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February 22, 2017
Mobile web apps turn your smartphone from a toy to a tool

By Dr. Isabel Perry

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Welcome to 21st century safety, where mobile devices (smart phones and tablets) can be used for more than texting, finding directions on the GPS and catching Pokémon. Safety procedures, guidance documents, checklists, JSA’s, etc., can be available for employees anytime, anywhere, on any mobile device. In 2020, over 50 percent of the workforce will be Generation X and Generation Y; they have lived with mobile devices in their hands since childhood. Even more amazing, proud parent/grandparents have posted photos on Facebook of their Generation Z babies holding a smart phone in the crib.

Organizations can take advantage of new technologies available today and turn their mobile devices from toys to information and training tools by engaging with employees at their location. No longer is it necessary to be tethered to electricity (desk-tops and e-learning); break free of that power-cord and “think mobile.” This technology is not coming; it is here and you do not need to be a computer programmer to take advantage of it.

Before we review specific examples of how mobile web apps are being used for safety, let us take a quick review of why mobile web apps are beneficial.

  • You have 24/7 control of your content to change and adapt as you move through your own customized back-end dashboard.
  • Changes on a mobile web app can be made quickly. Unlike a downloadable native app, no third-party approval is needed to push the content to your organization (i.e. Apple/I-phone).
  • The cost to develop a mobile web app and the time required to build a mobile web app is far less that a native app, which must be downloaded.
  • Users do not need to download any software; your site is easily accessed through a link (emailed or texted) or QR Code on any smartphone.
  • The mobile web apps created are also available to be viewed on smart phones, tablets and desktops. ALL devices. The reverse is not true. Desktop viewing does not always convert to mobile device formats. 
  • All this can be completed without IT support. (Worth repeating). All this can be completed without IT support.

So, “why can’t I just look at a website on my cell phone?” Unless it has been built for mobile viewing it is not likely to be user friendly. With mobile design, the size of the lettering adjusts to the screen size, pinching and horizontal scrolling is not necessary and all information is included without web content ‘dropping-off.’  You can convert all types of documents (PDFs, Word, Excel spreadsheets, video, etc.) into mobile-friendly formats for viewing on smart-phones and tablets. You can build a mobile friendly and responsive web app in minutes for training and communication or storing safety content that is usually located in notebooks on the bookshelves. Because 60 percent of the American workforce is not behind a computer, employees need information outside of the safety department and they need it in real-time. Your mobile web app supports your initiatives and does not replace your current company site.

Using the same mobile dashboard, you can send a text message or email campaigns. Mobile ‘touches’ and reminders keep employees engaged with safety. Plus, providing access to time-critical information is a guaranteed, fast and easy way to improve your workplace safety program and build your safety culture.

Following are real examples of successful case studies with an overview, problem and solution format. All used a mobile web app with drag and drop features for information storage, and two-way communication and engagement with employees.

PROBLEM-SOLUTION: Crisis Management Communication

Of the more than 4,500 fatalities in the workplace in 2015, over 400 were homicides.  The OSH Act gives workers the right to safe and healthful working conditions. A recent analysis by researchers at Harvard University, further corroborated by a recent FBI study, determined that mass shootings (4 or more people killed in one incident) have been on the rise. Enterprises (schools, hospitals, corporations, etc.) are seeking ways to minimize risks in the increasing number of workplace violence and lone-shooter events.

PROBLEM: Most organizations are unprepared for crisis with the “it will not happen here” mentality. Plus, most crisis alert systems only send alerts out to employees, with no communication back from those same individuals in the field who could provide valuable information to the crisis management team.  Employees are scared and feel helpless if something should occur. This uneasiness affects workers focus on the job, causing accidents.

SOLUTION:  The DIY MOBI mobile web app builder, provides two-way communication via text or e-mail. The organization can upload their customized documents into their pass-code protected mobile web app, such as: emergency action plan, first aid videos (how to treat shock, how to treat a gun-shot wound, etc.), employee names per building (employees can access and indicate where they are located in real-time, exit maps, emergency phone numbers, instructions on how to respond to various types of emergencies (natural or man-made), etc. With pass-code protection, whomever sees an unusual event or activity, can communicate it to the Emergency Designee of their organization. An alert is sent to all employees and they take necessary cover. As the emergency team gathers and notifies public servants, employees can access the company private Crisis Management portal on their smart phones or tablets. Real-time communication is maintained between employees, regardless of their location and the crisis management team. Employees can text current situations in the field, such as, “I am in room 148 and I heard them go by; they said they are headed to the cafeteria,” or “I saw them enter the building and they are wearing jeans and green sweat-shirts,” or “I am in the library and there are 2 injured people with profuse bleeding” (this provides EMT’s with information to respond to the greatest risks first). Once the crisis is over, the ‘Crisis Management Team” can text an “all clear” message and give instruction on where employees are to go for debriefing, counseling services, and a family pick-up location. With emergency information at employees’ fingertips and the ability for two-way communication in real-time, risks can be reduced and lives may be saved.  

