Safety: There’s an App for That

Kevin O’Donnell, a principal safety professional for the power generation division at NextEra Energy, said his team at Florida Power & Light was already using custom apps and hand held devices to record daily readings for verification of pressures, temperatures, flow, tank levels and other operational parameters during the daily inspections.

“They adapted quickly to this technology, so it was natural to extend the apps to the area of safety,” O’Donnell said. “Without the apps, our employees would need to leave the plant environment and log onto a computer.”

Now, utility workers can report an unsafe condition, attach a photograph, add suggestions and do more tasks without the need to remember to enter the event later.

“Each unsafe condition that is reported and resolved is one fewer hazard and therefore one less opportunity to get injured,” he said.

The custom safety apps used by the team were developed in-house specifically for use on company-issued devices. Using these devices, employees can complete a behavior-based safety observation, access the firm’s safety manual, determine heat stress levels, complete a “lockout/tagout” (LOTO) audit, or report a near miss or unsafe condition including the attachment of a photo.

There’s an App for That
There’s an App for That

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Employees may monitor the status of the reports they send when administrators update the status of reports. Administrative users can also use the dashboard to send out safety notifications, either to one person, a group or the entire organization.

“It’s really an interactive tool that improves overall communication to every employee who has the mobile app,” Sweeney said.

Organizations of all types are using the app, including Head Start in the Early Childhood Education sector to help them maintain safe facilities. For example, one Head Start facility was taking a bus on an outing and found a small crack in the foot well window when children were boarding the bus. They took a picture of it and sent a report, and the administrator about 40 miles away immediately received the report. She was able to determine that the glass was actually not chipped away and not an immediate danger threat,” he said. “

So the children were allowed to proceed while the administrator was able to schedule the glass company to replace the window.It is apparent that each user should have a knowledge of the material I’m presenting, although I do have a “General Hazmat Awareness” training app that anybody could use when first starting out in a profession that involves Hazmat.”

On-the-Spot Reporting

Companies can use private-label reporting apps provided by vendors such as WorkplaceAware. The Parkville, Mo. firm’s solution is made up of two parts — a mobile app and an online dashboard, and the app is branded for the client with its name and company logo, said Rob Sweeney, chief executive and founder. Each employee who downloads the app will use an activation code that pertains to that particular employer.

“This way, the mobile app is associated with the online dashboard and will display each employer’s logo and name,” Sweeney said. “Also, this function lets employers suspend users should they leave employment, or for sending inappropriate reports.”

“Each unsafe condition that is reported and resolved is one fewer hazard and therefore one less opportunity to get injured.” — Kevin O’Donnell, principal safety professional, NextEra Energy

Employees use the app to create reports, view the reports they’ve submitted, including the status of each report, and see alerts and other messages sent by the employer. Employees can also take a picture or use a picture in their camera that they’ve already taken. Moreover, they are able to describe in a free-form field the nature and details of the report, and match up with image with the report.

The focus of the app is primarily to report on near misses, safety violations, or facilities and operations issues that could lead to potential problems in the future, he said.

“Near misses is the big one — that’s where safety managers spend time educating employees about near misses to help them spot issues that occur,” Sweeney said. “For example, a near miss might be when they see an oil spill on the floor and look up and see a leak from a shelf above. That has to be addressed so workers don’t slip and fall, hurting themselves, creating a workers comp issue.”

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