Whether a company is seeking to move from paper or Excel® to its first automated reporting system or whether it is upgrading to a cloud-based reporting system, the right mobile app experience is a crucial part of an effective environment, health, and safety (EHS) platform.
Mobile technology, when done well, can make a huge difference in the time spent on documentation for several key areas of EHS, including:
- Incident management;
- Audits and inspections; and
- Corrective and preventive actions.
But for a mobile system to work, it must work with you and your employees, no matter where they are. Here are some critical questions to ask about any mobile platform.
1. Is the platform’s app native to the device you plan to use it on?
An application designed specifically for the device it resides on offers increased functionality that is more adaptable to the mobile screen in use. Whether Android or iOS, a native app gives the user the best-possible interaction with the device—what designers call the ideal “user experience.” In EHS reporting, seamless functionality could save valuable response time during an emergency.
2. Does the hand-held app work even when offline?
Imagine a worker is exposed to a production line chemical. Instead of rushing to lay hands on hard-copy safety data sheets (SDSs), what if you could quickly pull up that chemical’s SDS on the phone in your hand? Alternatively, imagine the mobile-based app could flag a potential hazard or identify a preventive action BEFORE an injury occurred, even in the areas of your facility or work zone with little or no connectivity.
3. How is information kept secure?
In a world full of hackers and intellectual property thieves, it’s vital to know how a mobile app and its cloud-based data storage are protected. At a minimum, any platform should require authentication to access company details and reports.
For a hand-held device, a common biometric authentication is a thumbprint. Other entry methods might include a unique, complex password or a personal PIN for each user. In any case, understanding how the platform and the information it manages stay secure is a crucial part of evaluating it.
4. Is the app easy to operate, even for users who might be wearing personal protective equipment like gloves or goggles or who are working in the darkest, least cellular-friendly corners of your facility?
Design elements like small buttons, tiny text, or a long scrolling page of information can hinder data entry and prevent teams from successfully adopting reporting via handheld. If an incident report is five scrolling pages of tiny check boxes and repetitive text, no one will complete documentation, especially when it’s urgent. A usable and effective app-based solution should feel easier to work with, not more difficult.
5. Off the shelf, customizable, or both?
Some mobile reporting tools are one-size-fits-all with fixed data types. Others are designed according to a company’s exact specifications. In our experience with designing mobile solutions at KPA, the best systems are a little bit of both—starting with a baseline of content that most companies need to track and report and then adding elements to meet our clients’ individual business needs.
Asking these questions can help narrow the very crowded field of mobile technology down to the tried-and-tested tools that are designed with the real needs of EHS reporting in mind. Any mobile reporting tool you adopt should improve workflow and information sharing every day so when it matters most, like in an emergency or during an inspection, your team has the resources they need at their fingertips.
|Kathryn Carlson is the Vice President of Product Management at KPA, a leading provider of EHS and workforce compliance software and services for midsize companies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.|