Occupational health and safety and digitization of processes

Occupational health and safety are very important areas in the operation of every organization.

However, from the perspective of digitalization, which is currently very fashionable, health and safety issues are usually ignored when building a digitalization strategy and determining the scope of IT system implementation requirements.

In practice, occupational health and safety (HSE) issues and regulations are directly related to all aspects of an organization’s operation. However, from the perspective of IT solutions, this is an area usually separated from systems supporting the enterprise’s operational processes. This approach favors the siloing of the occupational health and safety area, which results in the fact, that the needs for digitization in this area are not widely taken into account during the implementation of IT systems, and data on occupational safety is not effectively transferred to the occupational health and safety area in order to automate this critical area.

An example of such an operational area, critical from the point of view of safety, are maintenance and asset maintenance processes. These processes are of great importance for companies e.g. from the manufacturing, mining or transport industries, especially those with extensive installations and large numbers of facilities requiring regular maintenance and supervision.

Maintenance processes have a huge impact on work safety and require supervision during their implementation from the perspective of ensuring the safety of people performing maintenance activities. These processes, when properly conducted, also have an impact on reducing potential threats. Despite this, IT systems within the area of maintenance and assets (CMMS and EAM) commonly offer only limited functions and support only basic operational tasks such as registration of maintenance activities, inventory transactions related to maintenance, or analysis of equipment failure from a cost perspective.

Typically, these systems completely ignore health and safety aspects, in particular:

  • Documenting maintenance activities and collecting data to the extent required for legal health and safety procedures
  • Risk and threat analysis
  • Registration of incidents related to work safety
  • Manage device configuration changes taking into account security requirements
  • Work permit processing
  • Managing the separation of serviced devices from sources of electricity and other utilities to ensure safety.

Occupational health and safety issues are often “thrown” into separate modules, where data is recorded and activities are carried out separately from the maintenance system, without any systemic connection.

This state of affairs carries many risks and limitations. IT systems supporting the area of renovation and maintenance of assets do not require the implementation of tasks in accordance with the requirements of security procedures, recording the data required by these regulations and ensuring adequate analysis of threats. As a result, the requirements resulting from occupational health and safety regulations are not digitized, handled separately, not automatically, and the data needed in the area of safety may be incomplete and outdated and not related to actual maintenance activities.

This makes it difficult for organizations to ensure compliance with legal regulations and internal health and safety procedures. It creates a greater risk of not meeting these requirements. People responsible for occupational health and safety do not receive systemic support in supervising staff activities in accordance with occupational health and safety regulations, which increases the risk of their work and the workload.

The source of this problem is the treatment of the maintenance area and the occupational health and safety area as one when purchasing IT systems for SUR management (CMMS/EAM). For this reason, the needs of the occupational health and safety area are not included in the requirements and are not met during implementation. People responsible for maintenance/property maintenance, focus on basic operational functions, trying to automate the most important activities. For this reason, other areas, such as occupational health and safety, do not receive any added value from the implementation of a CMMS/EAM system, and lose the opportunity for real digitization and information integration of the occupational health and safety area with operational processes.

What does a modern CMMS/EAM system offer in terms of health and safety support?

Meanwhile, modern EAM solutions such as IFS Ultimo can comprehensively support occupational health and safety requirements as part of the implementation of maintenance and asset maintenance activities. This integration happens naturally. As a result, health and safety requirements are not just additional procedures recorded and reported somewhere in the “health and safety system”, but become a natural element of maintenance and service work. They influence the configuration of the renovation system and the scope of collected and analyzed data. Thanks to this, we achieve real digitalization in the area of occupational health and safety (integration with maintenance operations) and real support for this area.

The tasks and functions performed by IFS Ultimo in the area of occupational health and safety include:

  • Recording information and taking into account restrictions resulting from occupational safety guidelines

When carrying out maintenance-related operations, e.g. renovation tasks, the system allows you to record data required by health and safety procedures, e.g. mandatory documentation. Additionally, the system allows for verification and registration of the fact that defined safety restrictions are met during the implementation of work, e.g. required staff competences, permits for work implementation.

  • Registration and analysis of security incidents

The system allows for easy registration of incident reports (e.g. accidents) or events that threatened an accident. This allows for a link between incidents and the equipment, and activities that caused the incident, as well as between incidents and follow-up activities.

The system allows people reporting an incident to track the progress of activities related to handling the incident, which increases commitment and willingness to report. This allows you to focus on risk reduction, learn from incidents or near misses, reduce the number of incidents, limit the impact of incidents, and record, analyze and monitor all incidents.

  • Configuration change management

The system carries out change processes in machines and devices, taking into account safety requirements. This allows for, among other things: a structured change management process, the use of standard checklists for verifying changes, thanks to which the risk of missing a requirement is lower, and digital approval and receipt of changes enables the identification of persons involved in the approval process. Thanks to this, a number of benefits are obtained from the perspective of occupational safety, e.g.: concentration of the process on risk reduction, analysis of the structure of changes to be implemented and the consequences of these changes for safety, a procedure ensuring that with each modification all necessary activities related to the assessment of occupational health and safety requirements will be performed and recorded. Therefore enabling sufficient risk reduction.

  • Risk Analysis

These functions allow you to assess risk, especially for highly dangerous work, and also allow you to, for example, verify whether risk analysis has been included in work permits.

  • Lockout Tagout support

The system allows you to control and verify whether all conditions for disconnecting the device from electrical installations are met before approval of permits for work on the installation, and allows you to verify whether all tasks have been completed and closed before reconnecting the installation. The system can be integrated with automation to download data directly from systems that control the disconnection and connection of the installation. This improves work safety and enables full supervision.

The indicated functions are only some of the possibilities of IFS Ultimo supporting the occupational health and safety area in traffic and asset maintenance processes. Considering how much support this system provides to specialists responsible for security, it is worth considering its implementation. For these types of functions to be taken into account when purchasing CMMS/EAM systems, people responsible for the occupational health and safety area in the company should cooperate with the maintenance area in creating requirements, and the maintenance area should take into account such requirements for the system.

Author: Bartłomiej Żak

Business Consulting Director