The world of technology is changing rapidly and EHS professionals are embracing the revolution. Every year, more and more companies are leaving behind paper-based and homegrown systems and adopting newer technologies in hopes of mitigating risk, preventing incidents, and improving safety culture.
But with that said, even though many EHS professionals are eager to apply new technologies to their operations, and adoption is steadily increasing, many still face barriers when it comes to launching a new technology project.
Cority’s Pamala Bobbitt was recently a panelist on a webinar to discuss the current and future state of EHS technology and provide tips to overcome some of the biggest barriers to technology adoption.
The State of EHS Technology in 2019
Earlier this year we partnered with EHS Today to survey over 200 EHS professionals to find out how they’re currently using technology and how they plan to leverage it over the next 5 years. The results, published in the EHS Embraces the Technology Revolution report, yield some surprises.
While 4/10 respondents are currently using a homegrown system, commercial software, Excel, or a combination of all three to analyze, and report on safety performance, a shocking 14% still use paper-based systems. These methods each pose their own challenges: paper-based management systems are error-prone and time-consuming to manage, while using a spreadsheet/homegrown/commercial system combination can lead to data quality issues. Data quality decreases when multiple systems are used, since data may be entered and re-entered manually from one system to another. Reports that are then run off this data may not provide the most accurate information to drive important decision making.
Though 85% of respondents indicated that safety management systems are pertinent to their work, only 65% currently have a safety management system implemented.
While EHS professionals know the value that technologies like EHSQ software, safety management systems, and predictive analytics can bring to the organization, they often face a myriad of obstacles when it comes to taking their software project initiative from vision to reality.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these obstacles and see how to overcome them:
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Overcoming EHS Technology Adoption Barriers
As beneficial as implementing EHS technologies can be, the process of making the business case, securing management buy-in, and ensuring user adoption is not without its challenges, and often these obstacles stand in the way of taking a technology project to fruition.
Budgetary restrictions, cited by 58% of respondents, tops the list of hurdles preventing EHS professionals from deploying technology. Other top barriers like lack of understanding of the technology’s capabilities and insufficient staffing to implement the system all feed into the budget issue.
One way to overcome the budget barrier is by perfecting your pitch and tailoring your communication strategy to your audience. EHS has traditionally been perceived as a cost center, not a department that adds value like operations for example. We know that’s not the case, but to get the message across to management, we need to re-frame our approach. Next time you’re looking to get buy-in for an initiative, talk about how your department adds value by decreasing the number of incidents that can shut down critical operations like production lines. Communicating the value of your department and its technologies in a way that addresses concerns that other departments face strengthens the case for technology and increases support for your initiatives across the company.
Worker Resistance Woes
25% of respondents cite worker resistance to technology or user adoption as another top challenge they must overcome. Many companies are met with complacency from employees with objections towards using new technologies. They fear that a new system may make their work harder, that they won’t understand how to use it, or that it won’t look like what they’re used to – Excel. To help employees overcome the fear and uncertainty that is often pervasive when introducing new technologies or tools, try the following:
Invest in change management – Set expectations with your employees and offer initial and ongoing training on the new system.
Understand the requirements – Communicate what it is that employees are trying to achieve with this new system, so they understand the reasoning behind the functionality and workflows. For example, introducing automatic email notifications about corrective actions is a way to ensure that issues are addressed in a timely manner.
Brand your program – Employees are more likely to adopt new technology if they see how it fits into the overall company culture and supports business goals. If they view it as just another tool to use, they may not adopt it.
To learn more about the state of EHS technology in 2019 and how organizations are leveraging technology to improve safety culture, watch the webinar.
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