EHS software solutions & how to make safety a part of everyone’s job
by Greg Duncan
May 22, 2017

Significant advancements in environmental, health and safety (EHS) software are helping employers in the construction industry save time and money and work with greater efficiency by streamlining EHS management activities. By eliminating many of the manual tasks and processes associated with safety management, today’s EHS solutions offer greater control of operational risk. They also help make safety a part of everyone’s job by giving workers the ability to receive and report safety information through their mobile devices. Technology is changing the game by delivering site-specific functionality to workers in the field and providing enhanced visibility of EHS performance. Some of the areas across the company where this is happening are listed below.

Incident Management

The ultimate goal of incident management is to prevent incidents altogether, which is why the most effective incident management programs take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach that emphasizes identification and mitigation of risks. However, safety managers are responsible for numerous tasks, including recording and tracking incidents, ensuring corrective actions are completed and maintaining compliance with a long list of standards and regulations. Factor in a large workforce spread out over multiple jobsites, and it is easy to see how that proactive approach can fall by the wayside as safety managers try to keep up with daily operations.

A well-designed, EHS software solution reduces that burden by making safety a part of everyone’s job. Mobile access allows crew members to easily report incidents and near misses, perform hazard IDs and schedule corrective actions, directly from the jobsite. Today’s systems help users take a more proactive approach to safety by simplifying the collection of data and centralizing the recording, tracking and reporting of EHS information. Employers can quickly and easily access real-time data and metrics to meet a wide range of regulatory reporting requirements, without the difficulty of tracking down information from across various jobsites. A good EHS software system can even automatically generate required regulatory documents (OSHA 300, 300A, 301) to help streamline compliance.

Today’s mobile-optimized, incident management software and downloadable apps make it easier for workers to report incidents, hazards and near misses as they happen, when the information is most accurate, rather than having to wait to submit information.

Chemical Management

Under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom), employers must provide immediate and unhindered access to safety data sheet (SDS) chemical safety information for the hazardous materials present in the workplace. Unfortunately, this information is frequently stored in three-ring binders, and documents can easily go missing after being used by workers, or are not regularly replaced with the most accurate versions available. Adding to this difficulty are the changes that occurred as a result of OSHA’s adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), which called for the revision of all SDSs in circulation. It is easy to see how under the new requirements, a paper-based SDS management system can quickly become unmanageable.

A good EHS software solution will help simplify complex chemical management tasks, and provide the ability to account for every chemical, at every location. Some systems can automatically notify safety managers when the reporting threshold for EPCRA and other hazardous substance control lists has been reached. With a better view of the organization’s chemical footprint, companies can make more informed decisions about compliance, worker safety and safer chemical alternatives. Mobile technologies have also drastically improved chemical management, making it easier for workers to not only access SDSs on demand, but also track chemical inventories using their smartphone or tablet to scan container barcodes, QR codes and UPC codes.

Training Management

Safety training is a particularly daunting task for employers in the construction industry, who must meet the complex training needs of a large, diverse workforce spread across numerous locations. The distributed nature of the construction workforce, high number of temporary workers and contractors, diversity of languages, broad range of topics and job functions that must be covered, and the time and resources required to track compliance all create significant obstacles to developing and implementing safety training programs.

Training management software simplifies the scheduling, delivery and evaluation of worker safety training, helping ensure compliance with company policies and regulatory requirements. It also promotes greater accountability for training completion, with automatic email notifications when sessions are due or past due. The best systems even allow you to develop individualized employee training programs, and offer the ability to define training requirements for every job and work function, deliver tailored training content based on individual roles and requirements and track each individual’s training completion and performance. This level of detail means that training requirements will be met and employers can more effectively chart employee progress and skill development.

Safety Meetings

Regular safety meetings are a trusted and invaluable resource for communicating and addressing workplace hazards. They have been shown to directly reduce the number of severe incidents and injuries in the workplace, and are required by law in a number of jurisdictions throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. However, coordinating and managing safety meetings can be a major pain point. Finding time for everyone to come together, especially when trying to coordinate multiple contractors working on tight schedules, is a real challenge. All too often, meetings are rushed and fail to provide workers with necessary safety information. Safety meeting management is another area where technology has removed the clutter around a complicated task. A good EHS software solution provides the tools necessary to efficiently record, track, distribute and report important safety meeting information across the entire organization. By making it easier to coordinate and conduct safety meetings, EHS software helps employers promote a stronger safety culture.

Audit & Inspection

Managing an effective audit, inspection or behavior-based safety (BBS) program across a large number of jobsites can be overwhelming. In addition, the process of evaluating safety performance against a growing number of regulations, internal policies and industry standards requires time and resources that are often in short supply. EHS software solutions provide users with the tools to coordinate audits and inspections across the entire organization. Many systems offer custom checklists that can be instantly distributed across jobsites to help pinpoint nonconformances and standardize safety performance, as well as the ability to instantly initiate corrective actions in order to maintain compliance. The best solutions offer mobile functionality that allows you to coordinate and perform audits and inspections anywhere, anytime. You can then upload your audit and inspection data into a single, centralized database, and quickly communicate findings from individual jobsites throughout your organization.

Today’s EHS software solutions provide companies with a holistic, connected approach that engages stakeholders throughout the entire organization to ensure job safety is being monitored and managed at all levels.