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Construction technology is evolving rapidly. Just over 100 years ago, the first hydraulic cranes and combustion rollers were introduced. Today, 50-storey buildings can be built in three years or less. 

What was technology of the distant future just a decade ago, is now taken for granted. Connected equipment, telematics, mobile apps, and 3D printing are all a reality. Tomorrow, augmented reality (AR) headsets will enrich construction workers’ field of vision with useful data; sci-fi-like exoskeletons will even enhance workers’ strength and endurance – reducing the risk of injury and increasing productivity. 

New tech, more productivity? 

For all the rapid innovation taking place, however, on-site productivity has actually plateaued in the last few decades. The fact is, shiny new tools and concepts aside, many aspects of construction have been slow to evolve, and more often than not, it’s admin-heavy backend processes that are left to stagnate, with a trickledown impact on productivity on the ground. 

The Health and Safety headache

Health and Safety compliance is a vitally important component within the construction industry. Despite ample measures and significant progress made, the construction industry remains one of the most dangerous to work in – in 2018, there were 21 deaths per 100,000 workers, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Because of the inherent risks, whether that’s working from height, moving objects, unstable terrain, objects or surroundings, excessive noise, hand-arm vibration, or hazardous material, to name but a few of the most common risks – construction operators are naturally held to stringent health and safety standards. On the flipside, compliance is a complex, time-consuming process, whose demands will differ greatly between organisations, sites, and individuals. 

Mountains of paperwork

Good intentions only go so far in cutting through that administrative clutter. From small subcontractors to national housing giants, ensuring effective compliance is a process of tracking down requisite paperwork, chasing individual workers for responses, tracing email chains, and sharing intel at sporadic board meetings. Depending on the nature of the company, site, and work, Health and Safety compliance will comprise the completion of documents from construction phase health & safety plans, health & safety policy, and health & safety files, risk assessments, COSHH assessments, among a long list of others. 

And not only must all these documents be correct, up to date, and understood by everybody on-site, they must also be quick to produce when an inspection takes place or an incident requires it. 

Time to make Health & Safety paperless

Transform, simplify and centralise the complex processes and disjointed documents, and not only are there positive implications for site safety, but there is also huge potential to increase site productivity – saving time, money, and the effects of overworking. 

As construction evolves, it’s time to digitise and consolidate archaic processes and paper trails. Here are the seven key advantages to going paperless with Construction Health and Safety compliance.

1. Automate manual processes

Reliance on paper documentation means a specific set of records, forms and instructions must be distributed to and completed by individuals, before being returned and filed correctly and carefully. If an information request is made, such as in the case of a site plant inspection or the need to share incident reports with another site, hard copies must be tracked down. 

By unifying all required documentation into a cloud-hosted solution, actions can be set up to automatically send certain forms to new starters, for example, or to forward completed forms to a supervisor to e-sign. Healthy and Safety executives can customise automated workflows, while the software handles the majority of the frustrating and error-prone admin work. 

2. Remove complex paper trails

As anybody working in the construction industry will know, site offices can be filled with stacks of paperwork. Organised or not, it’s not always quick or easy to track required documents on demand. If you’re providing handouts to workers, meanwhile, it’s not unusual for copies to be misplaced…

Now, site supervisors and health and safety managers can store all their required documents in a single secure hub and distribute them to their teams with just the click of a mouse or tap of a screen. 

3. Improved auditing

Audits enable organisations to protect employees, customers and visitors from harm, but they can also safeguard the existence of the company. If a serious incident does occur, the business could face serious consequences. Ensuring documentation is fully transparent and accountable is therefore vital, and will make regular Health and Safety audits a lot more painless. Digital storage means documents are easily trackable, searchable, and verifiable from a single device, at any time, to anybody that has permission to access them. 

4. Collaboration 

Health and Safety compliance management is a big undertaking for one individual, but by going paperless, the task can be distributed among multiple stakeholders, so documents can be checked, updated, and shared in real-time, whether on-site or remotely.

By storing documents in a central application, users can communicate and share updates without needing to use multiple channels, ensuring information is heard, processes are sped up and errors cut down.

5. Contactless record keeping

The events of 2020 have placed a new onus on contactless alternatives to traditional, paper-based processes. While primarily this has been to reduce the chances of viral transmission, it has spurred a greater movement towards paperless technology across industries from banking, retail, real estate, and, of course, construction. 

By its nature, the Health and Safety compliance process is one that should lead in being optimised to reduce risk; by digitising the process, fewer documents must change hands. 

6. Better awareness for all

In-person site safety briefings are an important procedure for Health and Safety on construction sites, but information can easily be missed by individuals. In some cases, the pressure to speak up in front of a group can lead some individuals to miss important information that they may not fully understand.  

Keeping all documents to hand in one place digitally means workers can access the information they need when they want to. Using a Health and Safety compliance platform, they can even confidentially direct questions to their supervisors. Better access to information on workers’ own terms means better Health and Safety awareness on-site. 

7. Intelligence sharing

Previously, incident reports may have been brought to light only at sporadic board meetings. Now, digital Health and Safety solutions can enable reports and methods to be shared between sites, and even other companies on the fly. Stakeholders can see data such as images, timestamps, and text relating to ‘near misses’ live through a central reporting system. 

With an easily auditable digital trail of documents and reports, historical data analysis can provide a greater depth of insight, enabling companies to identify trends and patterns that could contribute to better safety procedures and improvements to construction industry safety as a whole. All this contributes to a culture of real-time awareness, knowledge sharing, and development.

Making your Health and Safety compliance process paperless will benefit your company’s safety and increase productivity.

The Illeso Health and Safety Compliance Application, in partnership with Intelastel, is the quickest and simplest way to enjoy all the advantages we’ve discussed here. Find out more here.

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