Five Advantages of electronic data capture and analysis for safety processes
Safety is a top priority at almost every construction company, but many overlook the risks of relying on paper as a cornerstone of their safety processes.
Making the switch to electronic forms and an online, mobile solution for distributing, collecting and analyzing safety related data can be an important advancement in the effort to minimize risk and increase compliance. Contractors can also gain significant efficiency and minimize the administrative burden on their employees by moving away from paper-based safety processes. Here is how.
Get Information to the Field
Regular safety meetings, or “toolbox talks”, are a proven tool for preventing injuries, complying with regulatory requirements and sustaining a culture of safety. Managing this process, however, can be an ongoing administrative headache. Delivering safety materials and forms to the field is the first challenge. Paper limits portability and accessibility and creates lag times.
With an electronic process, users in the office can distribute safety information and forms instantly. Users in the field can access them right away. That kind of agility, efficiency and immediacy can improve the quality of the safety and training materials provided, improve compliance and, ultimately, improve safety outcomes.
Electronic forms provide the flexibility to generate safety forms quickly and easily and to customize them. Contractors can add, delete and create new fields and sections as needed to capture the exact information they need about a specific activity, process or piece of equipment. The updated forms can then be immediately distributed to those who use them during their work.
With paper, contractors are often forced to settle for generic, one-size-fits-all forms that limit the quality and specificity of the data they can collect.
Important data like images, attachments, time stamps, and GPS information can also be included with electronic forms. This validates safety data from the field and provides a much higher level of detail, and utility.
Predict and Prevent
When contractors use paper forms to document accidents, incidents, near misses and other safety-related events, analysis is a manual process that takes a lot of time and administrative effort. Turning data into actionable intelligence tends to be delayed and deferred as a result. Some companies forgo the analysis altogether.
Electronic forms for data capture and analysis make it easy to aggregate safety information automatically and populate routine or customized reports and dashboards. Contractors can then use these valuable tools to measure their safety performance and drive continuous improvement. They can also identify trends that could potentially help them to predict and prevent future incidents.
A report that compares injury, near-miss, and toolbox talk statistics across the enterprise could reveal a need for increased training or compliance steps at specific jobsites. Finding out that several crew members had been injured performing the same task or using the same equipment at different job sites over several months could be almost impossible if the reports were on paper forms. Similarly, efficient analytics could identify an accident trend involving a single person, alerting supervisors that additional training is needed.
Leverage Alerts and Notifications
Real-time alerts and notifications have far-reaching utility and advantages across digitized construction workflows. These tools – made possible by the switch from paper to electronic forms – can improve safety too.
An event like an injury or an accident reported on a form field can trigger an immediate alert sent by text message, email or within the forms app to designated recipients. A foreman checking “yes” on an accident form field asking if there was bodily injury could prompt an immediate message to a superintendent or safety officer or an operator using a similar piece of equipment. Getting the information right away can help them to respond appropriately or prevent a similar incident. The immediacy also supports a culture where safety is a top priority.
Inspections are an everyday process for most contractors. Documenting progress, driving quality and cutting costs are primary goals, but there are important safety aspect to site, and equipment inspection processes as well. Catching and correcting problems as quickly as possible can prevent injuries.
When paper is part of the inspection process, it can take a week or two for inspection forms to reach someone who can take action. The lag time could be catastrophic.
Electronic inspection forms can be submitted instantly, closing the gap between the field, the shop and the office. Potential injury risks identified in a site inspection can be addressed before someone gets hurt. In the case of equipment inspections, work orders can be generated faster, the work can be scheduled and completed faster, and the equipment can be restored to proper working order to avoid potential injuries.
Safety remains a critical concern for contractors, and moving away from paper forms and paper-based processes presents opportunities to improve efficiencies and outcomes. The switch to electronic forms and a software-based solution for data capture and analysis can empower them to collect better data in real time and to turn that data into actionable intelligence that can improve safety outcomes and compliance.