Innovations in mobile and cloud-computing are helping employers reduce injury risk and enhance employee engagement. Workers can have real time access to do their job safely, such as referencing Safety Data Sheets (SDS) or monitoring heat, they can capture safety-relevant data such as reporting near misses and identifying and correcting hazards, and can facilitate teamwork with faster communication and collaboration. For management, the availability of dashboards and reports enables better and more efficient decision-making, improves accountability, and strengthens compliance.
However, the challenge is getting started, evaluating the options, and determining the best solutions. To begin, decide what you need to do and involve management and end users in the decision-making process. What is the purpose? Will it save time and improve your processes? How much connectivity do you need? Who will own the device? Will the end-user employees be comfortable with it and receive the necessary training? Will the opportunity to submit a report anonymously be allowed? How will privacy be managed?
Apps can be stand-alone or SaaS (Software as a Service), which is a way of delivering software applications over the Internet, with no complex software and hardware management. Standalone apps work best when the job can be done independently and SaaS works best if the job requires input from multiple people at once.
Companies can develop their own custom apps, use private-label reporting apps provided by vendors that specialize in safety management systems, or purchase apps from the Apple or Android App Store. With a custom-built app, you can oversee the development and get what you need, but it will require a considerable investment of time, patience, and money. Private-label reporting apps are branded with the company’s name and logo and often include a mobile app and online dashboard, which are connected. As an example, the focus could be on reporting near misses, safety violations, or facilities and operations issues that could lead to potential problems in the future, as well as enabling employees to check on the status of their reports.
There are hundreds of workplace safety and health apps available from the app stores and it takes time and research to determine which are a good fit for your organization. Some of the more popular apps used by safety professionals include:
- NIOSH Pocket Guide to Hazardous Chemicals: Developed by ThatsmyStapler.com, this is a searchable, mobile version of the NIOSH Pocket Guide, taken from the CDC’s Website.
- NIOSH Ladder Safety aimed at improving step ladder and extension ladder safety, features a multimodal indicator and a graphic-oriented guide for ladder selection, inspection, positioning, accessorizing, and safe use. From the CDC, it works on iOS and android and is free and available in English and Spanish.
- iAuditor provides custom audits, inspections, reports and forms. From SafetyCulture, it’s available for iPhones and Android and is free.
- Fall Clear Lite from High Engineering Crop, calculates fall clearances and is a tool for workers, supervisors, competent and qualified persons who have been properly trained in fall protection. Free, it works on iOS and android.
- Electrical Safety Tests developed by Mr. Combi Training, lays out common electrical safety testing, includes an Ohms Law calculator, and has excellent multi-meter graphics. It’s $2.99 and is available on apple and android app stores.
- NECA Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) selector based on the NFPA 70E Tables, is task-based and assists users in determining the level of personal protective equipment that must be worn based on the level of incident energy. It’s $9.99 and is available on apple and android app stores.
- Incident Cost Calculator developed in Canada by WorksafeBC but can be used in any country. Takes the user through step-by-step instructions to calculate the cost of a workplace injury, including custom analysis based on rates of pay. Available for iOS and android, it’s free.
- OSHA Heat Safety Tool allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, identify risk level to outdoor workers, and get reminders about the appropriate protective measures. It’s free and in English and Spanish and links directly to the OSHA website.
- ILO Ergonomic Checkpoints creates interactive checklists of ergonomic checkpoints to use in the workplace. There are 132 checkpoints and best practice recommendations for implementing effective improvements in ergonomics. App is free from Android or Apple app stores.
- LiftRight from EMC Insurance Companies helps to use the NIOSH Lifting Equation to analyze the safety of lifting tasks. This free app works best for professionals with a working knowledge of how the equation works and how to use the results.
- Trench Right, sponsored by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, performs calculations to help workers determine whether potential excavations are safe enough to be completed. Free app and available on Apple and Android App stores.
Related article: Eight Do’s and Don’ts of using mobile apps in the workplace (July 2013 WorkComp Advisory)
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