Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) leaders at the world's top organizations leverage EHS software to prevent accidents, mitigate workplace hazards, and minimize liability. Despite the wide variety of high-quality commercial solutions on the market today, many companies still attempt to manage EHS processes with homemade or manual systems. Even with thoughtful plans, policies, and processes in place, these DIY solutions often have gaps that can leave organizations exposed to unnecessary risk.
For example, an organization might have one system for managing safety audits and another for compiling accident and injury data. The rest might be in various spreadsheets, calendars, and file cabinets. Spreading your EHS management information across multiple interfaces makes spotting gaps in coverage or identifying leading and lagging indicators difficult.
Additionally, these manual systems are often controlled by one or two employees, creating a bottleneck to improvement and a potential loss of crucial knowledge as individuals leave the organization. When your EHS knowledge base is not organized and you rely on manual processes, important details can slip through the cracks, opening the organization up to liability and potential accidents.
Employers are responsible for providing employees, subcontractors, and vendors with a safe work environment free of recognizable hazards. EHS software is one of the best ways to accomplish this because it improves visibility into safety issues and empowers EHS leaders to identify trends that can improve safety performance.
One of the most significant benefits of using EHS software is that it centralizes all of your compliance obligations, permits, tasks, documents, inspections, etc., into a single digital platform, breaking down information silos and creating visibility throughout the enterprise. EHS software also makes it possible to streamline regulatory requirements, like OSHA annual reporting, making what can be a stressful process much more straightforward.
Once everything is in the software, the information your teams need will be well organized and more accessible, providing at-a-glance insights into where you perform well and where you need work. This provides a clear picture of your organization's EHS health, so you can take action on safety concerns before they turn into serious incidents.
EHS software organizes your information into easy-to-understand dashboards that allow you to easily track, measure, and manage your company's EHS performance. In addition, you can quickly notify key stakeholders of this vital information in order to make proactive, thoughtful, and well-informed decisions.
Last but not least, EHS software provides significant time-saving opportunities by allowing users to automate routine tasks like alerting responsible persons when compliance or action item deadlines are approaching. The time saved from the use of software will allow you to focus your attention where it matters most and shift from a reactive to proactive EHS management approach.
Any organization can benefit from EHS software, but those that face the most stringent regulatory scrutiny and operational risk will see the most significant benefits. Industries like chemical manufacturing, oil and gas, utilities, aerospace, and mining have invested in EHS software for years to improve safety performance and environmental compliance.
In fact, compliance-related activities continue to be the main reason companies adopt EHS software. According to the National Association of Environmental Managers (NAEM) EHS Software Buyers Guide, 77% of buyers identified environmental auditing, corrective action tracking, incident reporting, and incident investigation as essential features of EHS software.
Compliance is not the only driver though, as organizations across a variety of industries are now realizing the efficiency and decision-support benefits that EHS software offers. In short, if you have OSHA or EPA reporting obligations, have a safety training program, or conduct audits or inspections at your facilities, EHS software will likely benefit you.
EHS software can cover a broad spectrum of EHS-related activities. Some platforms focus on Safety Data Sheet (SDS) management, training tracking, or ergonomics assessments, while others support specific areas of regulatory reporting or risk management. While every organization has unique needs, at its core, EHS software should support the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) method of continuous improvement, a practical approach to problem-solving and change management.
Let’s look at how the PDCA methodology can be managed using EHS software:
Plan: In this stage, you outline what you need to accomplish and how you will get there. EHS software should allow you to schedule activities, including compliance tasks mapped to your regulatory registers (known as compliance calendars) and set up alerts that notify key stakeholders of approaching or missed deadlines.
Do: This is when you execute your plans. Action item management within EHS software helps track to-dos, provides guidance to site staff, ensures accountability by responsible persons, and keeps the organization on track with their regulatory obligations, adherence to internal policies, and follow through on audit findings and corrective actions.
