Ian Cohen, Contributor
Safely handling hazardous materials is a critical operational risk-management program for many industrial companies. Employees must be properly trained on how to handle these materials during usage, storage and disposal to reduce the risk of an unintentional release to the environment that could put employees and the community at risk.
Employees must understand what personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to wear, as well as the safety and environmental risks that the products they are working with present. In the past, companies relied on paper files in binders to track PPE training and stored safety data sheets somewhere in a notebook. These binders were often hard to locate, and the information was not always current. Today, technology is putting this information directly in the hands of employees through a tablet or smartphone. Environmental, health and safety (EHS) leaders have quickly leveraged mobility as a tool to help improve efficiencies and embed a culture of safety and operational excellence throughout their organizations.
Today there are more than 2 billion smartphones and over a billion tablets in use around the globe,, and industrial companies are looking for ways to leverage these devices to make their employees safer and operations more efficient—while also avoiding, minimizing and mitigating their most pressing risks.
Tablets and smartphones are relatively inexpensive devices that can connect employees in the field with their EHS management systems, so that they can collect information in the field and provide this information to the right people in near real-time—improving communication and decision-making across the enterprise. Today, most applications are designed with mobility in mind, and EHS technology is at the forefront of this revolution. EHS mobile applications enable EHS professionals, or end-users responsible for key processes related to EHS compliance, to complete a myriad of day-to-day activities, as well as less routine activities while in the field. This saves time and reduces the company’s risks. Let’s take a look at several areas where mobile devices are useful:
From cradle-to-grave, mobile devices can be used with barcoding technologies to ensure that employees are aware of what chemical(s) they are handling; what PPE they need to be wearing; and what risks the chemical poses to human health and the environment. In many instances, they can even view the manufacturer’s SDS for even more information. While in the field, users can update the amounts in inventory, location of stored material and disposed-of material. With integrated solutions, they are also able to request a pickup for chemicals that are ready for disposal.
Whether it’s an inspection of your on-site chemical inventory or checking to make sure that chemicals are being properly stored while in use or ready for disposal, mobile inspections are a great way to ensure compliance with various health, safety and environmental laws, regulations and directives. Providing EHS professionals with the ability to manage and track compliance requirements while in the field; take photos and annotate them; capture GIS data; and generate corrective actions when compliance issues are observed better ensures that your operations remain in compliance and reduces the risk of a serious incident occurring at one of your sites. Many companies are also leveraging mobile inspections for observation-based inspections to ensure that employees are properly following internal processes and procedures before, during and after they complete work. The information that is collected can be tracked and trended over time, to ensure that inspections programs are properly addressing issues when they come up and driving continuous improvement.
Internal auditing is a requirement of ISO 14001 and 45001 standards, and it’s a great tool to use to identify gaps in your EHS programs. Leveraging mobile devices improves the entire audit process from end-to-end by providing auditors with the ability to capture pictures while they are in the field and capture notes. This eliminates the need for double entry and enables auditors to issue their draft and final reports quicker.
While everyone’s goal is to eliminate incidents, we all know that they are going to happen, so we have to be prepared to respond and resolve the issues as quickly and safely as possible. Incident reporting through a mobile device can help facilitate this. Users in the field can use their device to capture the first report, take pictures, capture GIS data, collect witness details, and quickly notify the appropriate EHS team members through automatic email and text message notifications. All of this information can then be used by management to respond to the incident in an appropriate manner in order to minimize and mitigate the incident.
Mobility Drives Outcomes
Mobility has transformed our lives, both at work and home. Companies across sectors are leveraging mobile solutions to improve efficiencies, standardize processes and improve the decision-making process. Mobility makes it easier for everyone to participate in the company’s EHS programs, which gives employees a sense of ownership. This sense of ownership helps drive positive outcomes and reduces non-compliance risks by providing employees with the ecosystem and technology needed to do their jobs better. WMHS
About the Author
Ian Cohen is the Product Marketing Manager for Cority’s Safety, Environmental and Sustainability solutions. Ian works with Cority’s Sales, Product, and Success teams to develop Cority’s marketing strategy, product roadmap, and help deliver products to the market that are designed to meet clients’ needs in an ever-changing regulatory environment. Ian holds a Master’s in Environmental Science and Bachelor’s in Biology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His research is published in the peer-reviewed journals Annals of Botany and Zoologica Scripta.