Earlier this year I hosted a session at the Nelson Health and Safety Forum on the Digital Divide: What it means for Health and Safety.
I was surprised when the reps all started scribbling down the names of the health and safety apps I mentioned.
My assumption was that the reps would be all over the different offerings in the market. Health and safety is big business, and there are many apps out there that aim to improve organisation’s health and safety records.
The reality, however, is that many employees don’t have the skills to use technology effectively at work. They feel overwhelmed by technology. Reluctant to get use yet another new app. That’s a tough challenge – and one we at Adult Learning Support can help with.
But if you’re past that challenge, and you’re considering whether to introduce some technology to support health and safety in your workplace, here are four steps you should consider.
Step 1: Define the problem
Many of the businesses at the Nelson Health and Safety Forum spoke about the confusing web of technologies now being used in their business. Many people look on new digital technologies with suspicion, wondering whether it’s really just going to make their job harder, not easier.
This means you need to tightly define the problem before you consider whether technology is the right solution in a health and safety context.
What’s the specific health and safety challenge you’re facing?
Is it too much or incomplete paperwork? Is it a cultural issue, with people not understanding how health and safety affects their work on a day-to-day-basis? Or are people not thinking about health and safety risks at the moment they most need to be thinking about them?
For now, let’s assume you’ve defined the problem you’re seeking to address. And you’ve decided that a technological solution is the most cost-effective solution.
Now what? Straight to the app store?
Step 2: Assess your employees’ motivation and ability to use a new app
Before you go running to google and the app store, you’ll need to be confident that your people have the motivation, confidence and skills to incorporate another app into their work life.
Nobody likes being forced to use technology they didn’t ask for, especially if they don’t enjoy using technology in the first place.
Over half of your workforce may lack the IT skills they need for work in today’s technology-rich world – especially if you work in a primary or secondary industry.
If you need help to improve the digital capability of your workforce, we might be able to help with that. Or you might want to ensure the app you choose has tailored and continuing support, and perhaps even a way of identifying people who are struggling to use it.
Step 3: What’s out there?
Be prepared to be overwhelmed by options. Safety Awakenings has reviewed over 200 of the health and safety apps out there. That may sound daunting, but it’s actually a useful place to start because they’re broken down into categories.
We’ve also highlighted a few apps below to get you thinking about the possibilities. Just to be clear, we are not endorsing any of these apps. We haven’t tested them. And even if we had, you would want to assess them using the criteria we outline in Step 4.
eSafety: health and safety forms on the go
eSafety allows you to fill out all your H&S forms on your phone. As of March 2017, the app is still in the pre-release stage. As an early-adopter, you may have the opportunity to influence how the app is developed, but it might be more likely to have some bugs and design flaws.
Blerter: incident reporting and hazard identification
Blerter helps people to incidents, and identify hazards before they come on site. Their promotional video explains it better than I could, so here it is:
iAuditor: health and safety audits on the go
iAuditor seems to be most appropriate for high-risk industries, so if you’re in mining or forestry, you might want to check it out.
Step 4: Assess the quality of the app and its developer
We’ve adopted some criteria you may want to use when considering which technology to implement. (Hat tip to Nik Peachey, a digital education expert who blogs at Nik’s Learning Technology blog, for inspiring these criteria.)
You might use these as a scorecard to compare different apps against one another. Don’t be taken in by sparkly, pretty, expensive software without assessing it to make sure it will work for your people and your organisation.
Ease of use: How easy it is to use? Does it allow for a range of input methods (e.g. typing, voice, photographing paper notes…)?
Fun: Does the app make health and safety compliance fun to do? The best business apps turn boring processes into something more like a game or challenge.
Organisation-specific: How easy is it to tailor it to your organisation? Are there extensions? And how much might that cost?
Industry specific: Does the app and the developer understand and tailor their solution to your industry? The health and safety challenges for a construction firm are totally different to a hospital, and apps need to reflect that.
Integration: Does it have apps for Android and Apple devices? Does it work well on a computer browser? Can you integrate with your existing technology systems?
Statistics: Does the app easily allow you to extract data about the pain points in your health and safety processes? Unless you’ve got a few data analysts in your organisation then you’ll want some kind of dashboard to pick out the useful data for you.
Training: What training does the developer provide so your people can learn how to use the app? How much does it cost? And how long does it continue? What happens when new people start in your organisation?
New Zealand specific: Is the app tailored to New Zealand laws? Or do the developers at least have a New Zealand presence?
Support: What after-sales support do they offer? Is the app one of the developer’s priorities and have they developed a working business model to support its continuing development? (You don’t want to invest in an app that is discontinued in a few months.)
Price: Is it affordable? What’s the likely return of the investment? Can you test the app with a few employees on a free plan?
Remember, Step One is to define the specific health and safety challenge you’re facing at the moment. You might already know this. If you already know this, then you’ll want to talk to your employees about how they currently use technology to figure out if a technology solution is appropriate.
If you need help bringing your people up to speed with technology, we can help.