By Tim Dowling, General Manager Commercial Operations, Australia at Vault Intelligence
Tuesday, 11 April, 2017
Multisite businesses and ‘remote’ workers are increasingly the norm in today’s economy. Digital communication has enabled companies to grow faster, while giving the workforce greater flexibility to operate from home, on-site or from other office locations. As such, the term ‘remote’ worker is no longer confined to industries like franchising, trades or mining; it applies to many sectors, including a whole range of professional services.
Despite the benefits of multisite work, this also carries some challenges. One of these is how to achieve compliance with health and safety standards when staff are scattered over various locations. After all, it is not just ‘physical’ work that requires health and safety checks, and a company’s responsibility to its workers does not disappear just because someone is not in the same office.
There are several ways that businesses can keep remote workers safe:
Enforce communications and people protocols
Whether professional or personal, poor communication usually spells trouble. When it comes to health and safety, ineffective communication can cost a business in lives as well as money. So if someone is working in a multisite business and is not always able to speak to their teams face to face, it is more important than ever to get this right.
Good communication within a multisite business means effective communications at all levels and in every direction. It is not enough for managers to tell their workers what their EHS responsibilities are and then leave them to it. It is important to agree on a process for communicating in every direction to give workers a good platform for sharing experiences, expertise, equipment and support with each other.
Establish protocols like a weekly report or a daily ‘check in’ process online — whatever is relevant to the job. In addition, have a communications plan in place that gives every individual a clear process of who and how to alert of any safety concerns. The simpler and more structured the process for communicating, the better the health and safety outcomes.
It is also vital to establish clear lines of responsibility among staff. Each ‘site’ must be assigned an individual who takes ultimate responsibility for EHS, with clear lines of reporting through to local or head offices.
A health and safety lead should also be assigned within high-level management to ensure the whole process is implemented and maintained and no person or location is allowed to fall through the cracks.
Make safety a cinch in the cloud
Cloud-based technologies are a multisite business’s best friend, offering efficiencies across the board — from accounting to internal communication. When it comes to EHS, however, so many companies still operate in the dark ages of spreadsheets.
Cloud risk management systems like Vault can arguably simplify the process of managing safety for remote workers better than any other tool because everything can be rolled into a simple mobile app. Companies can manage every worker from a central point, enabling them to check in and report on incidents at the touch of an iPhone. Every recorded task is user and time stamped, so it is easy to see who has done what and when — and whether tasks are being completed on time. Vault recently launched a new mobile app called ‘Solo’, designed specifically for remote workers, which includes a ‘distress’ button that indicates if someone is in trouble without them having to ‘dial in’.
Standardise checks and balances
Safety compliance is far more difficult if some locations or workers are neglecting to report or using an entirely different reporting method.
Standardising health and safety processes is the key. For those already using cloud-based EHS systems, this will be part of the package. It is important for everyone to have access to the same onboarding, training and modes of reporting. If technology is still old school, businesses should just make sure what they are doing is consistent across the board.
It is also a good idea to standardise auditing — use the same company or consultant at regular intervals to allow for realistic comparisons of compliance standards across sites or people.
Effective safety practice across multisite businesses is easy to achieve; it really comes down to structure and streamlining. Investing a little time to ensure your communication, protocols and technology are up to speed will ensure compliance is never an issue.
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Multisite businesses and 'remote' workers are increasingly the norm in today's economy.