Over the past few years, automation has proven to be an important tool in the management of safety inspections. It enables effective identification of major Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) risks.
In the past, many companies offered ‘paper-based’ systems, which produced paper work permits. Once completed paper forms and permits were returned to the office, they would be ‘manually’ entered and integrated with the software for future reference.
In recent years, the role of handheld devices and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) has gradually increased from ‘toys’ used by early adopters, to day-to-day tools deployed by organizations that want to improve their staff’s productivity.
PDA (handheld device) automates the issuing of work permits:
Handheld devices should provide information that already exists on paper forms, work permits or on the desktop, and at the same time improves one’s ability to access and utilize the data. For example, if a user fills out a hot work permit, the handheld device should fulfil the same function and once completed, allow the user to print and issue the work permit on the spot. A safety officer can pick from a list of possible choices and/or write or type in information.
Handheld devices make current, past, and future information accessible and easy to use. Handheld software should also be tailored towards OH&S personnel who need to perform their tasks using easy-to-use screens and functions. Furthermore, by simplifying navigation buttons and minimizing keystrokes, inspectors can learn to operate their PDA software in a short timeframe.
Handheld applications specifically designed for safety inspections should deliver the following functionalities:
- List all information required by inspectors to perform their tasks, including permit templates such as hot work permits, working at height permits, confined space permits, hazardous work permits, safety certificates, impairment notices etc.
- Provide easy to use navigation, search capabilities and quick access to information.
- Allow inspectors to enter as much information as needed.
- Sign on glass feature allowing the inspector or other stakeholders to sign for the authorisation of a permit.
- Approve and produce work permits on the spot using portable printers.
Handheld applications should also be designed to minimize the amount of data entry and keystrokes required by incorporating a variety of techniques, starting from pick lists, through to check boxes, to look-up lists and automatically generated results and shortcuts. Minimizing the amount of data entry that the end user has to perform is recommended to improve speed, accuracy of data, efficiency, ease of use and cost. The means of data transfer between handheld devices and the database can be through a standard cradle, wired modem, infrared, Bluetooth, or wireless communications.
Techs4Biz develops and provides technology solutions for improving work-related activities and processes, combining software with handheld devices. Techs4Biz has offices in Australia Canada and the U.S.