72% of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) professionals surveyed by Triumvirate Environmental feel understaffed. Respondents also indicate that their department is unlikely to add staff in the near future. Safety inspections can take hours to complete, often overwhelming those tasked with completing them day after day.
Some EHS professionals may be tempted to save time by 'eyeballing' potential concerns. But auditable records are needed to fend off OSHA's gravity-based penalties – which can range between $3,000 and $7,000.
Paper-Based Time Constraints
Many inspectors overlook how much time is wasted by using paper forms to collect inspection data. Employees often spend hours completing the following tasks:
- Recording compliance information by hand (which can lead to illegible forms)
- Manually entering information from every form into a back-office system
- Reviewing the information to pinpoint and describe site concerns
Mobile forms allow inspections and other compliance-related tasks to be completed much faster and more accurately. Inspectors can quickly collect EHS information using their mobile device, and the information collected is automatically connected to the user's back office system of choice, eliminating the hours of manual data entry previously required.
Best-in-class mobile forms will come with optional analytics add-ons that easily identify trends in the collected EHS data. They'll also include embedded signatures, sketchable photos, GPS and time stamps that improve the quality and accuracy of data collected.
Mobile Inspection Revelations
EHS professionals across industries have already started reaping the benefits of mobile forms. Crosstown Transit Constructors, for example, used mobile forms to dramatically reduce the time required to collect and communicate critical health and safety data.
"Previously, paper forms would eventually make their way back to me. I would have to review them for errors and perform time-consuming data entry or scanning", said Christina Lindstrom, Crosstown Transit Constructors' Health and Safety Manager. "The process used to take up to five days. Now, forms are dispatched to all of management via our EHS Solution and the whole process takes an hour."
Tanknology inspects fuel tanks around the country and has switched to using mobile forms to streamline operations. "We were doing about 300 inspections per month, on a regional scale" said Jason Bloch, Tanknology's Inspection Services Manager. "Now, we're doing roughly 1,300 inspections per month, coast to coast."
Some executives recognize their staffing challenge, but are also focused on reducing costs. Using mobile forms can help cut costs by improving operational efficiency. PG&E's use of mobile forms enabled their staff to inspect 1.2 million gas meters for atmospheric corrosion in only seven months. And the company's ability to perform inspections faster led to significant cost savings.
"We’ve looked at the inspection costs in 2013 and 2014, ongoing support costs, as well as the productivity rate of our contractors and employees in terms of their ability to inspect," said Khaled Fustok, PG&E's senior manager of Gas Technology. "We’ve also looked at the downtime of the prior systems, and compared the overall total cost. In 2015 alone, we saved about $1.5 million in inspection costs."
Replacing paper with mobile forms can help address staffing constraints by dramatically improving productivity and freeing up internal resources. Inspections are likely to be completed so much faster that the need for more personnel disappears.