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I have run into a number of companies lately that have dealt with their health and safety responsibilities with app-based solutions. On the face of it, these plug and play solutions appear fantastic; all of your staff are now connected to the system and the opportunity to complete documentation on the fly is enabled.

Sounds Like Nirvana.
However, when you scratch below the surface, disturbingly these same companies believe that the “app” is their health and safety system.
The emperor is using an app. We need to talk.

Management Information Systems
Just like in maintenance management systems, the head over heels rush to view everything on our smart phones can distract us from the real task of managing our systems. It is all too easy for the inexperienced to get over-excited about their phone app while forgetting completely what we are trying to achieve. Under our health and safety statute and supporting regulations, we need a system to detail the hazards and risks in our operation, ensure our hazard controls are continuously managed, and capture our continuous learning to ensure mistakes are not repeated. These are the things that are measured and tested in Court if things go wrong.
When we get to the business end of those systems and processes, yes, connectivity, transparency and on the fly reporting are fantastic enhancements to a system. But they do not replace the system. Plugging into a blunt app (often supported outside of the country) for your documents and actions is not a substitute for your health and safety system. Having a health and safety system that your app taps into for transactional entries is an enhancement to your system.

Get It Right
So, if you get it right, you will already have a health and safety system. It will describe your health and safety policy, how you manage health and safety including hazards, workers, specific actions, and detailed policies. Your system should be transparent and transportable across the company. In the modern world we can achieve this with Cloud based applications. Like any process, your health and safety system needs
• A defined and agreed process
• A complete process (no bypasses)
• A published process (how you do things)
• Clear responsibilities
• Clear and timely performance measures
• Regular management reporting

True H&S Management
This is where the true management happens. From the system, supporting documents and forms become the transaction statements and the recorded results become the proof of your good management, vital in defending prosecutions.
Now you are ready to consider the distributed end of your process; safety inductions, training records, safety data sheets, safe work instructions, permits, hazard and incident reporting. If your workers are out in the field, yes, an app may be the answer. Not so good if they have no cell phone coverage, (particularly within sandwich panel factories), or if phones are banned in the working environment. Is the best solution a piece of paper, an app, or a tablet? Certainly, a digital solution should be superior to analogue methods. If you can find a solution to fit your situation, you should enjoy a more complete management solution. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking an app by itself is going to keep your workplace compliant and safe.

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