains all the relevant chemical data, usage scenarios and regulatory data required for approval. The approval process is the logic in the workflow steps for the appropriate reviewers, approvers and final approval steps. Underlying this process is technology or software that controls the workflow to run the process, collect data and store the results.
What's the purpose of a chemical approval? There are several reasons. One, just maintaining control of your inventory; it's always a good reason to have chemical approval for that. Number two, you can manage the risk and materials coming in to the facility. Depending on your industry, your company, you may have certain materials that are banned from being used in your facilities. Chemical approval can help build in preset restrictions of those chemicals.
Finally, you're establishing upfront, proactive training based on identifying hazards so you've got more transparency in the materials that the employees will be working with.
Chemical approval can be a complex process that involves both corporate personnel as well as field employees. Additionally, at some point, that newly-improved chemical physically comes on site to a facility manned by those employees. Therefore, having a chemical approval and workflow process available through a mobile app makes it easier to request, monitor and regulate the flow of chemicals in your facilities and job sites.
The next use case for mobile solutions is incident management, which is probably the most prevalent current use of technology. While incidents sometimes happen in an office environment, the majority occur in the field. The key to instant management tracking is capturing the right information at the right time, which is as soon as possible after the incident occurs.
Mobile incident management puts a simple incident form into the hands of your employees so they can capture the key details of the occurrence as well as capture photos of the injury or environment, giving your EHS management a complete view of the incident. Comprehensive detail capture is critical for correcting potential safety issues, and a key component in assessing liability concerns.
What are the benefits of mobile incident management? First of all, it improves time to the decision. In this case, the decisions are, number one, how do we need to treat the employee? Number two, what happened and how do we remedy the situation? And then finally, how do we prevent this from happening in the future?
Number two, it's better for worker safety. It enables on-the-spot issue identification and the ability to put in place corrective measures to remedy the situation. This is important because it's been found that 80% of workplace incidents are repeat issues.
It also improves process uptime. When you address an incident at the source, you can minimize lost time for employees and teams. Additionally, you can mitigate incident severity. For example, in a chemical spill or exposure situation, recording the incident or issue immediately can stem the potential harmful health or environmental situation from getting worse.
And then finally, you can streamline reporting. You get automated data collection, retention and reporting automatic population of OSHA 300, 300A and 301 forms straight from the data input from the field.
Here's an example. Imagine an automated system capturing the same information for each and every incident, including photos. Gone would be the days of a cryptic phone call, an e-mail or a text notifying a supervisor. The injured or ill employee logs their own account of what happened, with their supervisor doing the same, with all the information being sent immediately to build a First Report of Injury form and allowing for prompt medical care, providing all details needed for the treating provider.
Not only are you getting real-time information, gathering the same information each time, you're also reducing your reporting time for state reporting parameters and for your OSHA 300 log. But there's more. With a mobile tracking system, your team can gather all the facts around the incident for the EHS person to do what they do best, which is prevention work. How can we ensure the same or similar incident never happens again? Imagine having the flexibility to do this work or advisement with your team from a distance, responding to their needs immediately.
The third use case that I wanna talk about today is workplace training, or what I would consider to be or think of as knowledge on demand. The training typically happens in an episodic, one-time manner through an online or in-person class. However, a smarter approach is to supplement your regular training with specific safety training that's immediately available in the field.
This in-the-field training may include shorter, more specific topic-focused training that relates to a particular safety issue or situation applicable to that location or incident. For example, a 60 to 90 second video on a real-time safety issue like fire safety, lockout-tagout, BPR, first aid, or any of the other hundreds of other relevant safety topics, all available immediately through a mobile app.
Think of the mobile training solution as safety knowledge on demand, where a worker can quickly access exactly what they need to know, when they need to know it. The benefits of this include many for both the employee and the employer.
Number one, employees benefit from the convenience of anywhere, anytime training, cuts down on lost time and administrative hurdles to execute training, and employees are no longer chained to a desk to complete training.
Employers benefit from higher rates of completion and mastery when training is made more readily accessible.
Ultimately, this results in lower costs for the organizations: lower training costs, less lost time, and higher competency issues, which results in fewer issues.
As an example, imagine the case for contractor safety. Contractors can often be on-demand, unscheduled workers on your site. Consequently, it may not be top of mind to provide a standard onboarding training process, or not even feasible, if they're in a remote location. In this case, the relevant training can be made available remotely, on demand for the contractor without delaying their work.
Or, there may be some special training required for dealing with hazardous materials. You don't always have full visibility into the potential health hazards of a location or situation before you go in. Therefore, having training available and on demand allows you to meet the needs of any safety situation that comes up.
As a professional practice, we're learning the importance of microlearning, keeping safety top of mind and moving away from the one-and-done mentality of training. Our goal is knowledge transfer, which works best when adult learning theory is combined with frequency.
Why would we assume teaching an employee once during some annual training was enough for them to remember three weeks, or even six months later, the proper way to put on their body harness and how to anchor their lifeline? Doing mandated compliance training is important and required. However, reinforcing the practices and behaviors with real-time training is also a critical ingredient.
