Mobile is enhancing the way safety professionals do their jobs. While mobile use in safety circles has lagged behind the curve when compared with other industries, it is trending upward as EHS software capabilities improve and solutions grow more affordable.

Today's workforce is increasingly spread out and diverse, so mobile solutions that improve worker safety and enable “accurate data reporting” are no longer a luxury — it is a growing need for employers of all sizes.  However, the full benefits of mobile will only be realized when technology, employees and organizations are aligned strategically.

Following is a breakdown of three areas where mobile can help reshape EHS management, and how to make it meet your needs.

Increase employee engagement

It’s estimated that roughly three-quarters of Americans currently own a smartphone, meaning your workers will likely be able to access a mobile EHS solution you choose to deploy. However, simply providing mobile safety apps doesn’t guarantee success. Companies today spend a lot of time and money implementing new EHS programs, but often miss the mark when it comes to employee adoption. And without worker participation, even the most inventive technology and best intentioned safety programs fail.

Because mobile apps are often designed to perform your most common EHS management tasks, it’s important that they allow the user to do so without too many unnecessary steps. Look for apps that work in just a few quick steps, and that are intuitive enough for your people to use without a lot of extra attention. Mobile software that is overly complicated or difficult to navigate won’t get used, period.

The key is to focus on apps that work best for managers and employees. The best EHS mobile software solutions provide a simple, streamlined user experience. This ease of use is what drives employee engagement and improves EHS performance.

Make complicated tasks easier

According to data from the independent research firm Verdantix, audits and incident management solutions are the leading technologies of interest for EHS decision makers in 2018. Both processes are a critical function of any effective EHS program. Yet, reliance on outdated manual record keeping systems, spreadsheets and/or legacy software installations by many companies leads to unnecessary errors, broken workflows, incomplete action items and work duplication. An example of the latter is when an observation or incident is first reported on paper, then manually entered into a computer by a second person.

Conversely, with the right mobile solution, employees can conduct audits, inspections and observations, and record incident information on the spot — when the details are most accurate — no matter the time or location. They can also access the necessary checklists and be guided smoothly through complex data capture sequences with in-app prompts. They can also use their device’s native features, like voice-to-text and built-in cameras to capture detailed information as it occurs.

Additionally, the best apps make it easy to assign action items, confirm follow through, and report results. Greater efficiency with normally time-consuming safety tasks benefits the company as a whole, leading to improved productivity and less down time. It further undermines the archaic view that EHS is a cost center.

Connect unconnected employees

One of the best ways mobile is changing EHS management is by connecting the once un-connectable worker. It’s sometimes difficult to comprehend that there are still many locations where the internet doesn’t reach, or where cell reception is spotty at best. However, for many employees it is a daily reality. For those working in areas with limited or no internet availability – like mines, oil and gas fields, and construction sites – or in facilities where wireless signals are blocked, the need for connectivity is critical.

Mobile helps tether these individuals back into the larger organization by making EHS information and tools available for them to access whenever, and wherever. The best EHS apps offer both on- and offline accessibility, allowing users to conduct an audit, report incident details and even access critical chemical safety information when internet connection is limited or unavailable.

With the right apps, workers in these conditions don’t have to worry about manually updating the information they’ve collected. Apps can be designed to automatically sync any data entered when working offline with the company’s EHS software platform once the device is connected to an internet source.

Mobile not only gives managers greater visibility and control of their organization’s EHS performance, but as discussed earlier, it also encourages frontline workers to play a greater role in managing organizational risk. Workers are more likely to participate in safety programs when doing so is convenient and when they can see that they are having an impact on it.

Start today

The examples discussed here are just the tip of the iceberg. The convenience of smartphones and tablets, coupled with simple and intuitive app design, makes mobile a powerful force for evolving EHS management best practices.

The question you have to ask is, how can mobile help me? Start by looking at some of your most common pain points. Chances are, the areas where you struggle with efficiencies or employee engagement are exactly the areas where other employers have struggled. That makes it likely that a mobile solution exists.

Whether you’re looking to engage employees, retrieve better incident data from the field or reach workers with limited internet access, mobile technology has made it easier than ever to stay on top of key EHS management tasks. EHS mobile is here, and this is a great time to adopt a solution that provides the tools you need to solve your most pressing EHS challenges.