There is an average of 12 job-related fatalities every day in the U.S., according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 893 incidents are listed on their website so far in 2016 alone, each involving a serious injury or fatality to one or more employees.
If you spend every workday sitting in front of your computer with the occasional walk to the break room to top off your coffee, safety likely is not top of mind. Yet, for millions of workers across the globe, their jobs can put them in some extremely high-risk environments where valuing safety can mean the difference between life and death.
This critical need to help people reduce mistakes is very apparent to Luke Anear, who founded the company SafetyCulture in 2004 in an effort to help organizations better manage safety in the workplace. His solution goes well beyond safety. By leveraging technology to help people conduct audits, SafetyCulture can help reduce human error and increase consistency, all while reducing process waste.
I recently had a chance to chat with Luke to learn a bit about how his company is doing just that.
Anear got his start as a private investigator, charged with ensuring that insurance claimants were as injured as they reported. It was during his tenure as an investigator that he realized how broken the system truly was. “The entire safety system was mobilized into action after the fact. Someone gets injured or killed and legislators move to create legislation, for example,” Anear shared.
Setting out to find a more proactive way to drive safety behaviors in the workplace, Anear examined the market and came to a realization. “Checklists have been used for years to help ensure safety performance,” he says, “but nobody created them so that the information could be analyzed quickly and easily in order to drive faster change.” Thus SafetyCulture iAuditor, now the most used inspection app in the world, was born.
If you aren’t a commercial airline pilot, the concept of checklists may leave you scratching your head. But they are used around you all the time to help ensure that essential tasks are completed in a safe and efficient way. Procedural checklists also ensure accountability for auditing and supervision purposes.
By taking these paper audit checklists and digitizing them, SafetyCulture helps management ensure key tasks are being completed on time and to standard. In addition, the software allows their employees to share information much faster than ever before.
Let’s take the example of a food market that Luke shared with me. By equipping the workforce with a tablet or smartphone and the technology to conduct inspections digitally, employees in the market were able to carry out their audits quickly and consistently. If they came across an issue, say overripe produce on the shelf, they could take a digital picture and upload it so that others in the organization could understand the situation on the ground.
Now, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal at face value but consider this: You are the owner of a chain of markets and you just find out through a digital audit that you’ve been buying wholesale produce that is overripe and becomes unsellable too quickly at twenty of your markets. Understanding this quickly and changing your produce vendor can add up to big savings. How long would it have taken to receive and process twenty hard copy inspection sheets from your markets in order to come to that same conclusion?
The business case for leveraging technology to drive inspections and checklist activity makes sense. What Anear didn’t expect to find was that organizations using his software also began to experience a shift in the way employees interacted with their employers. The ability to report and capture images in this way empowers employees to take ownership in proactively identifying issues and discussing potential solutions in near real-time.
“By speeding up the data collection and management process, we are able to give leaders the ability to drive positive change faster,” says Anear. “The use of checklists and audits drives compliance behavior, which is necessary but not sufficient. The real power is when people start moving beyond simple compliance and they use the tools they are provided to add preemptive value to their organizations. These tools are one way to give people a voice.”
With over a million inspections being conducted each month through the SafetyCulture iAuditor platform, Anear feels that it is adding value at scale, and his customers are feeling the positive effects. Luke shared an example of a construction company who uses their app who has conducted 2.5 million work hours without a single lost-time injury.
Of course, in order for tech solutions like this to work effectively, leaders within organizations must truly care enough about safety to invest resources in training, technology, and equipment that drives safe behavior. Simply throwing an app at an issue may seem like a silver bullet, but tools alone cannot create a culture that truly values safety in all aspects of the work environment.
Still, giving employees a voice and the right tools empowers them to take a more active role in their work. Technology like SafetyCulture iAuditor allows these organizations to collect data and react faster to potential issues that may adversely affect productivity or safety. And considering that safety is a very real concern for thousands of organizations and their employees around the world, these proactive solutions can mean a meaningful difference in the number of work-related injuries.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.