The number of EHS mobile apps in the market has surged in recent years as the demand for flexible software has increased. With increasingly distributed workforces tackling more complex challenges, EHS leaders realize it’s no longer feasible to rely on paper systems or static desktop applications to manage risks and compliance. Mobile enables organizations to automate and streamline EHS processes to create safe and compliant work environments. More importantly, mobile invites and encourages all employees — especially engaging frontline workers — to be active members in workplace safety and sustainability activities.

In the past, enterprises may have utilized mobile technology for data capture and reactionary measures like incident reporting. However, today’s mobile options encourage new levels of participation and preparation through improved data capture and delivery. Workers can now use mobile to better prepare for and prevent incidents by performing detailed workplace inspections, job safety analysis and observations, ergonomics assessments, assigning and managing corrective actions in real-time, or accesses critical chemical safety information when and where it’s needed — all from the palm of their hands.

For those looking to implement mobile technology into their organizations, the biggest challenge is selecting the applications that will add real value to you and your people. While managing EHS on mobile devices can significantly benefit your organization’s safety program and bottom-line, your outcomes are heavily reliant upon whether your workforce actually engages with the technology. Many apps lack substance or are too convoluted to be readily usable to employees. The key is identifying apps that simplify your EHS programs, not complicate them.

Following is a closer look at how mobile is modernizing workplace safety, and the critical areas of EHS where using mobile technology matters the most.

Increased accessibility

One of the biggest benefits of mobile EHS technology is that it encourages a proactive approach to safety, due in large part to the increased accessibility to information, training, and other resources it provides.

The best mobile apps work seamlessly with your web-based EHS management system to deliver workplace safety and compliance resources directly to your workforce, which makes it easier for you to stay on top of the various risks that threaten worker safety and your organization’s bottom line. The biggest benefit is that apps allow you and your employees to capture data both online and offline, from anywhere. Users can enter observations or fill out an inspection form in the app, and it then syncs the information with your account when you get back online. This level of accessibility is especially valuable in industries where workers need to be able to collect data in remote locations, where wireless coverage isn't available, like oil and gas fields, mining sites, warehouses, construction areas, and similar. 

Chemical management is another area mobile accessibility improves workplace safety and compliance. These apps deliver real-time container updates from specific locations to the central cloud system and provide greater companywide visibility and control over chemical inventory information across multiple locations. The best apps available sync directly with your chemical management system, allowing you and your employees to view safety data sheets (SDSs) and other critical chemical information, and save it to a mobile device for offline use. These apps also make it easier to manage inventory details by utilizing device cameras to scan container barcodes, QR codes, and UPC codes. With mobile, effective chemical management has never been more accessible and more convenient.

Improved data collection

Real-time data collection is critical. In addition to providing increased worker accessibility — with or without internet connectivity — to critical safety information, mobile also empowers employees to capture information as it occurs right from the facility floor or worksite.

Before mobile, when workers reported hazards following a near miss, they would have relayed that information to a supervisor or had to wait until their shift was over to fill out a report. In both these situations, critical details might get lost or forgotten completely. Mobile has improved this process significantly, allowing workers to report incidents, hazards, and near misses immediately in the flow of work — when the information is most accurate — and to use the device’s camera and voice-to-text features to capture additional details at the source for improved visibility of the issue.

Another way mobile promotes better data is through the use of motion capture technology. Typical ergonomics programs in manufacturing and services environment have historically relied heavily on observational techniques to conduct musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) risk assessments. However, today’s advanced sensorless A.I. motion-capture technology quickly collects real-time risk assessment data using the camera on any mobile device. Mobile-enabled motion capture results in more accurate ergonomics assessments and less money spent by an organization. It requires less training and practice for users, and it allows a wider range of employees to complete accurate assessments, helping to improve the safety of all employees.  

Flexible training options

Changing workforce dynamics and the increasingly digital landscape are changing expectations around training as employees challenge traditional training methods and demand more control of their learning experience.

Workplace training is far more relevant and useful when it’s acquired at the point-of-need, enabling employees to retain and utilize the new information straight away. Mobile apps and mobile-enabled Learning Management Systems (LMSs) achieve this by giving workers access to vital safety training without disrupting the flow of work. As a result, trainees are better equipped to retain the information they are learning because they are consuming it at the point that it will be used while performing that task. By supporting your people in the workflow, you provide much more value by addressing performance and knowledge gaps in real time. 

Millennials now account for over a third of the US labor force and are expected to make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. This group not only benefits from, but also expects more interactive and integrated approaches to learning. As technology continues to reshape the learning landscape, the speed and volume at which training is consumed will continue to accelerate. Keeping pace requires EHS professionals to source training that leverages these technologies and keeps learners interested.  With the ability to immediately deliver training resources in the flow of work to every employee, mobile training should be a critical component of your overall safety program and culture.

More accountability

Achieving operational excellence requires a workforce that is empowered to take a leading role in managing EHS risk. A robust mobile EHS solution encourages frontline workers to be more accountable for organizational-wide safety by giving them the tools to be an integral part of its overall safety processes and culture.

However, mobile deployment success relies heavily on worker buy-in and participation. If an app isn’t easy and intuitive, your employees simply won’t use it. Ensure your workforce is equipped to utilize mobile in their day-to-day tasks, and then select a comprehensive app designed with features geared towards increased adoption.

Mobile-first technology is no longer just a future concept — it’s here. Today’s EHS leaders are already seeing the value mobile apps deliver in automating and streamlining safety programs. The best EHS mobile apps are more than conveniences — they’re essential tools for keeping people safe, minimizing risk, and maximizing workforce productivity.