7 Key Considerations When Choosing Health and Safety Software
One of the biggest challenges for health and safety professionals is streamlining data-centric processes. With a plethora of Risk Assessments, Audits, Incident Reports and Performance Measurement tasks to complete, the mountains of paperwork and spreadsheets created by these activities can be a huge drain on their time.
Over recent years, the adoption of software has changed the way that businesses manage health and safety risk, and as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, choosing the right solution becomes more complex.
As part of our ongoing product development roadmap and customer success strategy, we have recently surveyed our client base to understand what they believe are the most important factors to consider when embarking on a health and safety software project. The following themes came out consistently in their feedback.
1. User Engagement
Without exception, our clients believe that the ability to gain high levels of employee buy-in is a critical success factor. This view is compounded by various industry studies where there is a strong link between employee engagement and health and safety performance, from both legal compliance and safety culture perspectives.
There are several things to think about to ensure that software is designed to optimise engagement, including the onboarding and training experience and quality of ongoing customer support and advice. The most important aspect however, centres on the user interface – look and feel, navigation and ease of use are all key phrases that appear high up the priority list in tenders and specifications.
Process automation enables businesses to adopt a more proactive approach to risk management, heading off compliance issues before they become a serious problem.
Automating processes can broadly be split into two areas as far as health and safety software is concerned; firstly, the dissemination and distribution of information when updates are made – training materials, method statements, COSHH assessments and safety policies for example. The time associated with manually working out who needs what and when cannot be underestimated.
The second aspect of automation to think about is task management. Allocating tasks resulting from audits, inspections, risk assessments, and sending email notifications regarding overdue/outstanding actions are perhaps some of the main activities where technology has impacted on productivity gains and legal compliance most significantly.
3.Retained safety expertise
In an industry burdened with a plethora of compliance aspects and ever-changing legislation the importance for software vendors to understand client-specific risks has never been more important, particularly against the backdrop of the new risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
For this reason, businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on software providers having access to health and safety expertise, either as retained safety experts or external consultants, to continually develop their offering in line with the latest best practice and new compliance obligations.
4. Integration with incumbent systems
As businesses look to technology to underpin all aspects of their business operations, the need for system integration increases. From a health and safety software perspective, connectivity between other people-centric systems – HR, document management and communication technology, as well as sophisticated ERP systems is often a requirement of large and complex businesses. This connectivity ranges from simpler SSO and API scenarios through to full integration with on-premises systems.
Such integrations come at a price, however, businesses should consider the capabilities of a software provider in terms of how well they are placed to address integration requirements as businesses continue to evolve.
5. Accessibility for employees, contractors, and volunteers
Consideration of the environment in which businesses manage their compliance activities is at the top of the list when it comes to selecting health and safety software, particularly as many activities are carried out remotely or with a high level of mobility – audits, inspections, incident/hazard/near miss reporting are prime examples of activities that are managed away from desktops.
Mobile apps, offline data capture and employee portal capabilities play an increasingly important part of a software vendors’ ability to optimise user experience and address connectivity challenges as we adapt to a world where home and remote working becomes more prevalent.
6. Data Analytics
Creating basic dashboards, downloading data into excel and integrating with external BI systems are not new expectations when choosing software solutions however, as compliance data requirements increase in complexity, the need to empower health and safety professionals to be self-sufficient when interrogating information becomes more important.
There is a growing expectation that health and safety technology incorporates data analytics capability to allow users to generate reports and visualise insights without needing a data expert in IT to export and manipulate data on their behalf.
7. Document Management
Organising, storing and updating health and safety documentation can become an administrative burden that creates bottlenecks in compliance processes. Examples of this include the management of contractor certification and permits to work, as well as the various “Safe Systems of Work” (SSOW) methodologies that organisations operate to.
These bottlenecks drastically reduce when related documents are stored within a single database that can be accessed by all stakeholders.
As well as productivity gains, an effective document management system that has full version control is crucial for compliance with health and safety standards and frameworks including ISO 45001 and HSG65.
Since we launched our flagship health and safety software, AssessNET 20 years ago, we have continually innovated to be at the forefront of best-in-class technology and address the points raised in this article, broadening our portfolio to address different aspects of health and safety management. As you would expect from a leading risk management software brand, we constantly develop and release major upgrades to address the impact of globalisation and the changing way in which organisations work – including migration to a .NET software framework, the introduction of language packs, BI Data analytics, mobile applications, portal, and eLearning.