Following procedures for a safer workplace


Tuesday, 03 June, 2014

A significant contributing factor in some workplace incidences is the inability for an employee to easily find and access up-to-date standard operating procedures and safety information relating to their role. Safety Solutions talks to Bruce Nixon, CEO of Holocentric, who explains how adopting a modelling approach to help align procedures for employees’ roles, equipment and systems can help to overcome this challenge and result in a safer workplace.

Safe work procedures are a means of briefly documenting the risks associated with a work task and incorporating the appropriate risk control measures into a sequence of steps for doing the task safely. They also provide a useful tool for training and supervising workers, and responding to incident reports and changes in the workplace. But if the worker can’t find this vital information in a timely and efficient manner, the value of the procedures is lost.

According to Nixon, other reasons why procedures are not followed can include: the worker didn’t know they existed, the worker couldn’t understand them and sometimes, even when the worker can find them, the procedures can be out of date.

How can organisations make sure procedures are kept updated and used appropriately by the relevant workers?

“First and foremost there has to be the right culture in an organisation,” says Nixon. “The organisation has to be genuinely safety conscious. Not just seen to be compliant, but actually operating in a very safety conscious fashion.”

Nixon says next, the organisation must “provide the right information to the right people at the right time”.

“Many organisations have a safety manual in place but it can sometimes be a huge document (or set of documents) that is unwieldy and inappropriate for the purpose.”

Nixon says the workers have specific responsibilities; therefore, the information supplied must be pertinent to the job at hand, on a device or in a form that is suitable for the task.

“There’s myriad documents, regulations and information that need to be understood and every worker has a different requirement from this information. Having to wade through endless amounts of documents is time-consuming and confusing, and when there is a change in regulation or policy, it can be difficult to know how it affects every worker.”

Nixon says this is where modelling may help.

“Understanding the relationships that naturally exist between the regulation, the policy, the processes, the control points, the people and their responsibility and procedures is a complex undertaking. If you’re trying to do this with a whole set of documents, it is very difficult to coordinate all those documents so that we have a consistent and reliable set of information to provide to the workers.

“Modelling software doesn’t remove the complexity, it helps manage the complexity.”

This is achieved by firstly documenting these relationships that exist within the organisation. The modelling software can then be used to generate the appropriate different views and reports that are required by each worker in a consistent, reliable way, because the information is all coming from the one source.

Then, when one aspect changes (such as a change in regulation), there is a documented understanding of how it impacts the work practice and the system can work out how each must be changed in order to comply with the change.

How can you make sure workers actually access the right procedures?

Nixon says, “You have to make it as easy as possible.

“Workers get frustrated when they can’t find the right information and their first step may be to ask a co-worker for help. This is a common source of information in the workplace but it may not always be a reliable source as the person they ask may not be up to date with the latest regulations.

“What is best is to make the reliable and accurate information as easy as possible to access. The worker needs a small amount of information that is pertinent to his/her job and it must be easily accessed.”

Nixon says the reason why apps are so popular these days is that they are very simplistic and accessible. They also have a specific purpose and can provide information that is pertinent and easily understood.

“The organisation must understand who their workers are and what their responsibilities are - this information can then be built into the model. Using this information, the system can then guide the workers to the pertinent information. It can map out the employees and the processes they are involved with, and provide easy access to the relevant work procedures that will need to be accessed.

“There are also systems to make sure workers are alerted to changes, and information can be gathered to make sure the workers have availed themselves of this new information.

“Organisations must make sure their workers are trained,” says Nixon. “But this also needs to be reinforced with easy access to consistent, reliable information.”

What new technology is available to help workers to access the information?

Nixon says there is a growing trend for workers to BYOD (bring your own device) as so many already own a smartphone, tablet, etc, but the security of these devices must still be managed.

“Accessing corporate information through such devices is still in its early days,” he says. “But there is a large amount of interest as it is easily navigable and easy to obtain.”

Nixon says other technology such as QR codes is also growing in acceptance; but there could still be a problem of inconsistency with such technology unless the codes are modelled using data from a single source of information that is reliable and up to date.

About Holocentric

Holocentric is a business management systems provider. The company has developed a software called Modelpedia that helps organisations to operationalise strategy, manage business transformations and achieve operational excellence, by providing a business management system that helps capture, understand, change and optimise their business operations - from strategy, people, processes and procedures to compliance obligations. Using modelling methodology, Modelpedia stores information in a single location and makes it accessible, easily understood and personalised to individual employees. For instance, using Modelpedia, employees can easily look up all the standard operating procedures, regulations and training materials relevant to their role. It is designed to make safety and operational information easy to be kept updated and searchable.

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