Okay. The last scenario that I'd like to cover is audits and inspections. Like a chemical inventory, an audit or inspection, by definition, occurs in the field. The deployment of EHS software to the job site can improve efficiency and accuracy.
If you think of incident management process as being reactive, after the incident has already occurred, think of audits and inspections as being proactive, and a preventative measure. Inspections are a critical part of an EHS program because they reveal occupational, safety and health hazards that can lead to risks of incidents.
The traditional method of performing inspections can be a cumbersome process. You might need a computer, a notebook, a camera, folders, et cetera to make sure that you have all of the necessary tools and data to complete your full inspection.
I like to think of it as packing for a day at the beach. You need all the stuff. You need chairs, sunscreen, beach toys, umbrellas, clothes, whatever it is, because you know that you don't wanna have to walk all the way back to the car, or the hotel, if you forgot something, because you go out like a pack mule.
Traditional audits and inspections can be the same way. Then, when you're done, you have all of this information in disparate forms and formats and have to piece everything back together like a jigsaw puzzle. With mobile solutions, you can change that dynamic.
Audit checklists and inspection outlines can be created at the corporate office and then deployed to specific locations so employees can open and complete them through a mobile device wherever they are. All of the relevant data is at your fingertips, oftentimes online or offline, and new information that you record is connected directly to the location, function or process that you're inspecting.
You don't have to go back and read smudge through dirty notes, trying to determine if they were from the loading dock or maybe the maintenance supply room. All the captured survey results, inspection notes and other supporting data, photos, videos, are then synced to the master safety management system for easy recording and reporting.
Then finally, you've increased your time to decision because you've eliminated the steps of consolidating data both pre-inspection and reporting results post inspection. As employers, we're mandated to identify and abate workplace hazards, and for that, we don't wait until an incident has occurred. When we're working proactively, we're identifying hazards in real time and we're assessing potential hazards before a job starts at a new site or with new equipment or people for those activities that only happen during shutdown, for example.
EHS professionals can build out audits to empower supervisors to know what to look for, what to measure, potentially building hazard recognition skills through technology. The data gathered through these audit functions can help track and trend hazards across business units and gather critical data on improvements or investments needed so you can make an informed capital budget request.
Those are some of the prime use cases that are happening in mobile technology today. Let's talk a bit about leading indicators and how mobility can help with transparency in the EHS function. From the metric standpoint, we often talk about leading versus lagging indicators. Leading indicators are typically focused on preventing occupational safety issues, while lagging indicators focus on progress towards health and safety goals.
Both are important, but they play a distinct role in your overall health and safety program. Leading indicators are early warning signs of potential failure, thus enabling organizations to identify and correct deficiencies before they trigger injuries and damage.
Consequently, leading indicators enable more proactive steps to be taken while lagging indicators create reactive responses. Both are necessary, but just know what you're trying to measure or accomplish and implement the right tool set.
Mobile solutions are particularly relevant to leading indicators as having the near real-time data available and on hand, on demand, in a much more predictive and proactive approach to managing your safety culture internally. Like your front windshield in a car, having health and safety tools and data in the hands of your front-line professionals helps you identify the risks that are coming down the road in front of you, not the ones that you've already passed.
Some examples of leading indicators include training sessions completed and the proficiency of your workforce on those trainings, chemical inventory results, audit and inspection results, and near-miss incidents. These are all indicators which give us early insights into potential issues that arise or can be prevented in the workplace.
If we start evaluating mobile technology and mobile apps for our businesses, what are some of the key considerations? First of all, offline usage. For organizations with large geographic footprints like utilities, oil and gas, it's not realistic to expect wireless connectivity in every situation. The same can be said for large enclosed facilities like manufacturing plants.
According to Verdantix, 20% of EHS leaders believe that it's very important to have offline capability. A mobile app that provides offline capabilities is a must-have when workers are on job sites in remote locations without an internet or wireless connection. Some applications could run in offline mode and then sync up data when reconnected to a network.
A good example is the connectivity challenge that can arise when conducting a chemical inventory in a manufacturing plant. It's not uncommon for such a facility to lack data connectivity due to the environment of the workplace, with concrete walls, or even by company policy that prohibits online connections on the manufacturing floor.
With an app in offline mode, you could download your existing chemical list, conduct the inventory and then sync the physical inventory results with your real-time database once you're reconnected to the network.
Number two, native- versus browser-based apps. You may see two different flavors of mobile apps. A native app is an app developed essentially for one particular mobile device and is installed directly onto that device itself, like the apps we see available on app stores.
Because they may not need the full functionality of the desktop application, native mobile apps are often easier and faster to use. Mobile apps should be targeted to a particular use case so the user can quickly perform the job at hand. When you're on a manufacturing floor responding to a safety incident, you don't want a clunky user interface interfering with your ability to remediate the situation.
A browser-based app, on the other hand, is an internet-enabled app that works in your browser and provides the same user experience in and out of the field. This not only supports a simpler, familiar interface for you and other users, whether on desktops or smartphones and tablets, but also helps ensure data connectivity right out of the box.
