When a company approaches us, it’s usually because their existing EHS system is not up to standard and they need something new. It doesn’t meet their requirements any more, or it simply has grown old and is not running as it once did. Keeping up with technology in EHS management is important for large organizations that not only wish to keep their employees safe, but want to maintain a strong brand image, increase efficiency, boost employee morale and gain insight into how their EHS performance could always be improving.

It’s essential when planning the implementation of a large piece of software that you get exactly what you’re looking for. EHS software can cost anywhere upwards of $100,000 in the first year according to independent analyst firm Verdantix, so ensuring it is scalable and meets all your requirements is absolutely crucial in maximizing ROI.

Often the starting point for most EHS Managers or Directors is diagnosing where your existing program is not performing. Is the task of building reports from data too complicated? Can near-misses be reported easily? Who actually uses the system? These considerations are important in deciding where to go with your EHS software. We’ve put together a list of the 10 most common complaints we’ve heard from companies about their existing EHS processes. If a number of these complaints are all too familiar, it might be time to upgrade.

1. Follow up actions non-existent or are un-trackable

Understanding which follow up actions are critical and actually getting people do follow them through is vital in moving towards operational excellence. Old software that does not support any type of follow up action module is a disadvantage to the EHS Manager and may allow certain tasks to fall through the cracks. Additionally, if there’s no tracking for follow up actions, EHS Managers may have to manually chase their staff up. Being able to view assigned actions from a dashboard, including if the action is overdue, makes the job of ensuring everything is completed on time a lot easier and less time-consuming.

2. Reporting of targeted information by various different measures is not possible

Reporting of meaningful targeted data for different operations within the organization, e.g. tailored dashboards, can be troublesome with older programs. Why is this function important? The Site EHS Manager may not need the same host of information as the EHS Director. Different geographical locations may demand local syntax in forms and specific views of certain areas. Having targeted information immediately on hand can speed up analyses and boost efficiency.

3. Difficulty in pulling data from 3rd party systems

Older systems may be unable to pull data from other programs or use 3rd party data within the software. For example, time sheets from a 3rd party system or energy consumption for Environmental KPIs. This can be a problem when collaborating with subcontractors, acquiring a new subsidiary, or even when uploading data that was recorded in a different program.

4. User adoption is low or staff avoid using the system

If a piece of software is complicated to use, chances are staff will avoid using it for reporting incidents and near-misses. Difficulty is listed by La Duke on EHS Today as the third top reason workers often don’t report near-misses. This can prove highly damaging, and can end up in performance reviews being skewed. Ultimately, it can result in an incident that could have been prevented. New developments such as mobile reporting have been seen to significantly improve the level of reporting, as reported by many of our clients.

5. We’re unable to allow 3rd parties (e.g. contractors) access to data on the system

People want to allow contractor employees to both fill in forms and be able to access the information produced by reports. If a construction firm is often using contractors, they’re just as likely to witness a near-miss as company employees. Furthermore, the contractor or JV Partner will likely require access to your EHS data.

6. The lack of investment in EHS

Everyone talks about EHS being important, but it’s often difficult to secure budget to be spent on it. Old processes may be the way they are because executives can’t see the tangible benefits in upgrading, and EHS Managers are left with programs no longer fit for purpose. On top of this, staffing inefficiencies are often cited. Are there enough staff who understand the system? How long does it take to log an incident? Not having the resources to efficiently use their system is a common complaint.

7. Data capture methods are too basic and data quality is low

One size does not fit all! Flexibility such as attachments or the ability to change a form to meet the requirements of your business – or subsections of the business – can significantly aid the investigation process. Old software doesn’t offer the same flexibility in capturing information as what’s now on the market.

8. Old systems just collect data – they don’t produce meaningful information

Capturing the data is only half the story. With modern EHS software that is tailorable, dashboards can be created for individual businesses, and even for subsections within those businesses. Being able to immediately understand large amounts of data in the form of charts, graphs, KPIs, action statuses and more is a huge benefit to EHS Managers. Exporting capabilities are also strengthened in newer software to allow easy file sharing.

9. Mergers and acquisitions raise problems with our processes related to data volume, IT inconsistency and costs of complex licensing

  • Increasing numbers of staff, sites and, naturally, incidents can be enough to throw old systems that are not designed for the expansion of organizations. Firms that have in excess of 10,000 employees require the flexibility that only the most up to date technology can offer.
  • Company growth by acquisition can mean a lack of consistency across the full organization in which IT processes and systems are used. This causes problems relating to complaint #3 – pulling data from 3rd party systems.
  • Complex licensing (price per user) can run up high costs for companies with growing numbers of staff. Growing organizations are better off with systems that are charged at a base-rate instead of per user.

10. It takes too long for an incident to be reported

This is a common one with companies who are still using paper-based EHS management processes. The length of time elapsed between the incident occurring and a form being filled out is concerning, as it allows room for error and sheer human forgetfulness. This issue can be addressed with the use of mobile technologies that make the task of filling in a form a whole lot easier, and quicker. In his post on the subject, Paul Leavoy of LNS Research discusses the benefits of mobility in EHS and its abilities to improve performances.

These are just 10 of the complaints that we’ve come across of EHS teams on their existing processes or EHS department. There’s also issues surrounding ongoing configuration, multiple log-in requirements, and complexity of software. However, every EHS department is different; an out-of-the-box solution might be enough for one company but not for another. To meet the unique requirements of separate organizations, many systems these days can be either completely customized or left as-is. It’s even better for the end-users if the software is built on IT that staff are already familiar with, which has a proven record of successful deployments. If you are experiencing similar complaints to those listed above, it might be time to invest in a new solution that will make your life a whole lot easier.

In our view, if employee safety is part of your company’s mission statement, it should definitely be part of its continuous improvement program.