Businesses working in potentially hazardous environments have increasingly sophisticated tools at their disposal for assessing and reducing risk, as well as for engaging in a new era of health and safety compliance.
Michael Hartley, director of rich internet application development company Rad3, says businesses routinely sending work crews into potentially hazardous environments face a conundrum.
“These companies are essentially responsible for site safety but generally it isn’t economically viable to be on-site before work commences to assess safety. So how do they join the dots and ensure they’re complying with regulations and that their teams are doing everything practicable to work safely?”
To help field crews identify hazards, analyse risks and comply with best practice work methods while on the job, Rad3 has developed SiteApp.
“Essentially SiteApp gets field workers in a potentially dangerous environment to stop, observe their work area, think about and understand the risks present, take necessary measures to reduce risk and then go to work with a planned methodology.
“To rephrase a well-used analogy, SiteApp is the ambulance at the top of the cliff,” says Michael.
So how does SiteApp work?
A job is created and then through a number of steps, the field worker identifies the potential hazards using a smartphone or tablet to register details. Each hazard has a pre-loaded severity rating based on WorkSafe best practice guidelines.
SiteApp assigns a risk rating to each identified hazard; a high risk rating sends a signal back to base. The worker then needs to assign an action control measure designed to move the risk scenario from ‘red’ to ‘green’.
SiteApp takes the user through these steps in order to makes safety compliance accurate and fast.
Naturally this risk analysis process doesn’t happen in isolation. Back at the company’s base, the dispatcher, company owner or whoever needs to be cognisant of where team members are, can see the full process too; the risk plan and work steps are transparent. Alerts and prompts are also shown where work has started without the requisite digital forms being completed.
“The person back in the office can see in real-time what has been done and when. With the changes to health and safety legislation, every party is responsible for safe work practice. SiteApp supports a behavioural change by adding checks and balances as a natural part of the company’s work-flow.
“And at the end of the day, if there is an incident or a near-miss, you have the digital trail to show the steps you and your people in the field took leading up to the incident.”
The market for such an app inevitably leads to businesses with workers out in remote areas or underground. Michael says that Rad3 designed SiteApp from an offline point-of-view, with uninterrupted workflow in mind. Documents and job details can be downloaded to the work tablet and saved within mobile coverage and then read later if coverage disappears.
“Safety is never the same thing to two people. An urban earthworks site with a few guys and a couple of excavators might have a sign-in sheet in a Port-a-com, but down the road you have the Waterview Tunnel project which is a completely controlled environment and for which comprehensive site induction programmes are the norm.
“Those are the two ends of the spectrum, so when we developed SiteApp we had to think about where our market for this really is. We decided the sweet-spot for this application is a company with between perhaps five and 15 crew on the road completing multiple projects a week.”
As a result of this careful fine-tuning for a specific audience, Michael says that some clients are even extending what SiteApp does for them on a day-to-day basis beyond pure health and safety. Because the system allows two-way communication of notifications and the syncing of documents in real-time, it becomes a way of remote managing field crews wherever they might be.
“Some of our clients use SiteApp as their main job dispatch software. The system allows a company to standardise their workflow, so we are increasingly seeing companies adopt a programme like Xero for their back-end accounting and billing, and SiteApp for front-end job dispatch and safety.
“The risk analysis component then becomes part of the normal way in which the field crew goes about their daily tasks, which is a pretty elegant solution when you think about it; it comes back again to changing what is normal behaviour.”
Michael says that tablet computing has significantly changed the way information can be accessed and delivered remotely. With SMEs able to purchase ruggedised tablets for field work for as little as $500, many are making the investment and arming staff with a sophisticated work tool.
SiteApp will work on any smart device, whether a phone or tablet and running either Android or iOS operating systems.
“Elements of SiteApp utilise aspects of tablet computing, such as the ability for team members to take a photograph of a potential hazard – or an incident – and record it in the job file,” continues Michael.
“Also because we want teams to assess risk together, SiteApp utilises the ‘write’ feature of a tablet to enable team signatures to be added to the job. If something goes wrong – or even if it doesn’t – and one team member’s signature isn’t present with a date stamp, then you can see that something has fallen over in the site induction process.”
The signature aspect also lets organisations set workflow around routine safety documentation. The system administrator can schedule how often the field team needs to complete and sign such documentation, with the process able to happen while they’re still in the field, rather than needing to interrupt scheduled work.
“This feature can extend beyond safe work method memos to equipment warranty information, vehicle COF data and even run-of-the-mill housekeeping messages, such as ‘Return all electrical leads to base this Friday for tagging’,” says Michael.
“We’re starting with the legislated health and safety responsibilities of a company as the basis for engagement, but extending what we can report to cover best practice in a more universal sense.”
Michael says that SiteApp works best as the result of the consultative process Rad3 adopts with client companies.
“The people who understand safety best within any given organisation are the people we want to work with to configure SiteApp specifically for them,” he concludes.
“It’s a two-way consultative process and we’re endeavouring to make it easier for businesses to cover their responsibilities. As the idea of work site automation increasingly becomes the norm, systems such as SiteApp will likewise become a part of everyday work life.”