The first checklist apps on smartphones were certainly a step up from carrying around a clipboard to make checkmarks on a printed form.

Among the first uses of these digital tools was for inspecting the work of hotel housekeeping crews. Other industries soon picked up on the possibilities, including the EHS sector. It’s easy to see why; simple safety apps were simple to use for regular audits. Some could even summarize inspection scores in basic spreadsheets.

As it turns out, that wasn’t enough.

Early attempts to turn generic checklist apps into to safety-specific audit tools offered mixed results. Their simplicity made them easy to get into initially, with only pass/fail options from preset observation criteria. But safety directors soon realized that it was hard to get anything truly meaningful out of that data set in the long term.

Beyond recording specific infractions, no truly useful information stood out for continuous improvement or an overall safer workplace. Plus, any promised flexibility turned out to be superficial, revealing the tools’ core one-size-fits-all approach. It quickly became apparent, as the sea of audit responses accumulated month after month, that it was too easy to fall into the ‘data complexity trap.’

Over time, checklist safety apps added what they considered analytics functions. However, those canned charts generally only showed audit accountability metrics and overall scores. Even if EHS staff were to look hard enough to spot a trend, what did it mean? Where were the analytics?

Safety Directors wanted to do more with all that data.

Eventually, more sophisticated digital technologies were developed for conducting inspections, evaluating the resultant data, and putting those results to work. EHS staff could now get a big-picture view, because the mobile app was now integrated into comprehensive safety management suite.

With higher-level analysis and charts, professionals now have the tracking, filtering, and data-slicing capabilities to uncover the hidden source of problems. Higher-level corrective actions could now address more than a single ‘unacceptable’ score.

Custom configuration is key.

With plenty of products now to choose from, software developers have caught up with the EHS management market. The best SaaS vendors understand not only the functional needs, but also the wider real-world challenges, of safety pro’s.

Over the past few years, the software used for audits and other safety functions has become even more flexible. Beyond basic, safety-industry-specific features, software users now have the ability to configure checklists, data tables, analytics charts and workflows to meet the needs of their specific operational requirements.

A new world of possibilities.

Basic checklist safety apps are still around, but typically don’t go much further than collecting inspection results from the shop floor. Even when they’re able to compile data into averages, upward and downward trends can cancel each other out, offering little useful info in the end.

The foremost, state-of-the-art solutions today are still simple to use, but now can reveal meaningful trends and hidden correlations at a glance. With this additional information, you know exactly what to look for, and can immediately update your checklist templates to more accurately reflect your workplace conditions.

One key to this advanced approach is establishing ‘an end in mind’ of creating an overall safer workplace. That strategy, and the real-time performance metrics it depends on, have evolved from basic checklist safety apps that were never meant to aim that high.

 

What features would you look for in a robust safety checklist app?

To understand the possibilities, learn about Safety Indicators’ Mobile App, where configurable inspection checklists are just one of the many useful functions.


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