Workplace safety apps reviewed

Workplace safety apps are a fairly new addition to smart technologies and they are of variable quality and application.  Below is a quick review of some.

Glossary

One of the earliest OHS-related apps and most basic was Derek Viner‘s  Safety101.  This is essentially nothing more than a glossary of risk and safety terminology.  It has not been updated since April 2010.  The potential of this app beyond student use would be as a base for further construction of a safety-wiki or some other contemporary safety product.  The app has several spelling mistakes, needs refreshing as it is showing its age and needs to do so much more so as it is not just an off-Wikipedia curiousity.  The content needs to be given to an app-developer to create a more commercial and useful product.

Luxmeter & Luxmeter Pro

Luxmeter is curious app that uses the iPad camera to determine lighting levels.  It does not claim to be an official, technical, calibrated light meter but does provide a guide to the lux levels in a range of domestic situations. Should these readings be relied on?  Absolutely not.

Luxmeter Pro2 provides a more useful tool as it allows for calibration and more measurement options but as there is no help screen or manual, it is next to useless for the average user.

News

There are a couple of news aggregators that focus on workplace safety topics such as OH&S (developed by Smart Media Innovations) and Safety News (developed by Safety Culture).   Give them a miss and learn how to customise more effective readers and ones that show more respect for copyright.  These apps repackage safety media releases and other content that is already freely available on the internet.  It is risky to use these services when the original content, such as media releases, is already available.  Look to established and polished news readers or go old school and track the websites through your computer with Copernic Tracker, a surprisingly useful tool that pushes website changes to your email address.

iJSA and iAuditor

SafetyCulture has really tried to build its OHS and management apps. It produces iJSA and iAuditor. SafetyAtWorkBlog wrote about iJSA in November 2011 and our comments stand – any app must provide an advantage over paper systems.  This app places control of Job Safety Analysis into the hands of the iPad user who is unlikely to be the employee who needs to access this data.  There are email and printing options but few workplaces, particularly in the construction sector that the app-developers depict on their website, have this capacity.  iPads remain fragile and unsuited for use on a construction site.

iAuditor may have better luck as it is not designed for daily worksite use but the term “audit” is used loosely.  Will this app produce an audit of a safety management system to the International and Australia Standards required? Not really.  There is an AS4801:2001 template available but audit reports need more than a tick of a Yes, No or a N/A, and there are few auditors currently who would see an app template as being a time saver.  There is provision for “a detailed response” in each audit criteria but as iPads have no keyboard, a detailed response is highly unlikely, and taking a photo of a document is insufficient evidence in most audits.  No template seemed to be available for OHSAS18001.

For some of the templates the developers seem to consider an audit to be the same as a hazard assessment or site walk where hazards are ticked of as “safe”, “at risk” or “N/A”.

iAuditor uses all the tricks that iPad provides, signatures written on the screen, the use of the camera to record hazards but the learning curve for use is steep and it is not clear if there are any productivity benefits or time-saving through using this app.

SARA

A UK app is SARA – Simple Accident Reporting App.  This app is truly simple because it does not claim to do everything.  The app provide for minimal incident detail with only three categories of incident – Near Miss/Incident, First Aid or Accident.  The location of the incident is taken by the iPad’s geo-location.  The description of the incident and action taken is through notes, photos, video and/or audio.  The audio option is particularly useful as it avoids the need to fumble with iPad keys or, in this case enlarged iPhone buttons.  It also allows for interviews with witnesses, an advantage over paper systems.  A major problem with this app is that it seemed unable to export the reports so it makes one reliant on the app – good for sales but not necessarily for sharing or analysing.

General problems

There is an inherent problem with some apps, they need to be connected to the internet for their basic operation or for help.  In many cases this is impractical. There is also the matter of backing up any app data as it only seems to be possible through iTunes which is problematic for corporate users.

