Expert Insight: Adding value through OH&S automation

by 24 Nov 2011

I think we can safely say the days of dusty policy and procedure manuals sitting on shelves are probably behind us. But reporting hazards and incidents sent via emails which might or might not be read is still quite common. Factor in the numerous spreadsheets that require days of effort to report on routine KPIs and you probably have your typical OH&S system.

Ironically, every mission statement has the words: ‘creating value for customers and stakeholders through cutting edge systems and ongoing process improvement’.

However, unlike other departments, OH&S professionals usually receive the minimal budget, simply meeting the compliance requirements of AS/NZS 4801. These standards are not prescriptive and rely on a consistent and relevant framework of risk prevention, correction and control measures.

It’s therefore no surprise that automating the OH&S process facilitates informed decision-making and promotes a healthier, safer workplace. So what are the characteristics of a good OH&S system?

Enter the workflow

One of the key features to look for is an integrated workflow system with unique tracking number and time/date stamp. Through email or SMS alerts on approvals, notifications escalation, reminders and task scheduling, workflow enforces consistency and compliance of OH&S processes across the entire organisation.

In terms of transactions, it mainly applies to hazard and incident management, offering a preventative and corrective approach to risk. It also needs to be flexible, mapped to the specific processes and steps that you follow.

Induction workflows can also be configured that are triggered by a new starter. In this scenario, all position appropriate policies and procedures are sent electronically, allowing employees to respond with ‘read and understood’. When policies or procedures change, another workflow is triggered and the new document is sent for review, effectively managing the process by exception. This can also extend into managing safety-centric training needs, as well as the various certifications and accreditations when they fall due.

It’s all about risk

Another key feature of a good OH&S system is the ability to define and configure a framework of occupational risks. These can be captured through online assessments, observation, inspections or audits. This allows you to identify the problem jobs, tasks, areas or equipment that are likely to or have caused injury, and what triggers them. Once risks have been identified, they can be assessed for severity and probability of occurrence. This is where an online risk matrix with modifying factors, which may increase or decrease the risk and consequences, comes in handy.

Automation consolidates all of these risks in one control panel, allowing you to mitigate and investigate through a series of workflow-driven control actions with close dates. This visual, process-driven approach allows you to manage risks holistically and offers an unsurpassed level of insight and intelligence, supporting informed decision-making.

Management through measurement

Finally, the whole system should come together in a robust reporting framework, allowing you to monitor assigned controls and review their effectiveness.

Furthermore, it should report in real time all the relevant KPIs as well as dashboards for all injury and hazard statistics. This framework should be capable of answering virtually any question under an audit scenario. Through the analysis of different locations and teams – even specific sections within a location – you can identify and reinforce the right behaviours in a targeted way, as well as redesign those tasks which pose the greatest risk.

There’s no doubt that taking a real time and integrated approach to risk management delivers cost savings, ensures compliance and facilitates better decision-making. It’s a key way to prevent injury, protect the workforce and create stakeholder value. Like any technology solution though, it’s a tool, and success depends on an organisation’s culture and leadership’s attitude towards risk management.

About the author

Ari Kopoulos is the national sales & marketing manager at EmployeeConnect. For further information visit