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Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

How HR software can improve workplace safety?

A culture that respects safety protects everybody. It protects employees from harm and it protects employers and individuals from financial and reputational risk – but how does HR technology support this?

Last year the average fine imposed by the HSE for duty holders found to be guilty of health and safety offences increased by 35% to £145,000, and the biggest fine (£2m) was double that of the previous year.

While employees are at least partly liable for their own and others’ safety, the main burden of responsibility falls at the feet of their employer, so creating a safety culture should be a priority.

It’s a culture in which everyone understands their responsibility, where employees are able to quickly access policies and procedure documents, emergency advice, and where they feel encouraged and easily able to report safety concerns, incidents or accidents. 

More crucially, a safety culture is a learning culture, where it’s implicitly understood that the absence of incidents does not mean an absence of risk. Where people data and operational insight is collected and analysed as a matter of course to ensure constant improvement and identification of new and potential threats. 

Creating an effective culture of safety at work is a complex task. Technology, and HR software in particular, isn’t the sole answer, but your technology decisions can have a significant impact in the following ways: 

Change the traditional view: 

The most common contributing factor in workplace accidents or incidents is employee behaviour. The best rules, policies and procedures in the world will only be as effective as your ability to make people engage with them.  

Employees can often feel disinclined to report safety concerns, either because of time, accessibility, or a sense of futility – the traditional attitude to health and safety as a ponderous, inefficient and ineffective box-ticking exercise. 

That traditional view is largely a hangover from the past, where health and safety was a thankless task that often fell to HR leaders to implement and manage. Incident reporting involved long, complex paper forms, and vital insights that could help predict risk were either not recorded or were locked up in paper filing cabinets. 

For lots of organisations, this outdated view is still uncomfortably close to reality. But for those powered by advances in modern HRMS technology, the traditional view of health and safety no longer applies. 

Unlock the power of data: 

Traditional, paper-based health and safety processes, with paper forms feeding incident spreadsheets, are not only cumbersome and unreliable, but they also obscure the important insights that more sophisticated data handling and analytics systems are designed to uncover. 

Going paperless can make you a better employer. Fundamentally, modern HRMS platforms like XCD are complex, sophisticated data handling, communication and engagement tools. Data, information, insight and communication flows freely, enabling employers to generate real-time insight on safety performance.

And with health and safety data sitting alongside other people metrics, like hours worked, productivity and performance, or health surveillance information, analysis of employee feedback, risk assessment information and accident records can allow employers to proactively predict risk, identifying otherwise obscure factors in workplace accidents that can then be more diligently monitored in the future. 

And crucially, modern analytics tools enable this to be done in moments, with reports generated and shared to the relevant stakeholders securely and automatically. 

Keep tabs on people: 

We saw a massive spike in employer interest in digitised employee check-in during the pandemic. Covid safety protocols made tracking close contacts of infected individuals a priority, and it was vital for employers to keep a close eye on how busy their workplaces were. 

Today, with many employers still operating hybrid models of attendance, check-in technology has been a game changer in enabling employers to immediately see who is on site, ensuring, for instance, that the required level of first aid or fire warden cover is in place. 

Remove barriers to engagement: 

Incident reporting processes that take up too much time, are unclear or inaccessible are more likely to be ignored, particularly by younger employees who expect immediate, technological solutions to their problems. Modern HRMS allows organisations to bake these processes into platforms that, by their nature, are familiar, online and accessible to their people at all times. 

With document access and reporting capabilities built into mobile HR apps, incidents can be reported and logged in real time. And when incidents occur, stress levels can be high, so an HRMS platform can be configured to offer immediate mobile access to clear step-by-step instructions on how to respond and what to do next. When emergencies occur, this instant support can help prevent further mistakes. 

Standardise health surveillance 

HSE requires employers to implement ‘systemic, regular and appropriate procedures to detect early signs of work-related ill health among employees’. This surveillance applies to employees working with identified attendant risk, for instance, those using equipment that exposes them to chemicals, vibration or noise. 

HRMS software enables central management of this process, ensuring all parties are clear on their respective responsibilities, pinging HR or Occupational Health representatives to carry out surveillance checks, and ensuring proper recording of information gathered. This last point is crucial, as failure to act on information that might indicate a problem can result in hefty consequences for employers.

Get everyone on the same page 

Online HR platforms like XCD provide reliable channels for workforce communication, ensuring policy updates are universally shared and available remotely, wherever and whenever they’re required. This approach supports compliance, as employees can be reminded to ‘read and accept’ important documents where necessary. 

Similarly, compulsory health and safety training materials can be managed and monitored from within an HRMS, from where they can also be used as part of a general employee onboarding process. 

There’s an element of education required in motivating employees and managers to properly engage with health and safety procedures, so regular communication should be part of the strategy. Your HRMS company news page is the perfect channel for calling out instances of best practice, publicly celebrating and rewarding teams and individuals to subtly demonstrate what good health and safety behaviour looks like. 

Flag health & wellbeing warnings 

The pandemic taught us a lot about how technology can be used to protect employee health and wellbeing. With people suddenly isolated from their colleagues and against a backdrop of high anxiety, forward thinking employers began analysing people data to flag anomalous behaviour or performance. 

A sudden decline in performance or spike in absence served as a key indicator that an individual may be struggling. And although they may have seemed perfectly fine via video call, the data enabled people teams to identify anomalies and either offer direct assistance or at least flag it with line management. 

Providing a central resource for support services, advice and information via an HRMS also enabled employers to provide support that employees could access remotely, without having to have awkward conversations. 

HRMS as a health and safety enabler

HRMS can’t fix a poor health and safety culture on its own. But for committed employers, the right technology will enable health and safety accessibility, unlock data and analysis to drive constant measurement and improvement. 

Find out more about how XCD HR & Payroll software supports smart people strategy and powers employee engagement and wellbeing: Book a demo today