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February 12, 2014
Mobile apps for safety: BLR Safety Summit 2014 preview

Yesterday, we talked with BLR Safety Summit presenter Pam Walaski about the uses and challenges of social media for safety professionals. Today, we continue our conversation with Walaski, focusing this time on how smartphone apps and other mobile technology can make safety professionals’ jobs easier.

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Without question, digital technology has improved and enhanced the way safety professionals do their jobs, says Walaski, a Certified Safety Professional. “It ranges from the use of tablets and apps in the field for auditing and inspecting to end learning, an interactive experience quite different from yesterday’s computer-based learning (CBT),” she says.

Apps for measurement and reference

The number of safety- and health-related apps is skyrocketing. A recent article in Professional Safety (published by the American Society of Safety Engineers) addresses the proliferation of digital resources. The authors discuss popular apps, including iTriage for medical reference, Documents-to-Go for document storage, and resources for regulatory information, including the Dakota EHS Pocket Guide.

Other apps make it easy for users to perform calculations for arc flash protection, calculate a load’s center of gravity, or find quick access to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) fire-protection standards.

A growing number of tool-type apps facilitate measurement. An example is the NIOSH ladder safety app, which uses visual and audio signals to check the angle at which the ladder is positioned. It also includes useful tips for using extension ladders safely. “You download it and put your phone against the side rail of a ladder, and it tells you if you are at the right level,” says Walaski. The app is available for free for both iPhone and Android devices (find it at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/falls). Other apps let you quickly calculate dosimeter readings, assess decibel levels, or conduct lifting calculations. The days of carrying books or manuals into the field are over, Walaski adds.

Tools for audits, training, and presentations

An app growing in popularity in safety circles is iAuditor, which allows users to design and develop custom tools for conducting safety audits or inspections. Users front-load the app with specific site and risk information.

Walaski explains, “You follow along and, at the end, you have a report, versus using a clipboard, camera, and pencil, then spending hours afterward assembling the report. This way, when you walk out of the field, the report is just about ready to go.”

While not specifically safety-related, EverNote is a handy app that stores documents, files, videos, notes, and other materials in one digital “place.” Says Walaski, “If I’m preparing a workshop presentation, I’ll put everything in EverNote like my handout, my PowerPoint®, links to statistical information, photos, etc. I open the EverNote file and everything I need is right there.”

EverNote and similar apps are also useful for other bulky projects like employee training, safety committees, policy updates, or job hazard analysis creation.

Walaski acknowledges what many (especially older) safety professionals know—change is hard, especially when it involves a digital device. “But most safety people I know have a true passion for what they do, and they’re generally willing to take advantage of any opportunity,” she adds. “The dilemma is that people who aren’t tech-savvy might feel a little nervous getting started.”

To hear more from Pam Walaski, attend the BLR Safety Summit from April 9-11, 2014, at The Westin Buckhead in Atlanta, where she’ll give a presentation titled Safety Professionals in the Digital Age. Check out the full conference agenda and register here!

Need more reasons to attend?
Check out this BLR infographic for 10 of them:

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