The lack of a detailed manual for many of these apps is a major deficiency with apps.  It seems that many developers seem to think that the operation of an app is self-explanatory.  It is not.  An app without a manual is like a Tom Waits record without a lyric sheet – sounds fantastic but what is he saying?  With too many apps, they seem useful but would be useful in reality with a manual or at least and downloaded help file.

A future article will focus on those apps designed to meet ergonomic needs of workers.

If you know of a safety-related app, please let us know at the link below.

Kevin Jones

8 thoughts on “Workplace safety apps reviewed”

  1. I can only speak for the near miss, incident & accident reporting app \’SARA\’ (Simple Accident Reporting App) but this is a great app designed for employees (not safety managers) to fill out.

    Our company is using it and the feedback from our employees has been very positive. It just makes the entire process of reporting near misses simpler and hence increases the likelihood of employees actually reporting things. Before \’SARA\’ we estimated it took an employee between 15 to 30 mins to report a near miss (find form, find pen, find camera, fill out form on PC, find cable to connect camera to PC, send form etc) to report a near miss or incident. Now it takes about 2-3 minutes. Not only is faster but the quality and detail of the reports have improved.

  2. Have you seen the latest app launched by eCompliance in Alberta Canada? Lot\’s of potential here, they have not yet included all functionality but you can download the app and play with it. I have already made a wish list and sent it to their designers. Look for eC-Inspection Pad in the App Store.

  3. Only yesterday a mate mentioned he uses iAudit at the large construction site his firm works on. He said it has a JSA production thing in it. I\’m keen to see it in operation, but the thing I pricked my ears up for was his comment that the young\’uns on site \”love it\”.

    O\’course that might be \”love it\” [compared to scribbling out lots of forms] or it might be they like using it a lot.

    Roger, roger, the hope that an app will be all things to all people is well and truly \”yesterday\” – but if on-site help for safe work, and the gathering of data via a smart phone app is working for the young\’uns ya gotta be in front.

    Not so coincidentally, I\’m working on a SWMS system for a small business client that does stuff that can kill. They want to scribble on paper, despite the client being a youngish bloke, with employees about his age. And the big bonus of that is that the information collection is able to be improved and rationalised relatively easily, and cheaply.

    All that said, I gotta dig deeper with these smart phone apps in case there is a gem that is gunna deliver clever things for small businesses.

  4. I just wanted to say that I personally have been in the ohs / whs roles for well over 7 -8 years now & had safety roles in many varied sites from small business to international companies.
    I\’m not saying I know all there is to know about safety, but I can definatly say that the few \”apps\” that I do use have made my job of collecting the relivent data / information a hell of a lot easier.
    My company audits & develops cutomized digital safety management systems, so I know that some of what\’s out there is crap, but there are a few that, as I said make the job a lot quicker & easier. Having the ability to collect relivent & detailed information right there & then allows for less of the information to be lost due to the inevitable gaps in memory of people.
    I personally feel that the better the information the better the issues can be dealt with & resolved.
    Why is it better to have a bit of paper then to have the same information collected on a iPad (smart tablet) or as you didn\’t mention the iAuditor & the systems my company develop can be used through or on desk top , tablet & the iPhone (smart phones).
    I feel it\’s a very powerful & effective tool to have access to as a lot of staff at places I\’ve managed safety at, including construction sites large comercial & small domestic sites to small to medium business right up to some of the largest companies in Australia all had or have very cumbersome paper to digital based systems that take days or weeks of training to use properly. Safety should be easy to understand for everyone & some of these \”apps\” help achieve this.
    If you combine a well developed safety management system with well developed \”apps\” then you will always have better safety, the easier it is for everyone to understand & be involved the better safety is owned by all staff, this then allows for a more involved work force.
    Cheers, Dean

  5. Great post, Kevin, thank you.
    Having seen the tsunami of magic bullet OHS software flood our market over the last few years, I cannot but despair at the lowering of actual standards that most of these snake-oil products cause.
    There is absolutely no software in the world that will ever replace human vigilance in the workplace – what a pity most humans seems to be oblivious of this fact.

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