Occupational safety through digitization

Alexander Stern
Dipl. Ing. & Industry expert
08th June 2020 | 4 min
Companies are required by law to comply with a large number of occupational safety requirements and rules for the protection of employees in the workplace. The rules are created in cooperation with professional associations, universities and other industrial science institutes. The primary goal is to maintain the health of employees and reduce the risk of accidents. Furthermore, the company health management system contributes to a good working atmosphere and risk management. When violated, the costs and brand damage can be considerable. Fines of several tens of thousands of euros are not uncommon. In the case of serious accidents, the compensation paid by employers can quickly rise by a power of ten. Careless handling of safety standards can also lead to company closures, as the current Corona cases in large slaughterhouses have shown. 
Employers and employees bear a very high level of responsibility  
The introduction of a fixed system to guarantee the minimum standards comes with a high effort. It includes the conduction of risk analyses, the procurement of necessary protective equipment, training and repeated instructions, documentation and review of the standards. A good safety culture that forges sustainability can be recognized, among other things, by the fact that essential cornerstones of occupational safety are firmly anchored in the processes. They are comprehensibly visualized at the workplace. A further decisive factor for success is that everyone adheres equally to the rules and has understood and accepted them. This applies to all employees in a company, including managers, who have a special role model function.  
IT as a central component of a comprehensive concept: occupational safety through digitization 
To ensure that the system is always up to date and that changes in procedures and specifications are integrated directly, the usage of IT-supported processes such as digital safety instructions is crucial. Effective and efficient companies are characterized by the fact that they use a conclusive documentation system for their work safety. This includes process descriptions, checklists, test protocols, instruction documents, data sheets and even notices/information letters.  

The guidelines need to be integrated in the process executions in such a way that it is carried out on site by the employees themselves and with little additional time expenditure. Digital checklists and test protocols make a significant contribution to quality assurance in occupational safety. Spot checks by safety engineers can then be reduced to a minimum. Processes become leaner and more transparent.  

Enhance responsibility on site and avoid human errors

Human Factors training is standard in safety-critical companies. The dirty dozen of human errors in the field of aviation include among others complacency, lack of knowledge as well as faulty communication or distraction. And preciselyspecific documentation and control checklists help to avoid procedural errors and the risk of accidents. If employees are actively supported in ensuring protective measures to maintain their own health, this has a positive effect on number of accidents, employee satisfaction and the overall cooperation between colleagues and managers.  

With the help of digital documentation systems, occupational safety is thus an important element in preserving the long-term success of a company. 

To the author:

Industry expert Alexander Stern is a lecturer and associate lecturer on safety management and leadership at the Rupprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg and an independent consultant at Stern+Kramer. He also has over 30 years of experience in management and other senior positions in aircraft maintenance.

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