Papercut

Matt Peaty, QSHEC Director at Salisbury Group, describes how his company switched from a paper-based accident reporting system to mobile technology – and how this is proving a game-changer on site

The constant reporting, monitoring and closing out of health and safety incidents helps to ensure workplaces are safe, occupant health is protected, and compliance with regulations is guaranteed. This can be a time-consuming task, especially for a large organisation.

Salisbury Group provides a range of services including facilities management, cleaning, engineering (mechanical and electrical), security, compliance, and a specialist energy solutions team.

Until May last year, we used a paper-based system to record health and safety incidents, accidents and near misses. The information was collated and analysed, then reports generated and reviewed to check for trends or concerns.

All organisations need to achieve a high standard of health and safety compliance, but this is particularly true of businesses responsible for managing clients’ workspaces. Timely and efficient reporting and managing of incidents, accidents and near misses is critical – not just to measure the provider’s health and safety performance, but to acquire information that can be used to reduce risk and improve overall performance and compliance.

The ‘safety triangle’ is a widely accepted model of the accident log ratio within an organisation. At the top is a single major injury, followed by several minor injuries, then, near the base, a much larger number of near misses – all underpinned by a much greater number of unsafe acts and conditions. At Salisbury, however, we reported a diamond rather than a triangle: very few major incidents at the top, numerous minors in the middle, then a tapering off with just a few near misses.

Our paper-based system of reporting had its advantages – it worked, and was familiar to staff. But compiling the safety logs and records, mining them for meaningful data and turning that knowledge into reports was very time consuming and labour intensive, and we found we were missing out on valuable information that was slipping through the net. We began to consider the idea of a technology-based solution..

CUSTOMISED APP
Once we started to research the available risk management and incident recording technology, we became convinced the switch would help us to develop high-quality health and safety practices that could compete with the best. We were, however, surprised by how few FM companies were taking advantage of the existing technology. We established a vision of what we needed, developed an outline specification, and sought a suitable partner.

The key to choosing the right software was the ability for it to work not just on multiple platforms, but also without requiring connection to a mobile or wireless network. Salisbury Group has employees who sometimes work in areas where there is only a weak signal, or no signal at all, so this was one of the defining features of our search. It led us to LogIncident, a company with an easy-to-use product that met our needs and had an impressive track record, with the added advantage of a friendly, professional team to support us during rollout.

We particularly liked the ability to expand, change and amend the app as it stood. Rather than adapt our practices to suit a one-size-fits-all model, we were able to tailor the software to our specific requirements. For example, the standard incidents recorded by the app are ‘near misses’, ‘minor’ and ‘major incidents’, with a range of incident types to choose from via a drop-down menu. We deliver total FM in complex environments with a wide range of risk profiles, so we understand the significance of managing risk via the reporting of near misses. Recording and analysing near misses helps us to make improvements that lead to fewer incidents and accidents that might cause injury or damage. However, we wanted to expand the range of opportunity, so we introduced a fourth measure – ‘positive intervention’.

Positive intervention reporting involves identifying a risk before it becomes an incident or near miss. It’s a great way to encourage and embed a health and safety culture. Teams are motivated to take a more proactive approach to accident and incident prevention. It might be something as simple as noticing that a spill has occurred and taking the trouble to clean it up; removing a delivery from a means-of-escape corridor, or correcting someone’s inappropriate use of a ladder. Whatever it is, positive intervention can be as valuable to risk management as recording near misses, and I believe it has strengthened our health and safety performance.

The app is an efficient way to record, report and analyse incidents and accidents. Anyone with a smartphone or smart tablet device can capture information quickly and easily during or immediately after an incident. The data is automatically uploaded from the device to a central database and dashboard. It can then be reviewed on a case-by-case basis or as aggregated information from combined reports. We have configured the app to record who is logging the information and where the incident took place; managers are immediately made aware of a serious incident or injury to an individual, based on defined escalation rules.

The ability to capture photos and videos of an incident and add them to a report is particularly useful, since ‘a picture tells a thousand words’. Images can be annotated on the mobile device to highlight any specific issues.

THREE-PHASE ROLLOUT
After testing the app, we introduced it in three phases: first to the facilities side of the business and regional managers, then to engineers, and finally to the rest of the senior managers and other teams. We sent out introductory emails in advance, then soft copy manuals showing what each screen looks like, plus a list of FAQs. Staff were asked to use the app for real within the first week to help them become quickly accustomed to it.

The results so far have been impressive. The app is intuitive and simple to use. After four weeks of running it in parallel with the existing system, we were able to dispense with paper reporting completely. The whole company now uses the new app. Overall, we estimate that the switch has halved the time our administrators spend on accident reporting. The real impact, however, will be seen in a few months’ time, when we will measure our health and safety performance in relation to the ‘accident triangle’, and in comparison to the equivalent period in previous years.

We will continue to work with LogIncident on improving the capture and analysis of data, and also on ways to use the app in the investigation of both individual incidents and aggregated data. We believe the data, dashboard and communication features can play a role in helping us to identify the root and underlying causes of incidents – and avoid them in future.

About Sarah OBeirne

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