• Back to the Future - Birth of the Kiosk

Thomas Carson

By: Thomas Carson

March 26, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has brought a lot of questions to the forefront of worker safety. The rollout of a kiosk as an “innovative” contribution to EHS technology brings up the question: is sharing a kiosk really innovative when workers must stay at least six feet away from each other?

I am normally content to watch new product announcements and rollouts without comment. I have always been more the engineer than the marketer – who knew that people wanted a camera from which they could make phone calls! – but every now and then there arrives a launch and I can’t help myself.

ehs kiosk back to the future

Last week, an EHS software vendor rolled out, with great fanfare, their new contribution to EHS technology innovation: a kiosk which can be shared by all employees to report incidents and observations from the field!  In this day and age, this strikes me as a little like rolling out wine coolers at an AA meeting.

As a trivia aside, the first interactive kiosk was actually invented in my hometown of Urbana at the University of Illinois in 1977 by a guy named Murray Lappe.  It was used to provide information to campus visitors. It was an interesting idea and the concept evolved over the following decades, but it was never really sanitary if you think about it.

There is a far better and safer way to capture workers’ reports from the field: let them use their own, personal devices with an appropriate mobile app. I am partial to ours (sospes.com), but there are others. The advantages to organizations go well beyond worker safety, but to name a few:

  1. Each worker uses his or her own device to submit reports. Consistent with appropriate social contact rules today, no sharing computers or kiosks and no passing around paper checklists on clipboards.
  2. Processes and procedures can be made available to employees on their own devices consistently and immediately when necessary – a huge help during changing circumstances.
  3. Detailed reports can be submitted easily from anywhere, even remote locations, and are available immediately for safety and operations staff to act upon – wherever they may be.
  4. Actions and tasks can be assigned with supporting information to any employee digitally – no paper transfers required and better, more accurate records result.
  5. And by recording all these transactions digitally, companies have data from which they can make more informed decisions for addressing issues with maximum impact.

OSHA has made clear, and reminds us in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, that employers bear a responsibility for ensuring that their workers are entitled to a safe working environment, “…free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Organizations must fulfill this responsibility in any case – let’s make operations better and more effective at the same time. And step away from the kiosk.

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