Remember the iconic line from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade when Dr. Marcus Brody picked the wrong cup in the presence of the grail knight, who drily proclaimed, “He chose…poorly.” Whether you’re the safety manager or the owner of a company, you deal with difficult decisions every day. When it comes to employee safety and managing costs, these decisions may not result in the dramatic transformation that occurred in that cave, but they can be serious distractions if you get them wrong. Deciding to upgrade or change your safety management system can be an extraordinary improvement to your company, workforce, productivity and bottom line. However, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the numerous options available.
In order to help you find the product that is the best fit for your organization, here are the 5 critical mistakes to avoid when choosing a safety management system.
1. Choosing well-known, but outdated, software providers
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when selecting safety software is choosing well-known, enterprise systems based on name recognition without ensuring that it really meets their needs. A good product in 1992 might not be a fit for your company in 2018 and may not have kept up with technological changes since then. These platforms are often expensive and take months, if not years, to fully implement. And they often require that customers have their own in-house development teams and hardware to support them.
Your process should start with a clear understanding of your needs today and in the future, then selecting a product that meets those needs from a vendor who will be there for you as your needs change.
Red flag alert: a vendor who isn’t responsive to your questions at this stage is unlikely to become more helpful after a sale is completed.
2. Using systems that don’t give every employee real-time access
Employees know a lot about what is going on operationally, and often have great ideas about how to improve their workplace. It is too bad that so few systems are designed to open up communications between employees and the company. However, those products do exist if you are ready for that leap forward, and they are surprisingly easy to use with today’s technology. Making sure that all employees have simple access to the safety program not only helps your company improve but also engages employees on other levels. If you’re looking at safety management software that doesn’t take advantage of this technology with a modern mobile reporting component, you might consider shopping around a little bit more.
3. Failing to present a strong business case for investing in safety management software
Convincing bosses and non-safety professionals of the need for safety management software can seem like a daunting task, but daunting doesn’t mean impossible – it means understanding that improved safety performance enhances all of the goals of your company and presenting that value in language your colleagues understand. Preventing injuries isn’t just responsible behavior – it improves quality, enhances your company’s reputation as a great place to work and saves serious money.
As an example that you might take for granted, the direct cost of a workplace injury is on average only 20 % of the total cost when factoring in lost production, temporary worker replacement, legal costs and lost hours spent on administrative costs managing the non-core activities required when an injury occurs. Does your company know this? Have you considered how to present this information in a clear, concise manner that supports investment in systems to improve worker safety? A responsive system vendor can help you with this kind of project, and in the process ensure that you are getting a system that addresses the specific needs in your workplace.
4. Fear of cloud-based platforms
There’s no need to fear the cloud. What cloud-based software means is that the computers that run your system and store your data are located in a commercially-managed datacenter, where professional engineers monitor performance and otherwise take care of the operations. The system can be accessed from any computer with web access if you have the proper authorization. Your IT department does not have to worry about day-to-day maintenance of this part of the system and computer operations. There is no hardware to buy, no software versions that need to be managed and the costs of this arrangement are far lower than in-house operations.
5. Selecting software that doesn’t communicate with your other systems
In the old days, software vendors created proprietary systems with “closed” architectures. Customers were stuck with that vendors’ product line and it was very expensive to get different systems to communicate with each other. Fortunately, since then, most vendors have accepted that customers’ needs are broader and responsive vendors provide for interoperability between systems with special programs. Your company’s departments should not operate in silos, and neither should your systems. If you are considering a vendor whose system cannot communicate with other systems, it may be best to keep looking. And on a related note, make sure that vendors you are considering have an easy, documented method for giving you copies of all your data if your relationship with them should end.
A final observation:
The best fit for your company may not be the cheapest product. However, it will be far more expensive to choose a product that has the lowest initial cost but doesn’t meet your needs, than to select the product and vendor who will make you successful. The process starts with making sure that you know what you need your software to do today, and what you expect your needs will be in the future. Then you have a map against which you can compare vendors and their products. And your colleagues will be able to say, “He chose…wisely.”