Manufacturing leaders know that people and processes are most productive when safety, compliance and operational objectives align. Some people used to fear that focusing too much on environment, health and safety would undermine productivity; however, today’s best companies recognize that strong EHS programs translate into happier and healthier employees, less downtime, better products, and improved performance.

Manufacturers now are going a step further and investing in software to help them control risks that sabotage productivity and profitability. Following is a closer look at how EHS software can help manufacturers manage regulatory compliance, reduce workplace incidents and even lower workers’ compensation costs.

Identifying, assessing & mitigating risks

When it comes to controlling risk in a manufacturing environment, safety professionals currently have a range of tools and best practices at their disposal. Some of the most common risk assessments include job safety analysis (JSAs), HAZOPs, environmental aspects and impacts, hazard studies, qualitative and quantitative risk analysis, and critical control verifications. These assessments help make visible the unseen dynamics already in play in your manufacturing environment. They can work on a small scale to uncover risk at the task or process level, or expand to quantify risk more broadly at the facility or even corporate level.

Of course, each assessment requires not just time to make observations and collect data, but also time to review and adjust it. Done right, managing risk is a never-ending job. Unfortunately, shrinking EHS budgets, limited bandwidth, and accelerating production cycle times can make continuous improvement – even with the well-worn risk management methods mentioned above – difficult to achieve.

This is where EHS software can help. Good risk software makes documenting, analyzing and mitigating risks faster and easier by taking much of the manual work out of the process. So much time in controlling risk is spent tracking down data from busy people or remote locations, and then manipulating and moving that data around on spreadsheets or in systems not built for your specific tasks. Risk software smooths out the collection and manipulation of data to help you break down complex jobs and processes into individual tasks or steps quickly with just a few clicks.

Ergonomic assessments

One example of the way software is revolutionizing risk prevention is found in the latest advancements on the ergonomics side of EHS. According to 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders accounted for 31 percent of all worker injury and illness cases. Given this, it would seemingly make sense for companies to invest more in correctly fitting the job to employees; yet the trouble and expense of conducting ergonomic assessments – especially on the industrial side – has made it an area still too often ignored.

Fortunately, what used to require a specially- trained ergonomist hours to produce can now be done in a matter of minutes. Solutions are now available that combine the power of mobile phones, artificial intelligence, and motion capture technology to make industrial ergonomics assessments fast and relatively cheap.

For instance, a person can use a mobile phone to record a short video of an employee doing a task, and ergonomics software then applies motion capture tools to assess the full range of motion data to produce an assessment.

Democratizing EHS

Manufacturers striving for operational excellence must embrace EHS as a shared responsibility. While a person or department can help coordinate the EHS effort, it isn’t effective if it relies on a handful of safety professionals to own all of the data and do all of the work. This is the danger when information lives in silos.

For many companies, simply having a standardized and centralized system for collecting information would help elevate risk programs to a higher level. That’s because good software brings together data from all levels of the organization and makes it available in real-time, so leaders have access to the information they need to make the best decisions.

A healthy EHS environment leverages first-hand observations from frontline workers to manage the risks they encounter on a daily basis. And the key to getting workers actively involved boils down to simplicity.

The best EHS solutions are built on a true-cloud model and offer mobile functionality that provides seamless accessibility throughout the entire organization. Advanced solutions even offer mobile apps so tasks can be performed even when internet accessibility is limited or unavailable.

This is especially crucial for remote workers or those working in facilities with reduced internet connectivity. Giving your employees the ability to record and access important EHS information with a simple and engaging tool whenever and wherever they need it helps drive greater EHS performance.

Improved business performance

Workplace injuries and deaths have significant impacts on a company’s bottom line. While it’s impossible to place a value on a person’s health and wellbeing, in most cases injury compensation results in substantial cost impacts and business disruptions.

According to the 2018 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, serious, nonfatal workplace injuries amounted to nearly $60 billion in direct U.S. workers’ compensation costs. Factor in additional indirect costs due to lost productivity, and you’re looking at an unnecessary outflow of capital (and harm to human life) that could have been avoided through better EHS programs.

Whether you’re looking to control risk, gain visibility, improve performance or all of the above, EHS management software is an important resource in driving results. It helps manufacturers stay in line with regulations and prevent safety incidents, but also leverages safety and sustainability data beyond compliance to turn EHS management into a business asset.