One “tech junkie’s” story
Like some of you, I’ve dreamed of creating a successful safety app. But successful safety apps, like successful Internet websites, don’t just happen overnight. They take lots of time and money to develop, and often your first few attempts don’t work out.
I founded a successful workplace safety website called “SafetyAwakenings.com”. It receives more than 50,000 visitors each month from all over the world. It took me five long years to build up this website to what it is today. But before my success with Safety Awakenings, I had two prior websites that failed miserably. These failures set me up for success on my third attempt.
Safety app research & development
As with websites, one can’t expect your first safety app to be wildly successful. Last year I partnered with a couple of friends to develop a safety app called QHSE Focus. It was a lot of work and expense. It launched in the Apple apps store and was available for a few months. Now this app has been terminated. Strike one for this old safety guy.
Developing a new workplace safety app requires expensive computer programming. Safety app developers tell me that the developmental programming costs for a good safety app typically average from $30,000 to $50,000! And that does not include the time they put in themselves.
Another expense many potential safety app developers don’t consider is that one safety app is not enough. You really need two versions of every app — one for Apple iPhone/iPad users, and another for Android users. Given that, your $50,000 cost to develop an Apple IOS app is really more like $100,000 because you also need an Android version of it!
Mainstream apps, like game apps, cost a whole lot more than safety apps to develop. I know a gal who formed a team to develop a new “entertainment” app. She invested $3,000,000 into her app’s development. The app launched last year in Apples App Store, and within a few months it was terminated.
Not a ton of downloads
The economics of safety apps is not like other apps. Popular mainstream apps often achieve downloads in the tens of millions. I understand that when the “Temple Run” game launched in Asia, it had over 50,000,000 downloads in the first two weeks!
Most of the popular safety apps that I use have less than 10,000 total downloads. The most popular safety app that I know of has had only 27,000 downloads since it’s initial launch three years ago.
Safety apps are just a tiny part of the app industry. Given the relatively few consumers of safety apps, it’s very difficult for safety app developers to make a profit on a new safety app (let alone recoup their investment expenses). Sell your app cheaply and you don’t have enough buyers to recoup your investment; sell it for a few hundred dollars and you greatly reduce the already small group of potential buyers.
As for the future…
My website lists 60+ safety apps. They cover everything from risk assessment, audits, stretching, label makers, office ergonomics, vision tests and lifting guides. They’re out there, and I rate them. Check ’em out at www.SafetyAwakenings.com.
Still, the future of safety apps depends upon large organizations either developing the new apps themselves, or providing grants to others for safety app development. These large organizations have deeper pockets to invest in safety app development than do individual safety professionals. Also, many are not-for-profits or governmental entities charged with doing the publics’ good. They are not singularly focused on profits.
I’d like to recognize four organizations that have already shown the way by developing multiple, state-of-the-art, safety apps — American Red Cross, NFPA, WorkSafeBC, and NIOSH. Their apps have helped thousands to prepare for disasters, prevent fires, reduce work-related accidents, and minimize occupational illnesses.
Some large organizations that I’d like to see similarly step up and invest more resources in the development of new safety apps are:
- OSHA (only one safety app to date)
- State governments (no safety apps to date)
- ASSE (only one safety app that costs $45/year for non-members)
- National Safety Council (no safety apps so far)
- Insurance companies (many of the larger ones have never developed a workplace safety app)
- Safety equipment manufacturers and vendors
- Universities, especially those that have both EHS and computer curriculums
I just did a Google search for “safety app grants.” I found a few available grants I could apply for if I lived in the UK, but absolutely nothing available here in the U.S.
I have lots of ideas for future safety apps, but without the possibility of receiving a grant, there’s no way that I’d invest my own money to develop them. Here are a few potential safety apps that are currently not available that I’d love to see funded and developed:
- OSHA audit
- OSHA’s “annual targeted company list”
- OSHA “citations by industry or SIC code”
- OSHA “Fatal Facts and Serious Injury archive”
- BLS & NSC injury rates with automated self-rating formulas
- Electrical tester (live/dead, polarity, continuity of ground)
- Vibration tester (whole body, hand/arm)
- Slip tester / tribometry
- Alertness tester (for drugs, alcohol, fatigue, & distraction)
- Safety climate/culture assessment
- Accident investigation (e.g. updated version of TOR)
- System safety analysis
- Inspection &/or training apps for common machines/tools (e.g. lift trucks, scissors lifts, boom lifts, nail guns, saws, punch presses, drill presses, scaffolds etc.)
- Employee safety perception survey
- Machine specific safeguarding
- PPE assessment & selection
- Self-administered safety induction training
- Identifying “high potential” hazards
What about getting funding from philanthropic organizations to develop apps? Why wouldn’t caring millionaires and billionaires want to fund the creation of new life-saving and health giving occupational safety and health apps?
Please do what you can to influence the organizations I’ve mentioned above to invest in developing new workplace safety apps. New safety apps will benefit millions of employers and workers with mobile devices throughout the world.