You’re sitting in a meeting one afternoon, talking with your safety management team about next quarter’s initiatives when you’re suddenly interrupted by the sound of everyone’s phone going off simultaneously. You and your team quickly reach into your pockets and check your devices only to find out that the worst has occurred. An employee has just been seriously injured on one of your sites and may require hospitalization.
You look up to see your safety managers begin to jump into action, each one now fully aware of the situation and prepared to respond. Within 10 minutes of the initial notification, you’ve received minute-by-minute updates as the situation changes that include photos, witness testimonies and GPS coordinates of exactly where the incident took place. As you approach the site, you’re notified via text message that the employee has been hospitalized for his injuries. The employee is stable and will be okay with medical treatment; However, the clock is still ticking. You now have 24 hours to report the incident to OSHA. Since every piece of data about the incident has been automatically documented you pull out your tablet and within another 10 minutes you have submitted all of your OSHA documentation, worker’s compensation paperwork and alerted your executive team that situation is now under control as you begin your investigation. At each step of the process, every member of your team had all available information in the palm of their hand automatically and with real-time updates.
Not a single piece of paper was required to effectively respond to this incident, that’s because more likely than not, the paperwork would have reduced accuracy and rate of response. By going digital, safety managers can can get a situation under control before they even arrive on the scene.
Paper vs. Electronic
For several years, I was the head of safety for a large manufacturer of fluorescent lighting. All of our information gathering for reporting our EHS was done on paper. I would spend a great deal of time gathering information on paper only to transfer it later into an electronic format for filing and data analysis. I can remember trying to decipher bad handwriting from accident investigation forms.
More and more companies are using software for EHS reporting. There are many advantages for electronic over pencil and paper.
Some of the benefits provided by EHS software include:
- Reducing costs associated with time
- Streamlining the reporting process
- Giving more control and reducing mistakes
- Easy data collection and analysis
- Easier sharing and accessibility
If it sounds like I am pro software, it's because I am. I have no ties with any EHS software companies; I am just envious that I did not have access to any when I was a safety officer for the fluorescent light manufacturer. It would have made my life so much easier.
I have had paper forms lost, filled out improperly, and information on forms disregarded due to lack of sharing and visibility.
EHS reporting with paper is limiting in many ways. By today's technological standards, using a pencil and paper for EHS reporting is like using a horse and buggy instead of a car for transportation.
With EHS software, professionals can now use mobile devices to collect information, including taking pictures and video. Forms can be created to look like the ones employees are used to. Controls can be put in place to ensure the needed information is captured, including ensuring that all needed fields are filled before continuing with the form.
If an employee is not comfortable with using keys for typing, that is no problem. They can now dictate the information while the device writes it for them.
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Who Benefits for EHS Electronic Reporting?
Everyone wins when software is used for EHS reporting. I am all about anything that makes my life easier, and going electronic makes reporting easier for everyone involved. I used to hate handing an accident form to someone after an incident, but now you can hand them a mobile device to collect needed information. Thanks to smartphones and tablets, mobile devices have an acceptance and comfort level that computers never achieved.
Once all the needed information is gathered, reports can be sent to OSHA, the EPA, or any other governing agency or involved party. OSHA 300 reporting is easier when you know you have all the required information, gathered promptly and ready to report.
A shorter response time for investigating an incident and reporting demonstrates professionalism and caring. It is too late to prevent the incident. What we can do is show concern and a strong desire to make sure it does not happen again. Software that streamlines information gathering and reporting is an asset to any EHS management system.
All EHS reporting is easier now thanks to mobile devices and apps. I have a friend that is the environmental officer for a large manufacturing site. When she makes her rounds checking waste oils, satellite storage areas, and all areas she needs for reporting, she carries a mobile device. No more capturing it on paper and transferring it to an electronic program. It saves her time and improves accuracy.
One major benefit of going electronic for reporting is real time sharing. Those that need to know about EHS information can receive information in real time. More eyes belonging to supervisors and managers watching what is going on means a greater level of awareness and a faster response toward corrective actions.
There are many benefits associated with expedited EHS reporting. Fast and accurate reporting shows professionalism and concern. When dealing with EHS agencies, we want to demonstrate a desire to reduce incidents and willingness to comply with all regulations. Our ability to report promptly indicates a robust EHS management system is in place. When all recording and reporting is done correctly and filed, we can rest with the knowledge that we can handle any EHS audits.
Urgent vs. Low Priority
We can set email settings to range from urgent to low priority. How we respond to EHS incidents can reveal how we view them. Are they urgent or low priority?
Work related EHS incidences must be seen as important and urgent. When it comes to EHS, we are either proactive or inactive. Proactive means we have a management system in place and are actively working towards improved EHS.
Look for ways to be proactive with all aspects of EHS, including using software for reporting. Reporting is something that must be done anyway, why not use it to show commitment and drive EHS improvement? Let’s set all reporting at “Urgent” by expediting it. Less equals more: the less time it takes you to react and report, the more is shows your commitment to EHS.