There are many reasons for you to go paperless with your health and safety program! We’ve made a list of five reasons why it’s time to say goodbye to paper and make the switch to digital workplace health and safety.

1. Paper Forms Are a Waste of Time (And Money)

Each piece of paper, toolbox talk, safety meeting agenda or inspection form has to be printed, copied, handed out, filled out, signed, collected on site, brought back to head office and filed in filing cabinets. On average, companies spend a total of 1-3 minutes handling each piece of paper related to safety.

Imagine that across your entire company (at all job sites) you only handle 15 safety documents per day. That means you’ve wasted 30 minutes a day, or 125 hours a year, and at $30 per hour, it’s costing you $3750 just to move paper. Depending on the size of your operation, 15 safety documents may be a woeful underestimation.

Going paperless means workers simply fill out a digital form on an approved device and immediately go back to work. The form is instantly transferred and automatically filed by location in your secure account. (For related reading, check out 10 Questions to Ask When Considering a Safety Software Solution.)

2. Paper Forms Are Easily Lost or Damaged

It’s easy for paper documents to get dirty, wet, ripped, smudged, crumpled, torn, burned or, at worst, completely lost. Digital forms and software are less prone to these types of accidents. Once a form is submitted into the system, it is filed. There is no physical time lost in transport where the damage is often done to the paper versions. Moreover, digital storage usually comes with options for backing up and recovering lost data.

3. Paper Forms Do Not Have Enough Space

Paper safety forms are typically squished and crammed into a single piece of paper in order to save on printing costs. This means tiny boxes for your workers to write their responses in, which often results in incomplete documentation. Going paperless allows you to add unique form items that never run out of space. You can even use pre-built lists for workers to select their answers via check boxes or drop down menus, and then tweak the format for all users as you get their feedback. Taking in more data means a safer workplace for everyone. (For more, see How Predictive Analytics Is Changing the Game for Safety Reporting Best Practices.)

4. Paper Forms Can't Fix Illegible Hand Writing

Not only is it a challenge when workers run out of space filling out a paper form, but it often takes a cryptography degree to decipher exactly what your worker wrote on the form. Going paperless means having a beautiful, digital version of your forms. All of the responses are neatly typed out and easy to read. As a bonus, check boxes and drop down menus can help mitigate some language issues at the job site by allowing the user to read and select rather than producing the words themselves. (Also check out 5 Steps to Creating a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Workplace.)

5. Paper Forms Lead to Errors and Missing Crucial Information

Safety documentation is crucial to proving due diligence. With a paper-based system, your safety documentation is prone to errors and your workers can easily miss crucial fields on their forms (i.e. forgetting to add a date with their signature). Going paperless means each safety form and signature is automatically time and date stamped. Setting fields as mandatory prompts users when crucial fields haven’t been filled in on a form. Prompts and automated meta data can help reduce the number of incomplete forms, increasing the flow of accurate data to improve your workplace health and safety.

Bottom Line

The health and safety industry as a whole is moving towards digital record keeping. Paper will still exist. In some forms like a label or a quick guide, paper is still arguably the better product as it is a physical reminder workers hold. That said, with almost every worker walking around with a mobile device, empowering them to report their safety information back in real time, easy-to-use, digital formats is a win for everyone involved.