You’ve heard about it, you’ve read about it, you might even be doing it—taking your safety program into the digital age. For those companies that are doing that and implementing an EHS system, you are the leading edge, early adopters. You are navigators of new technology, and that is always a precarious path to take. Kudos to you and your organizations!
For those of you that haven’t, and there are many, it’s understandable. Safety programs have long been built on paper forms, inefficient processes, and manually updated Excel spreadsheets. It’s what we’ve always known, and moving past that is a challenge – no question!
I recently had a senior corporate safety person, at a very large company, tell me that they spend a couple days a month compiling all the data from their locations to create and update their safety metrics. I don’t share that to chastise them at all, but rather to applaud them for the effort and resources they put into their existing program to make sure it is effective. And that the data and information they produce will help them continuously improve the organization when it comes to their employees’ safety and well-being.
That’s the sign of a company that truly cares about its people.
But there is a better way. And while it’s not always an easy path to get there, there are some things you can do to ensure a manageable transition into new technology – which will improve your safety processes, employee engagement AND bottom line.
A Better Way to Manage Your EHS Program
So I wanted to share 6 important considerations with you to help you evaluate and deploy a digital EHS Program. They are meant to be practical, tangible, implementable, and most importantly, sustainable.
But before I get to those 6 considerations; I want to share a simple rule when it comes to processing a new idea or a new way of doing things. I always ask three questions:
- Is it implementable?
- Is it sustainable?
- Can we afford NOT to do it?
And by the way, the answer to the third question is NO… You cannot afford NOT to do this! The financial benefits are clear, and the cultural benefits about engaging your current and future workforce is so very compelling! But I’ll save that topic for another blog another day….
So I’m suggesting the following steps, to help you plan and prepare your organization for an implementable, sustainable transition to add technology to your safety program tool belt.
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1. Understand your pain points and bottlenecks
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The best way to accomplish this first one is simply make the list. Reach out to your safety managers, claims administrators, and site supervisors and team leads, and even key hourly employees. Talk to anyone that has to complete a form, process a claim, complete a safety audit, do a behavior observation, or any other safety process or form that your company regularly performs.
Ask them: How long does it take? How many do you do in a day, a week or a month? What about follow up – how hard is that, how does that delay closure? What are the frustration points?
And then listen – and write all that feedback down. Give yourself a 30 day window to build the list. And at the end of that 30 day period, you will have identified somewhere between 5 and 10 “every day” safety processes that cause you and your teams a lot of pain, inefficiency, and unnecessary work.
You will now have your “top 10 list” of key features and functionality that, if solved, will significantly improve your EHS program.
2. Identify a cost (and potential ROI) for those activities
Estimate the time: just like the first activity, keep this simple and straightforward. Next to every line item on the list you created, put in an estimate of how much time it takes to complete that activity each time it’s done. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just a decent estimate of how much time it takes to complete each one.
Estimate the frequency: write down the frequency for that activity. For instance, your organization may require that you perform one behavior observation per day, per department. So if you have five departments, that’s five behavior observations per day. Estimate the time it takes to complete the observation, to review it, and complete the follow up activities or information based on the findings.
Assign a wage: determine a fair “loaded” wage, so that you can begin to understand the direct costs of those activities.
Do the calculations: Time x Frequency x Wage = the actual DIRECT cost of what your company spends to perform, review, and follow up on those activities. If you do it honestly and accurately, those numbers will total up to a significant spend.
Don’t forget the Claims Cost: After you identify the activity costs, make sure you add in an extra line item for all your claims cost (injuries, lost time, damage, etc…). Your CFO will know that number very well – it’s typically a big number! It is commonly accepted that using technology to better capture the originating details and processing of a claim saves companies 20% or more.
So if your overall claim spend is $1 million, whether it’s injuries, lost time, property damage, 3rdparty, etc., an Accenture study suggests $200,000 of those costs may be avoidable. The argument is that gathering the right information upfront, making collaboration and input easier and faster, will bring the claim to closure much more quickly. And any claims management person will tell you – time is your enemy. The longer claims stay open, the more potential they have to increase in cost.
3. Create a budget
Many technology solutions make it much easier to process all those rigorous safety forms and follow up activities. The first step is to identify a budget and what you think your organization would be willing to spend to adopt a new technology.
Armed with a clear view of what your company spends today, you should be able to reasonably set a budget number. It’s always smart to go into the annual budgeting process and understand what number has the best chance of surviving the budget review process.
4. Match the features up with your pain points in bottlenecks
This step is critical. The most important consideration is to understand the critical details of “every day” safety. And making sure that any technology solution you are considering addresses those specific items (affirmed in Step 1) that cause you the most pain.
So use that list you created during that 30 day period, and make sure it matches up well with the features of the safety technology program you’re looking at.
5. Make sure you have a technical person on your evaluation team
I have not always moved quickly to new technology. I’m at the tail end of the baby boomers, so running towards new technology was not always my favorite thing to do. But what I have learned over the years is that there are many bright people around me who are capable, and very willing, to help.
They don’t necessarily need to be part of your safety group. They just need to be individuals that understand how to navigate newer technology. I’m sure you have some, so make sure they’re on the team! This is not only part of the evaluation step, but an important part of the “implementable and sustainable” stipulation.
6. Expect Live Customer Support (in fact, demand it…!!)
One of the downfalls of technology can be that after it’s been purchased, you’re stuck with a chat room, community blog, or autobot attendant… It’s the worst! Without great support, you and your organization will struggle to get it going, and take hold. This should not be negotiable with your technology provider. Insist on live support and be clear about what they offer.
So when you look for a partner, make sure the “after the sale” support is outstanding – and that a human will actually reach out to you and be part of your ongoing training process.
This is probably the most important part of the “implementable and sustainable” requirement. Make sure you have a partner that’s willing to help you get through the bumps and bruises along the way, because they will happen.
Make the Commitment & Get Your Team Involved Early and Often!
The final thing I have to suggest when it comes to considering a potential change to your EHS management is simple… get started. Turn it into a project for your team. Put the above mentioned items on a timeline; I’m sure you’ll come up with a few of your own items to add. Make it a priority. Many other facets of your business have moved forward with technology, and it’s time to do the same with your safety program.
The good news is, great solutions are out there! So make the plan and… take the plunge!
Good luck, stay safe, and lead the way. Your employees are counting on you!
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This post was written by Tom Murray, President and COO of iReportSource. As a purpose-driven leader, Tom is an advocate and champion of employee safety and understanding where technology can help organizations continuously improve each day.