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.
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.
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.
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.
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.