There isn't necessarily a right answer here. Browser apps have come a long way with responsive design so that, when you're on a device with a smaller screen, the application responds and adjusts to the screen size, even taking on some of the native-like capabilities such as larger fonts, buttons and simplified layouts.
Ease of use is obviously important. I would recommend focus on one-page functionality, which means for a particular task or function, have all the steps visible within one page, even if it's scrolling, so you make it easy for the user to get through that task.
And then finally, build versus buy. At this point in the technology maturity lifecycle, there's really no reason to build your own apps or software. There's an app for everything, and if you think that there's something special or unique about your use case, I would just ask if there's maybe even a better or simpler way to do things, because many in most business areas have been addressed at this point.
Okay. Wrapping up, what are the key takeaways for today? What are the key takeaways for implementing mobile technology in our organizations? Number one, the use of mobile solutions is a best practice. It's the number-one trend in EHS right now; I think roughly half of all organizations have adopted some mobile strategy. Most importantly, mobile solutions help you speed up time to decision, a critical ingredient of our job in EHS.
Number two, target key functions in your organization and try a pilot of maybe one app or one function. Incident management is a great starting point. Training is always a good idea to put in the hands of your workers on a more frequent basis, or even some of the examples on chemical management.
And then finally: Make safety personal. As Mr. O'Neill from Aloca said, "Never budget the costs of keeping humans safe, and find ways to put health and safety information directly in the hands of your personnel." Look for ways to deliver that personal compliance portal for each employee so that they have the specific safety information that they need based on their job, their location and the hazards surrounding them.
With that, number one, I'd like to thank you for your time today. Stefanie, I think you guys may have some questions that we'll open up to.
Stefanie V.: Yup. It looks like a few of you have already submitted questions, so we're gonna jump right in. While our presenter is answering your questions, please take a moment to complete the feedback form that appears on the left side of your screen.
All right. Our first question is in regards to multiple users. Is there a limit to how many people can use them? Can these apps be scalable to multiple users?
Kraig Haberer: Yeah. Scalability is typically not an issue based on user counts. Typically, the issue from a mobile standpoint, unless you're using a native application, is connectivity to the internet. If you're in a poor signal area, the app may not be as responsive as you would like. But, no, user counts typically are not an issue with these functions.
Stefanie V.: Can you incorporate other mobile phone applications like photos and voice recording features? Will apps like these integrate?
Kraig Haberer: You can. It depends on the application or the site that you're using. If your app allows for the ability to include attachments, that's probably the best way to do it.
The typical examples I see are photos, obviously. Just by taking a photo on the phone and then, as you complete your incident report, you can attach that photo to the report through the attachment feature. Videos can also be stored if the applications support it, or maybe even recorded commentary. So, yes, that's typically based on the app that you're using, but that should be something that you look for.
Stefanie V.: Our next question: What apps out there do you recommend?
Kraig Haberer: Good question. I would certainly have my biases based on who I work for, but I think we're trying to not get into too much of a commercial advertisement, here.
What I would say is there is some good research out there and there's some good resources out there in terms of finding the right mobile applications. There are places like Capterra, which are independent reviews of software and technology. G2 Crowd is another area. Or, if you subscribe to a technology service such as Verdantix, Gartner, they can also point you in the right direction of apps and providers.
Stefanie V.: Our next question is, "Can you also use mobile apps for safety training?"
Kraig Haberer: You can, yeah. We laid out a couple of examples in the session today, and I would actually say this is probably one of the more underutilized options for mobility in the field, but I love this concept of microlearning and how you take what's been traditionally complex and long training sessions, which may be anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes in a episodic manner, down to bite-sized consumable segments or vignettes that are related to a very specific topic, very specific safety function, or business function in a company.
That way, you're getting the best of both worlds. You're getting the structured and standard training, maybe on that one-time basis across the whole organization, but then you're following up with specific examples of topical training, specific to a particular situation that the employee needs.
Stefanie V.: What are some common functionality issues with EHS mobile apps, and do the offline functions always work seamlessly?
Kraig Haberer: Yeah, good question. Depends on the app, obviously. I think, as I mentioned earlier, typically the most prevalent functionality issue is going to be connectivity. Unless you're on that native app, which is basically fully encapsulated on your phone or on your tablet, it's got both the software running and it's got the data necessary, you'll be connecting to the internet somehow. That's where you're gonna run into the most issues. So, if you are using a browser-based app, depending on the function that you're using it for, if it requires a lot of data, download or upload, you might run into an issue there.
Offline functions, do they work seamlessly? Yeah, they generally do. The vendors build in the technology to sync that data so, when you're in offline mode, it provides the relevant, specific data that you need for that particular function and that particular location.
Think of a chemical inventory. I can go out to a particular location in my facility and I can download all the existing data for that particular location right off the bat. Then, once I'm done with the inventory and I'm reconnected back to the network, the technology in the background will sync that data automatically and make that a seamless process between offline and online modes.