Part 2: Safety Solutions Today

Written by Timo Kronlöf

In my previous blog: Disruptive Change in Safety Management Solutions  I talked about safety solutions in the past. Now it's high time to move forward.

We have come a long way from collecting data of the past to managing safety issues in real-time. The reason hasn’t been us safety pros doing our job more efficiently but new technology. In the 90’s the internet brought us a whole new way of connecting people and also new tools to collect safety data from the field. In the 21st century we have seen mobile technology connecting even more people and at the same time a totally new way to collect data. Today mobile tools help us collect more data faster than ever. With today’s tools safety data can be instantly available for the whole organization which means safety performance can be measured almost in real-time.

The focus of safety management tools have changed from only collecting relatively old data. New focus is more about getting information out of safety data. From a safety managers’ point of view there is even a bigger change in the focus. Safety solutions are not anymore developed only to safety managers but the normal people who used to ignore safety reporting. If someone hasn’t noticed, I can ensure that not all of the folks are especially interested in occupational safety. One long-term challenge for us safety pros is to get even the most ignorant people engaged in safety work. I’d argue that engaging people better is the only way forward from a certain level of safety management.

To understand problematic behind engaging people we can easily take a look at the mobile solutions we use in our spare time and compare them with the solutions we use at work. Personally, I have way over 100 different mobile applications in my smart phone alone. To make my point clear I personally have three tablets and a smart phone. Yet, I haven’t participated any trainings how to use my applications. At work it used to be different. A new solution typically required a training and still it was complicated to learn. Same challenge recurred in many of my former workplaces. New solutions ironically meant new problems.

If we want people to get engaged in safety, at first we need to admit that we actually are competing of people’s attention with all other applications including social media, mobile games and news apps. It’s useless even to comment how competitive typical safety solutions are in this context.

Nevertheless, safety managers desire more input from the field. Management and foremen are in key roles to make people motivated but it definitely makes a difference what kind of tools we provide in safety processes. I’m not talking about new safety methods but better user experience and ease of use. Today safety solutions are behind compared spare time solutions but in the future safety solutions will catch up. They need to. Today’s priorities of developing safety solutions are:

  1. Smarter safety communication

  2. Great mobile usability

  3. Real-time information

Smarter safety communication means two-way information flows. Safety manager’s monthly newsletter is not enough anymore. People need fast response and feedback in order to report more events, observations and initiatives in the future too. In other words, we need new ways to communicate safety issues. Personally I’ve been there too. Monthly safety newsletters were so cool that I couldn’t understand why someone hadn’t read them. Today I understand better that we all want to focus on what we are doing at the moment and not to get interrupted by safety letters. Safety information must be more personal.

Great mobile usability in cold numbers means cash money from saved time. With today’s mobile safety solutions it’s possible to save up to 50 % of time consumed in reporting tasks. In the past as a safety engineer I used to struggle justifying investments in safety. Even if so many research papers tell us that safety is a good investment, we safety pros need to rationalize it to top management. That’s pretty easy task if we can only compare the old and the new way of doing things in terms of time consumption and money. Better usability saves time and nerves.

With real-time information I mean things like safety performance, analytics and easy-to-understand dashboards derived automatically from the data collected on the field. We might be used to collecting safety KPIs once a year or quarterly but that era is coming to an end. We already have the technology to generate reports and analytics automatically. Who still wants to handwrite reports and export pictures first to PC and then upload them to management system? No one. That old manual process is one huge waste of time and resources. Thanks to smart devices reporting today is a piece of cake.

What tools and solutions different organizations have today varies much between different industries but also between companies inside the same industry. That means some companies are able get competitive advantage with modern safety solutions. Today, we can see increasing pace of development in safety solutions and the gap between forerunner companies and laggards is only to get wider. In the next post I’m going to focus on the future of safety solutions and what interesting new possibilities they will provide us in the field of safety management.

In the next post I’m going to focus on the future of safety solutions and what interesting new possibilities they will provide us in the field of safety management. Just like with safety culture, it takes time and work to improve company’s safety management solutions. It’s not a project to improve either rather a continuous road that we need to build together.