Mobile devices can help improve plant worker safety, ensure compliance with safety regulations and reduce costs at the same time. Thanks to advances in mobile hardware and software, safety management can now play a considerable role in broader efforts to enhance plant operations.
Worker safety has always been a top priority for manufacturers. But until recent years, inspection and safety compliance management (ISCM) technology had lagged other manufacturing technologies that have driven more efficient and cost-effective industrial processes. Increasingly sophisticated software and equipment have transformed plant operations, yet safety compliance continues to be stuck in a time warp of pencils, paper and filing cabinets.
With today’s technologies, the decision to go mobile is easier than ever before. Here’s how it works. Mobile handheld devices are used to read RFID tags or barcodes, which can be attached to virtually any type of equipment where safety is a factor: slings used in heavy lifting, harnesses, fire extinguishers and much more. Used in combination with ISCM software, a record of each inspection is automatically stored in a secure, cloud-based infrastructure.
Inspectors can use the system to conduct facility-wide audits and to verify the safety certification of each item is up to date. Moreover, such systems are also suited for tracking employee training and certifications in much the same way they are used to track assets.
A record of each inspection is permanently available for review by inspectors, safety managers and compliance officers, ensuring a facility always ready for a surprise audit.
The benefits are greater efficiency and reliability in both workplace safety and regulatory compliance. Mobile ISCM systems, such as Toronto-based Field ID, overcome challenges faced by many plants: the complexity of managing safety inspections for numerous pieces of equipment; safety audit preparedness; accident readiness; and more.
Here is a look at some of the most common challenges:
Lots of equipment, too much paperwork
Larger plants may have thousands of pieces of equipment requiring periodic safety compliance inspections. This can generate a huge paperwork burden.
Mobile safety compliance systems make it possible to instantly identify each unique piece of equipment and automatically determine if it complies with safety regulations. These setups are sutied for handling safety inspections as they automatically upload results to cloud-based infrastructure. Electronic inspection certificates can be generated directly from the web. Paper, clipboards and filing cabinets are taken out of the picture.
A tangle of safety standards
Different types of equipment are subject to different safety standards and varying inspection schedules. This generates a complex web of inspections and standards that can overwhelm paper-based compliance management. For manufacturers with multiple locations in different jurisdictions, the complexity is amplified by variances in standards.
Mobile ISCM systems bring order to this complexity by automatically identifying each piece of equipment, and linking it to its unique safety certification checklist and compliance record. In effect, safety standards are built right into the system, with all documentation digitized and securely stored in the cloud. This takes the guesswork out of inspections and ensures compliance throughout the plant. Technicians can even use the software to schedule inspections for individual pieces of equipment, according to the standards and schedule applicable to each item.
With numerous pieces of equipment scattered throughout a facility, how does one find out quickly and with certainty whether an individual item not only complies with safety standards but also is safe for workers to use? Paper records housed in back-office filing cabinets make it difficult, if not impossible, to confirm safety and compliance status on the spot.
ISCM software, combined with mobile devices and bar codes or RFID tags, provide plant managers with instant access to the information they need. The status of any piece of equipment can be checked in real time simply by scanning it with a mobile reader, reducing the risk of non-compliance. More importantly, workers can know right away if a piece of machinery is safe to use.
Safety compliance audits can happen at any time, without any advance notice. When an audit does occur, the search for paper records can become a scramble to prove compliance: Is every piece of equipment accounted for? Where is the documentation proving compliance? Are the records up to date?
Mobile ISCM systems like Field ID digitize all compliance records and store them securely in the cloud. Reports and safety data can be produced in real time, day or night.
Despite a company’s best efforts, accidents can happen unexpectedly. Should an accident occur at a plant, will they be ready for the investigation that follows? Cumbersome, paper-based systems can add to the challenge of quickly proving safety standards compliance.
Mobile systems make proving compliance fast and easy, 24/7. Not only do they expedite post-accident investigations, but they also reduce the risk of fines and other sanctions that can result if paper records are out of date or cannot be located.
Mobile safety inspection and compliance solutions can be applied to virtually any manufacturing operation. Food processing plants, to cite just one example, can use mobile systems to ensure their food manufacturing processes comply with strict health and safety regulations.
Whatever the type of plant, the questions asked are much the same:
- Do we have the proper records for all our equipment?
- When was the last time our equipment was serviced and maintained?
- What must we do to maintain compliance?
- Are we ready for a safety audit?
- Are we conducting and storing the required safety inspections?
- Can we provide safety traceability?
- Is the training and certification of our employees up to date?
Mobile safety compliance systems make it possible for plant managers, safety managers, technicians and CIOs to have the right answers to these questions at their fingertips.
Somen Mondal is the CEO of Toronto-based Field ID. For more information, visit www.fieldid.com.