PROBLEM-SOLUTION: Remote Sub-Contractors Need Installation Instructions to Perform Safely

A fire-suppression company in Florida bid contracts throughout southeastern United States. When they/Prime contractor won the bid, the manufacturer of the equipment would drop-ship the materials to the job sites, over a five-state area. Sub-contractors in the local area were hired to install the new equipment.

PROBLEM: When the Prime contractor in Florida started working with a new supplier of fire suppression equipment or there was a modification of systems with current manufacturers, the sub-contractors in remote areas were stumped. This caused delayed schedules and work crews standing around on breaks as they waited for instructions. Ka-ching!

SOLUTION: The Prime contractor in Florida decided to build a mobile web app to load all the installation instructions, job-safety-analysis, videos, checklists/punch-sheets for EACH of the manufacturers onto their company pass-code protected app. The Prime could easily make updates without IT support and keep real-time information on their system. The sub-contracts could access the Prime’s mobile app with their smart phone or tablet and view all the information necessary to proceed in a safe manner, as well as ensure that the installation of fire suppression equipment was done properly. 

PROBLEM-SOLUTION: Corporate Safety Conference and Engagement Tool

On alternating years Company X would conduct a 2-3-day safety conference and invite 400 employees (some international) to a conference center in a stunning environment to attract participation. As they entered the conference room, on the table at each seat was an enormous “Safety Manual” of conference proceedings, presentations, charts, checklists, corporate safety updates etc. Each of the notebooks was 5-6 inches thick and weighed 15 pounds.

PROBLEM: Enormous amounts of time were spent printing thousands of pages and assembling 400+ notebooks (some erroneously).  Employees did not want to carry an additional 15 pounds in their luggage due to lack of space or airline weight restrictions. Many employees conveniently ‘forgot them’ in the hotel rooms and new notebooks had to be shipped to their work locations. Ka-ching!

SOLUTION: The Safety Department budgeted and justified the purchase of 400 tablets (< $100 each) for their safety associates at their next safety conference. The VP of EHS used a mobile web app dashboard to drag and drop all the documents that the worldwide safety staff needed. All 400+ employees could access the documents 24/7, anywhere on any mobile device with their private pass-code. By storing content on a mobile web app, employees were able to easily locate safety information on their smart phones or tablets. The VP of EHS could text or e-mail a message when a new document was added or modified. Employees could send comments back. Surveys, training, reminders, special events, newsletters, encouraging videos from the CEO were all included on the EHS portal. Now, all the information needed by the safety staff was conveniently held in a 2-pound mobile tablet versus a 15-pound notebook that was back in the office and not available on the job site. The VP of EHS used the mobile web app as a mobile safety manual to store content, as well as a portal for all types of safety communication with safety associates worldwide. An additional benefit is a more motivated group of individuals who are engaged and excited about safely on a regular basis.   

PROBLEM-SOLUTION: Immediate Information on Accidents

Forrester research reports that the average response time for text messages over e-mails is 90 seconds versus 90 minutes. Until recently, text messages could only contain verbiage. However, with new technology on the same mobile web app, it is now possible to send video clips, photographs, quizzes, etc.

PROBLEM: A construction company wanted to capture near misses and accident information for reporting purposes. They also considered this excellent information to be shared within the company for ‘learning-lessons.’ However, paper trails took too long and photographs did not capture the conditions surrounding the accident site and immediate environment.

SOLUTION:   The construction company used the super text feature on the mobile web app platform. They were able to message videos of the site conditions and send forms for others to use company-wide for training purposes. Plus, they encouraged safety committee members to record hazards in their areas that needed repaired. This information helped the facilities department use their risk assessment matrix to establish priorities. The new Super Texting platform also enabled employees to share best-practices and vie for awards for the best ideas.

Hopefully, you now understand the importance of turning your smart phone or tablet from a ‘toy to a tool.’ The solutions to some age-old safety problems can be solved with new technology. The ideas are endless. Early adopters are usually the ones who gain a competitive advantage over other organizations. Like the computer, mobile is not going away and it is to your benefit to learn about it now.

Dr. Isabel Perry served as an EHS executive in a Fortune 50. She later established TheSafetyDoctor.com, Inc., where she provides keynote speaking, workshops and consulting services. In 2014, she launched 21st Century Safety, Corp. that develops mobile training and communication solutions that can reach employees anytime, anywhere, on any mobile device to lower safety risks and costs associated with accidents. Dr. Perry can be reached at info@21StCenturySafety.com or 321-287-7771. Follow her on Twitter: @21stCentSafety, @thesafetydoctor-usa

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