The example rule theorizes that immediately after a large-scale disaster, our risk perception increases. We give more attention to future preparedness plans. However, as time goes by, our memory diminishes—and our perception of risk with it.
When it’s not as easy to recall an example of a disaster, we tend to again underestimate that risk. Consequently, EHS professionals should maximize the current heightened perception of risk sooner rather than later.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made Health and Safety a trending topic, possibly more so than any other time in history. The global nature of the threat means no country, industry, or business is unaffected, and although this poses an unprecedented challenge, it also creates an unprecedented opportunity.
Find five reasons now is a good time for EHS professionals to get executive buy-in for new EHS software.
1. You’re already making necessary changes to your EHS processes
Significant change is coming for EHS programs. Regardless of what measures were in place before, many EHS processes will need to be redesigned to contend with the new threat that is SARS-CoV-2.
The truth is, even those companies that considered their safety programs to be strong and effective will have to re-evaluate their options and make major adaptations.
Government guidelines have called for employers to conduct COVID-19 Risk Assessments to establish needed controls. With so much riding on them, it is vital to conduct these risk assessments systematically and to have a centralized management method.
Some changes will also involve Permit to Work and Audits and Inspections. New conditions like staggered shifts may make permit approval processes slower and more complicated. In addition, inspection forms will have to acknowledge if new safety measures such as physical distancing are being followed.
With so many processes being modified, it is time to use the momentum to push for EHS software modernization.
As well as increased efficiency, configurability is a great asset of safety software. You can tweak a configurable solution in the future, either as procedures evolve or in the event of unforeseen circumstances like COVID-19.
- This period of evaluation is an opportunity to introduce a software system that can better support our ambitions. Updating processes without also backing them up with robust technology is a missed opportunity for sustainable improvement.
- By implementing new EHS software, managing unforeseen circumstances like this in the future will be less disruptive, given the repeatability, transparency and automation that IT facilitates.
2. We’re relying on technology more
Despite most industries suffering from pandemic-related changes, one industry has actually benefitted: technology.
With the new challenge of physical distancing, technology must help us to bridge that 6 ft gap.
Many businesses have gone online to continue selling their products via digital channels. Furthermore, internal communications have had to go virtual. Microsoft Teams’ record usage over the past two months reflects this.
Companies are looking to rapidly replace paper-based systems with IT, to minimize ongoing disruption.
If it were not for cloud computing, many employees currently working from home would not be able to do so. In fact, 74% of CFOs intend to allow some employees to continue to work remotely on a permanent basis.
With more processes going digital, why would EHS not follow suit?
Even when most staff are not working from home, which may be the case at organizations in essential industries requiring physical labor, EHS software helps improve efficiency. A core benefit of EHS software is increased productivity from lessening the administrative burden with streamlined workflows.
What’s more, companies that have already invested in technology such as Office 365 can further leverage the platform for EHS software from vendors that offer integration with this service. Integrating with your corporate IT saves time spent on admin, boosts user adoption, and keeps EHS aligned with IT strategy.
Right now, executives are highly aware of the value of technology. This makes it an opportune time to propose new EHS software.
- By bringing more processes online, EHS initiatives can continue to function regardless of remote work or physical distancing, helping operations to run more smoothly.
- We’ve invested a lot in IT like Office 365, and we’ve seen the value clearly demonstrated during lockdown—we can deepen still the value we’re getting by leveraging it as an EHS software platform.
3. Avoid a repeat of lost time in future
Historically, Health and Safety departments have struggled to receive funding. In the latest Verdantix Global Corporate Survey, 69% of respondents identified lack of budget as a significant challenge to improving EHS performance.
Some may point to the current pandemic as a reason to curb EHS investment – a strategy aimed at survival, not success.
However, companies that think ahead and prepare for the long-term will have an advantage when operations resume, or in the case of a second wave of infections.
Even under normal circumstances, EHS software is a huge time-saver.
Time-savings like this are possible because EHS software facilitates:
- Faster approval processes
- Clearer document management
- Easier analysis of data
- More timely assignment of actions
- Accountability to ensure actions are completed on time
The result? A more efficient, productive and informed EHS team that spends time on things that matter.
