By Jason Peck, Canvas
Safety is a constant challenge at windpower sites. To ensure worker well-being, companies strive to achieve effective training, clear and transparent internal policies, and safety-first cultures. For all the investment directed toward safety and compliance, efforts are often undermined by an over-reliance on paper forms and manual business processes.
Consider that it takes 18 minutes on average to find a paper document, according to the Paperless Project, a coalition promoting office efficiency. The coalition also says a staggering 70% of businesses would fail in three weeks if they had a catastrophic loss of paper due to a fire or flood.
Moving paper forms and documents to an application, or app, on a mobile device can have a significant impact on safety, while also letting businesses effectively and efficiently track, manage, and comply with environmental, health, and safety regulations.
Part of the reason businesses – particularly small to mid-sized firms lacking the budget or internal resources to undertake mobile IT projects – cling to archaic paper processes and Excel spreadsheets is a fear that developing a custom mobile app will prove costly and time intensive.
That is no longer the case. Today, mobile apps are accessible to businesses of any size due to the cloud delivery model and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) app-builder tools that eliminate traditional costs associated with creating and using mobile apps. A cloud delivery model lets information an app uses be housed online, not in hardware, so it can be accessed from anywhere.
A basic inspection form with 15 to 20 fields could be built in 10 minutes using DIY app builders. For businesses in the wind power industry looking to improve their safety and compliance posture, this means it is easier and more budget-friendly than ever to reap the benefits of shifting paper forms and manual processes to a mobile solution. A few advantages follow.
Improve accuracy of safety and compliance reporting
Safety and compliance reporting remains a paper-intensive process, and the more paper forms and manual processes an organization introduces into a workflow, the greater the likelihood errors will occur. Errors not only undermine safety and compliance efforts, but also place workers and physical assets at risk.
How can a mobile app reduce risks? Let’s say a technician’s duty is to inspect lifting slings at a job site each day and record his findings on paper. One day, he encounters a sling with worn edges needing replacement. Unfortunately, the form gets lost in his truck. Or alternatively, the technician forgets to inspect slings entirely. With mobile apps, companies can make sling inspections required before a safety form is submitted, meaning such important tasks are not missed or skipped. The information reaches the office in real-time, letting managers immediately assess equipment needs. When delays occur, equipment isn’t replaced as fast as it could be and that puts workers at risk.
Manual entry is also prone to error. An employee making a mistake 1% of the time provides additional opportunities for error later. Safety inspections and reporting that have missing or incorrect information could force individuals collecting information to redo their work, or worse, overlook issues that could affect people’s health and safety.
Mobile apps give companies more accurate inspections. For instance, organizations can dispatch workers to locations with mobile safety and compliance forms populated with required fields, workers can fill them out and electronically submit the mobile forms via the Cloud. When action is required, it can be taken sooner than paper forms would allow.
Reduce time associated with safety and compliance paperwork
It is not uncommon for individuals responsible for safety and compliance to hand write notes in the field, return to the office hours or days later, re-type all the notes into a computer, download pictures, and try and match each photo to a corresponding data entry. This process is painfully inefficient, requiring organizations to spend more time on paperwork and reports than on taking actual safety measures.
Mobile forms, on the other hand, can include necessary fields to cut the time it takes to fill required forms, provide support for image capture, leave no location doubt with a GPS function, and other features, and enable the sending of information from the worker’s mobile device to a firm’s back-end system in real-time via the Cloud.
Integration with back-end systems and databases
One of the most obvious and debilitating issues with paper-based safety and compliance forms is the amount of additional steps and number of people required to get information into backend databases. With a mobile app, however, windpower firms can have workers enter safety information on any smartphone, tablet, or mobile device, and then transmit data to a back-office system. Decision makers then have real-time visibility into site and personnel safety issues.
Real-time data integration makes it easy to track safety findings from beginning to end of a project. Plugging this information into an executive dashboard lets managers view the information, thereby increasing accountability and compliance and, in turn, creating a safer work environment.
Here’s a closing thought. How about equipping workers with smartphones and tablets? In many cases, organizations provide these to employees as business tools, just as they provide employees with other equipment related to job functions, and they are seeing the benefits from this in terms of productivity, efficiency, and cost savings. In other cases, organizations may implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and train their employees on how to install mobile app platforms, such as Canvas, on their phones.
BYOD may not be right for all businesses. It depends on the importance placed on standardized Internet security, whether work is performed in extreme temperatures that normal phones and devices can’t handle, how much a company is willing to invest in hardware and support, and other issues that are dependent on individual businesses and their needs. WPE
Filed Under: News, Safety