WHS software implementation: avoiding the pitfalls


By Dr Manuel Seidel, CEO, ecoPortal
Sunday, 31 July, 2022

WHS software implementation: avoiding the pitfalls

Health and safety in the workplace has, quite frankly, never looked more complicated. Thanks to a pandemic creating vast cultural changes, and a general mindset transformation in the working population, health and safety is no longer limited to managing hazards and risks.

Instead, leaders in the health and safety space are required to monitor organisational mental health, bolster employee wellbeing and manage their organisation’s COVID-19 response plan.

Indeed, while the scope of workplace health and safety continues to grow, the extra work is often piled onto just one person’s plate. These rapidly evolving job requirements mean that WHS leaders have to be switched on at all times, and require a system that supports them with real-time, actionable data.

Finding a technology system to help with achieving this can be the lifeline that safety managers are seeking. However, technology is an all-encompassing term. Despite being seen as the silver bullet for complex business problems, technology implementation projects fail at a rate of 69%.

Across the board are a plethora of common pitfalls that lead technology implementation projects astray. It is important to understand where things can go wrong, before committing to any one system.

Here are a few things to avoid.

Lack of alignment

What is the objective of the software? No matter where an organisation stands on its journey towards a software solution, it’s important to consider its objectives and the problems it is looking to solve.

There tends to be a spectrum of what organisations are looking to achieve when it comes to health and safety technology. On one end of the spectrum is basic compliance, where businesses are just aiming to tick the boxes of industry standards, such as ISO 45001, or AS/NZ 4801. At the other end are organisations embedding a positive, holistic safety culture at all levels.

Both ends of the spectrum are valid objectives, and where a business falls often depends on which stage of growth the organisation is in, as well as its industry. However, these wildly different objectives require very different software solutions, as does each stage in between. This is, therefore, a key upfront consideration upon which all parties should be aligned.

Creating a system for the health and safety manager

Given that it is the safety manager’s initiative, and an area in which they spend much of their time, there is often the temptation to scope, plan and create a system that meets all of their own needs. However, this isn’t always what’s best for the end user.

The number one critical success factor for any software project — including WHS software — is end-user acceptance. If the objective is to achieve engagement at all levels to truly embed a safety culture within the organisation, then the most important factor needs to be bringing people to the system.

Key elements such as a modern, clean — and most importantly, simple — interface make a system usable for everyone. It is essential to implement a system in which the user experience is aligned specifically to each individual person’s role and only asks them for the important, key information to avoid clutter.

Lack of mobility

Let’s face it, everything effective is mobile these days — and social media has transformed technological expectations in the workplace. Staff expect easy, mobile capabilities from any system they are using.

It’s the same principle for safety. There are huge advantages to reporting hazards, near-misses or incidents from a mobile phone. Workers can capture valuable data, tag the exact geo-location, take photos or videos and upload them right then and there — and then continue to get on with their job. If people have to upload details about an incident or near-miss at the end of the day, when they get home from work, then it is possible for them to miss important information or forget specific details.

Even better, mobile capabilities can provide crucial offline access for workers in remote areas, as well as providing immediate, critical emergency and safety alerts to all key parties.

Limited external party coverage

Organisations do not exist in a vacuum. Every organisation has at least some external stakeholders — be they suppliers, contractors or specialist services. Whenever these external parties are onsite, companies have a duty of care to ensure their safety, as well as the safety of all other visitors.

It’s therefore crucial that all visitors are catered for by WHS software. Aim to find a software that allows contractor organisations to manage their own workforces, including updating their people, induction training and licence information.

Furthermore, consider software with visitor management capabilities. It is critical for a health and safety manager to know who is onsite, at all times. With visitors, not only is their safety important, but so is their experience of the workplace. Software that caters for visitors offers a seamless experience — after all, there’s no worse first impression than a queue at reception.

Selecting a vendor based on features alone

When it comes to software selection, it’s easy to get excited about features, and features only. While the software chosen is, of course, crucial to the success of a health and safety program, partnering with a vendor that focuses on a long-term relationship is just as important.

Organisations need to partner with a software company that not only understands organisational hazards and risks, but assists with establishing a company-wide safety culture at each level.

The software company needs to have the capability and capacity to onboard its clients effectively, providing ongoing service and support, and not be afraid to push the safety technology frontier further.

The benefits of compliance software

It’s an old adage, but change certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Technology can, however, rapidly transform and improve the way an organisation ‘does’ safety. Systems that are designed with key organisational objectives in place mean that more staff are going home to their families, unharmed.

With the right system in place, companies will benefit from increased reporting and engagement, ultimately affording managers time to work on proactive tasks that truly promote a blossoming safety culture.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/kokliang1981

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