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By: Thomas Carson

An Unlikely Tool Creates Community and Enhances Cultural Well-being.

We were recently completing a customer training and orientation session when a manager came up to us and commented that he was surprised that it has taken so long to get an easy way to report from the field on a mobile app. “After all,” he said, “mobile phones have been around for 30 years.”

In fact, it was more like 40 years, as they became generally available in the mid-1980s. The first mobile phones couldn’t do much beyond make and take phone calls. The first actual “smart” phone was Simon, launched by IBM in 1994. It had 10 apps, but still couldn’t take a picture.  Then came the Palm Pilot: apps, but no phone; followed by the Blackberry: a phone with a typewriter keyboard and a few apps. The Android and Apple phone apps we know today didn’t broadly launch until the Play Store and App Store opened in 2008.

As recently as ten years ago, there were few useful mobile apps as part of EHS software products. While there were some technical limitations, I think the primary reason for slow deployment of mobile apps as part of EHS software was more cultural than technical. Even today, we meet plant managers who are not comfortable with mobile phones as productivity tools in the workplace, so prohibitions against them remain in place. However, once they see the results, most of these same managers become mobile believers. Having been part of this transition over the last decade, I can tell you with confidence that yes, mobile is a mindset change, but it is one that your employees are ready to make in a responsible way.

There are some strong reasons to embrace mobile app reporting as an integral part of your EHS program:

  1. There is no better way to get information from the floor or field to your desk quickly and accurately so you can take the appropriate actions.
  2. A mobile app creates the beginning of the documentation trail for incidents, close calls, observations, and inspection exceptions that can then be built upon through completion of the incident report in a single location – no lost paper forms, no wondering on status of tasks, no dropped balls on feedback to stakeholders.
  3. Consolidating all reports digitally into a single location enables consolidated detailed analysis of the reports to spot trends and areas requiring attention.

These are compelling reasons that will strengthen your safety program, but there is an even more powerful reason to embrace mobile technology in your EHS program. When you deploy a mobile app that allows employees to easily report from the field, you are inviting them to participate in an organization-wide conversation about making their workplace and your company better. You are telling them that you recognize they have experience and that you value their opinions. This creates engagement that, when encouraged, results in learning a lot about your processes and environment. This communication exchange strengthens employee engagement, resulting in loss reduction, improved employee morale and retention, and even ideas to improve productivity. All of us want to be a part of communities in which our contributions are valued. Mobile apps have proven to be a very powerful enabler for building such communities. Reach out to us if you would like to learn more about our experiences helping companies and their employees connect for positive results.

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