Health and safety are starting to make the turn into technology. More organizations are abandoning their paper-based health and safety management systems and purchasing software to achieve true, leading indicator-based health and safety potential. But the biggest mistake organizations make is to believe that by a flip of the switch, health and safety software will solve all issues. Purchasing software is the easy part of the decision. Does your organization have the culture (and patience) to support this transition?

Here are steps you can take prior to and during software implementation to succeed with this investment:

Designate a BETA location

Designating a BETA location—an individual, group, or branch that acts as the first adopter– is a crucial first step for future organizational-wide software utilization success. Organizations with designated BETA locations quickly learn that software is not only a management tool but can drive improvement in their current health and safety processes. It also helps to create software subject matter experts (SMEs) within the organization -- essential to train new users as user sites expand, as new employees come on-board, and for future sustainability.

BETA test locations should:

  • Identify goals for software utilization and establish milestones so expectations can clearly be communicated to all future users at roll-out.
  • Examine existing EHS Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), identify improvements, and make changes to processes and procedures that incorporate the software capabilities.
  • Develop training curriculums that teach users about functionality and lay out expectations on when to engage the software.
  • Ensure that you have different version of curriculum based on user permissions.
  • Focus only on the functionality you will utilize, not the capabilities of the whole system.
  • Conduct situational exercises to map workflow through the software. Determine what needs to happen to achieve the desired outcome.
  • Develop detailed roll-out plans that include training dates, list of designated internal SMEs.
  • Develop future training teams to be dispatched to other locations/departments.
  • Assist Executive Leadership with understanding the benefits of the software and outline the level of support needed to ensure software success.
  • Conduct periodic surveys of user groups to determine if changes to the software workflow (or safety processes or procedures) both during the beta test phase and periodically for all locations throughout the life of the software use.

Get leadership buy-in/support

Introducing any new process, procedure or tool is futile without top down buy-in and support messaging. The likelihood of failure increases if an initiative is promoted only by a certain department (e.g. EHS, HR, etc.).

Executive Leadership should:

  • Send written or electronic correspondence to all employees reaffirming their support for EHS activities to ensure that their organization remains a safe and healthy workplace (“Safety Statement”).
  • Send separate correspondence to middle and senior level management about expectations to promote and maintain a safe and healthy workplace for their employees, require all levels of management to be active participants in health and safety management, and encourage accountability for established EHS goals and benchmarks.
  • Dedicate time in all management level meetings to discuss safety and health, activities, and results.
  • Give authority to EHS professionals or designated safety liaisons for all health and safety matters
  • Initiate discussions with internal teams to incorporate leading indicator-based performance metrics into employee and management evaluations (e.g. observation reporting, near miss reports in less than 48 hours, overall employee utilization at each site, time of training completion averages).
  • All incentive and performance evaluation should avoid lagging indicators (Days Since Last Recordable, DART rate, Incidence Rate, Days Since Last Injury, etc.). Avoid any performance metric that discourages reporting. That is why world class health and safety organizations use leading indicators -- they promote reporting.

“Spoon Feed” the base

Organizations that gradually introduce software into their health and safety processes usually experience higher user retention and sustainability. Slowly add locations and slowly add functionality. When a location is designated to start using the software, avoid requiring them to use every function at once. Focus on small pieces of software functionality and clearly communicate how, when, and why you want them used. Once functionality is mastered and the organization starts seeing results (goals, benchmarks), introduce additional functionality. Build confidence by mastering the easy things first.

Develop an internal marketing plan

Employees with ample time to prepare for changes tend to be more comfortable when change occurs. A series of correspondences and announcements should explain the future use of a new system (software) and the benefits. After full implementation, continue efforts to market the software’s success to users and be transparent about what needs to improve.

Incorporate software utilization into performance evaluations

Most EHS software users are front line employees. They are instructed by management that use of this tool is expected and they will be held accountable. Management and other leaders must also be held accountable for ensuring that their direct reports are engaging the software to the organization’s expectations. Safety and health performance should be a part of each employee’s performance evaluation, regardless of job description or level.

  • Establish benchmarks for reporting (company-wide, location, departments and individuals). Hold leadership, management and employees accountable.
  • Avoid solely using lagging indicators as part of incentive-based programs (days since last injury, days since last recordable, etc.)
  • Incorporate leading based indicators (% of employees submitting observations, near misses reported in less than 48 hours, higher “on time” training completion percentages).

Most “world class” health and safety organizations view technology as one of many tools, not the sole solution. They invest much time and energy not only ensuring compliance but truly raising employee awareness on health and safety programs centered around leading indicators.

Reporting doesn’t happen just because you have software; a culture must exist. Sure, it might be easier to report when you use software, but there will still be problems with non-reporting if the culture doesn’t reinforce activities. Building or improving your existing health and safety should start well before introducing technology into your processes.