Workplace accidents and on-the-job injuries cost businesses and the economy significantly. Data compiled by Safe Work Australia shows that the number of serious claims for workplace accidents has declined from over 133,000 in 2000 to about 113,000 in 2019 which is the most recent data. While that reduction is good news, workplace accidents are still a major issue for Australian companies.

The good news is that the frequency of those injuries, measured per million hours worked has fallen as the number of people participating in the workforce has increased. That fall in the frequency of serious injury claims is driven, to a significant extent, by the advent of new technology. There have been a number of important developments that have enabled businesses to make workplaces safer for all staff.

Collecting, storing and sharing hazard information

The days of recording hazards on a rarely updated whiteboard that was only accessible once a worker had already traversed a site are behind us. Field workers need to be informed before they arrive on site. There may be many occasions when they visit a location they have never encountered before. That might be with a new client or in a recently updated or altered plant room. In those situations, it’s critical that the worker has up-to-date information about what they may encounter.

Field service management software (FSMS) is about much more than allocating jobs. It can be a rich source of information for field service workers. As well job locations, checklists and other information that is specific to the task they need to carry out, FSMS can alert workers to hazards they might encounter.

For example, if they need specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the software can alert them before they leave the depot for the job. It can also provide information about the environment (Is it hot or cold? Will they need a ladder and harness?) so they can arrive prepared to deal with whatever they face.

FSMS also allows field service workers to add and update information easily from the site visit so they can ensure whoever comes next is armed with the most current information.

A picture tells a thousand words

When a field service worker arrives on site, having a visual aide to assist them is invaluable. Providing photos and other illustrations can help workers to prepare when they enter a potentially hazardous situation.

For example, when accessing a piece of equipment that is difficult to reach, a map and set of photos can guide them. Or, when they need to reach equipment that requires a ladder, harness or other safety equipment, a visual guide can help them find anchor points that are known to be secure.

When a worker identifies a new safety issue, they can provide notes and photos when providing documentation to the customer and the rest of their team. Being able to easily capture this information means they can provide more complete safety assessments and reports, ensuring that the best possible information is captured and shared.

Clear communication is a critical element in finding, documenting and sharing safety information. Easily capturing that information is a key to continually improving important information about hazards and safety.

Build safety into the workflow

Field service workers often find themselves in high pressure situations. When a critical piece of equipment has failed or service needs to be interrupted to make a repair they need to work quickly and carefully.

Building safety procedures into the workflow helps ensure that corners aren’t cut during those situations. When the worker opens the job in the field management software, they can be provided with a full set of instructions including what PPE they should be using, whether they need extra equipment such as harnesses, and access instructions, including maps and photos, to ensure they work on the task safely.

Building safety into the workflow ensures it’s not an afterthought but an integrated part of the work.

Keeping track of workers

The advent of smart devices with integrated GPS means that it’s possible to know where workers are. This is critical when they are working in potentially hazardous locations. When a worker is allocated a job it’s possible to estimate how long that job will take. As well as being useful information for scheduling, it means companies can keep track of when a worker enters and leaves a site where there may be an increased risk of injury.

When a worker exceeds the amount of time they are expected to be in that situation without checking in, an alert can be generated to remind them to inform someone that they are safe. If they don’t do that, the matter can be escalated by dispatching someone to ensure they are safe.

The same system can also include a duress alarm so, if the worker finds themselves in an unexpected position, they can easily raise an alarm.

Workplace safety is an important obligation. When workers are safe at work, they are more productive and can deliver services to customers more reliably. By using all the capability of your technology, including your field service management software, you can build safety into the fabric of service delivery.