Why Mobile Inspection Software is Key to Transforming Plant Floor Safety

Safety

By Jason Holte
February 24, 2022

Manufacturing plant floor workers performing a safety inspection on a mobile tablet

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), manufacturing accounts for just 5% of U.S. workers and yet it is responsible for 8% of on-the-job fatalities.

Improving plant floor safety is mission-critical for manufacturers due to the high personal and financial cost of workplace incidents. Technology is rapidly becoming a key enabler of safety culture, specifically when it comes to identifying plant floor hazards and unsafe behaviors.

Today we’re looking at how mobile inspection software can play a role in transforming plant floor safety. We focus on key aspects such as inspection frequency, getting real-time data, improving visibility and how fixing problems is essential to safety culture.

Increasing Inspection Frequency

There’s a reason why so many safety strategies focus on observation. It’s because more eyes on any process increases the likelihood of identifying problems and risks. From a safety standpoint, this means the more frequent your inspections, the more likely you are to identify hazards that cause accidents.

Of course, increasing inspection frequency is easier said than done, especially if you’re using paper checklists and/or spreadsheets to record findings. These approaches make it hard to complete a higher number of inspections due to:

  • Having to schedule inspections one at a time
  • Individuals forgetting their scheduled inspections
  • The time required to record audit results in two places, both on paper checklists and then transferring findings to spreadsheets

Mobile audit software solves these problems with automated scheduling, reminders and links to digital checklists that can be accessed on a tablet or smartphone. The result is that you can conduct more checks, gather more data and prevent more incidents.

Generating Real-Time Data

Getting real-time data isn’t possible using paper checklists and spreadsheets to conduct inspections. This keeps many safety managers stuck in reaction mode, often spending more time putting out fires than executing incident prevention strategies.

Mobile software provides real-time data that plants can use to take more prompt action on hazards and risks. This allows them to be proactive, rather than having to wait for findings to be entered into spreadsheets. Crunching the data also takes time, compared with software that provides an instant look into trends and patterns.

Audit metrics displayed in a dynamic report on a mobile tablet

The findings can then be used to develop leading indicators based on data such as:

  • Percentage of inspections completed on-time
  • Number of safety observations logged
  • Number of inspections completed weekly or monthly

Developing leading indicators from real-time data helps accelerate safety transformation, providing insights that enable preventive action.

Improving Visibility Into Risk

Managing risk is crucial to safety performance and compliance. Visibility is a challenge when it comes to safety risk management, with many safety managers unaware of risks until an incident occurs. The hidden factory is also a major problem, where undocumented processes like shortcuts introduce unseen risks.

Real-time plant floor safety metrics combined with live dashboards help close this gap. Non-compliances with safety procedures become more visible, so management can take action to correct problems ahead of accidents.

This capability is more important than ever in light of the manufacturing labor shortage. New employees may need additional reinforcement with safety procedures, while other operators may need to fill in at workstations they aren’t fully familiar with. Many plants are having to rearrange manufacturing lines to cope with labor and supply chain shortages, highlighting the need for additional eyes on safety procedures.

Closing the Loop on Problems

One of the basic elements of a culture of safety is addressing hazards in a timely manner. The reason is that when employees see problems being ignored, management loses credibility in terms of commitment to safety.

For example, how seriously would you take a “Safety first!” slogan if you have to step over the same trip hazard every single day? Even worse is if this issue has been pointed out or caused an actual injury in the past.

Mobile inspection software reduces this risk by helping find and fix safety issues faster, allowing you to:

  • Record hazards and observations provided by operators
  • Document on-the-spot mitigations during the inspection
  • Assign action items and due dates to responsible parties at the time an inspection is submitted
  • Escalate issues to management for follow-up

The result: workers see you taking the time to actually solve problems, instead of just ignoring them. This in addition to management’s presence on the plant floor provides visible evidence of your commitment to safety, helping gain critical buy-in from employees.

Transforming plant floor safety can have major impacts on the bottom line, as well as employee engagement. Mobile inspection software like EASE provides key tools for making it happen, generating data that increases visibility, reduces risk and promotes a culture of safety overall.

Jason Holte
Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Ease, Inc.

Jason Holte is the senior product marketing manager for EASE, the innovative mobile platform that helps manufacturers simplify how they administer, conduct and respond to plant floor audits.

Jason began his career at The Behr Paint Company, a leading North American CPG manufacturer. It was at Behr that he developed a passion for enabling quality, safety, and productivity on the shop floor through the use of real-time insights into process and protocol adherence. He considers digital transformation essential to zero error, zero injury manufacturing.

A California native, Jason is a graduate of Concordia University Irvine.