In the case of COVID-19, that means lower probability of a costly workplace outbreak.
Should another unexpected threat impact the business in future, EHS software will provide the flexibility you need to quickly adapt.
As Murray Ferguson, Director at EHS software supplier Pro-Sapien, explains:
“COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the fact that we just don’t know what economic disrupter is around the corner. By looking at your requirements now, the business can then be in a position to move swiftly when the project is given the ‘green light’.
“We may see secondary spikes of infection disrupt ‘business as usual’ for the foreseeable future. Having an automated EHS system is going to enable your team to do more with less and manage future issues more effectively.”
- The automation abilities of EHS software help save workers, middle- and upper-management time that is better spent on performing the primary duties of their jobs, rather than admin.
- If there is a second-wave, EHS software will equip the EHS team with the means to more quickly assess risk, collect inspection results, and monitor performance—with this knowledge and oversight, there can be less disruption to operations.
4. Minimize employee anxiety
Despite COVID-19 being a physiological illness, it has brought about a mental health crisis as well. Already in May, the WHO reported rising levels of depression and anxiety on a global level.
More recently, a poll by Bupa Health Clinics concluded that 65% of the UK population was anxious about returning to the workplace, with most of their concerns deriving from risk of infection either at work or during their commute.
But how can EHS software reduce anxiety among your staff?
A common cause of anxiety is lacking a sense of control. By allowing your staff to participate in safety enforcement, you are giving them a certain level of control over their own wellbeing.
A good way to accomplish this is to provide all employees the means to report observations. This is something some EHS software systems are designed to support, with mobile-responsive forms employees can quickly fill on the go. Furthermore, some vendors habilitate the option of choosing to allow anonymous submissions.
Anxiety can have detrimental effects on an employee’s productivity, and since productivity is the number one benefit CFOs look for in Safety Systems, it is a strong point to push when building a case for EHS software.
“Organizations should be following best practice by enabling everyone to submit a hazard observation. Clearly, implementing an intuitive, easy to use, single sign on software is going to help this culture.” –Murray Ferguson, Director at EHS software supplier Pro-Sapien
- By providing an easy method for employees to speak up, EHS software will help us bring employees confidently and productively back to work.
5. New scrutiny on workplace health and safety
In January, most people outside the EHS community would not have known what ‘PPE’ stood for.
Now, the emphasis on PPE from the media and governments has resulted in Google searches for PPE skyrocketing worldwide.
The threat of coronavirus is global, meaning it even affects workplaces with traditionally low health and safety risk, like offices.
Importantly, safety is now also front of mind for many executives. This could mean they will be more open to proposals and prepared to invest larger sums in the EHS department than in the past.
Moreover, companies are under scrutiny to ensure workers are protected from the virus. Those that fail to convince the public of their commitment to employee safety, such as Amazon, have suffered harsh criticism.
This heightened awareness means potential employees and contractors may be more likely to consider a company’s ability to keep them safe as an important differentiator.
How can EHS software help? Well, the benefits of investing in safety are intangible and hard to track.
However, modern EHS software systems provide dashboards and reports with clear charts, graphs and rates. This information can be called upon when publishing safety announcements both internally and externally.
Publicly investing in EHS will boost your corporate reputation and strengthen the relationship with your buyers, as well as helping attract the right talent.
- Investing in EHS software will act as evidence that we are taking health and safety seriously, which may be crucial for acquiring/ retaining talent as well as upkeeping our image in this time of increased scrutiny.
The time and need is now
Companies have realized this pandemic is not something they can simply ‘wait out’. SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay for the foreseeable future and limiting operations cannot be done indefinitely.
Things will NOT go back to normal; so, we must learn how to operate in the ‘new normal’.
By investing in configurable EHS software now, you will ensure your business is in a better position to deal with the unexpected.
Be that COVID-19 or the next big disruptor around the corner.
Seize the momentum created by this crisis to prepare for the next one. As we have learnt from the example rule, the current focus on safety will not last forever. The timing for technological advancement and change will never be better than it is now, and the need for it has never been greater.
By using the 5 reasons and their arguments we’ve given you here, it’s time to build the business case for EHS software in the era of COVID-19.