Check: In this stage, you analyze the results of your plan and look for areas of improvement, what went wrong and what went right, then eliminate or make changes to address those issues. EHS software can provide comprehensive audit and inspection management tools that simplify and normalize these processes.
Act: Unfortunately, incidents and accidents do happen, and EHS leaders need a way to track and analyze these events to close the loop and prevent reoccurrence. Incident, near miss, and safety observation management software is a common and effective method to accomplish these goals while encouraging and supporting continuous improvement.
While EHS was once viewed as a “necessary evil” with a sunk cost, the world's leading organizations now know from experience that investment in EHS brings significant returns. While that return will depend on a variety of factors, it is not hard to see where the safety-related returns come from. Often, avoiding one single accident or injury can pay for a substantial portion, or even the entire investment, in EHS software.
The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) has resources to help safety leaders make the business case for an investment in safety. Their research demonstrates that such investments are both socially responsible and good for business. Accidents can be expensive, from direct costs such as medical bills, insurance and litigation, to indirect costs such as wages paid to injured workers, production losses, administrative time, training of replacement workers, clean-up costs, and more. EHS software helps you analyze your safety data and gives you the tools to identify trends in your workplace and prevent accidents before they happen.
Additionally, organizations that care for employee’s well-being by actively improving workplace safety can lower injury rates and boost their reputation, positively affecting employee morale, retention, and future business. EHS software can deliver ROI behind intangibles like innovation, leadership, and brand reputation, and can also help boost ESG performance across operations and the supply chain.
“Time is money,” as the saying goes, and the amount of time EHS software saves organizations can be enormous. For example, with a few clicks you can automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks and run year-end reports that took weeks to compile previously. In addition, software can do routine administrative tasks quicker and more efficiently, allowing employees to focus their attention elsewhere.
When searching for EHS software, some might know what they are looking for, and others might not. Some turn to their peers or industry analysts while others will look to online review sites to find a solution. With so many EHS software options on the market today, picking one that best fits your needs can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to. Knowing what questions to ask up front is important because it helps provide an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison so you can make an informed decision based on the factors that are important to you and your company.
Here are some questions you should ask when evaluating EHS software:
How do you access the software? Now more than ever, software must be accessible from mobile or desktop. Ensure people working from home or in the field can access the content just as easily as those working from the office. This ease of access will encourage adoption, providing you with richer data to lean on. Additionally, the platform should support Single-sign On (SSO) which allows your teams to access the software using existing logins and passwords.
Can it be customized and/or configured? When you are looking to purchase EHS software, there are two options. You can buy a standard off-the-shelf software that is the same no matter the application, or you can look for software that can be altered to fit your company-specific needs. Be aware that “customization,” which is usually done by the vendor, often comes with additional cost and can lead to upgrade issues down the road. Therefore, software that is “configurable” by the end-user (usually restricted to system administrators) is often more desirable.
Is it scalable? As your company grows, your EHS software should grow with it. Make sure that the software you choose offers a wide range of features and resources that will support your organization into the future. This should include the ability to add locations and business units as well as new users and system administrators. You should also be aware of any limitations on data usage that may trigger additional cost when thresholds are crossed.
How easy is the software to use? Getting people to adopt a new software system can be challenging. Make sure that the system you choose is easy to use and understand so it will be quickly adopted. You know your users better than anyone, so ask yourself, will my least tech-savvy people be able to use this? To help with adoption, many software products now include guided walk-throughs that help new users learn the system at their own pace and on their own schedule.
How much does it cost? Unfortunately, some legacy software has complicated payment structures or bundles, making it confusing to understand what you are paying for. Instead, make sure you use a company with flexible pricing that meets your needs. Most commercial systems have annual contracts so make sure these annual costs, along with any increases, are well outlined and understood.
While all of these considerations are important, don’t lose sight of the most important question: “Will the software help you achieve your EHS management goals?” So many software platforms have impressive features that look fantastic during a product demo, but are they applicable to your needs? Do the core functions solve your problems, or will they create more issues for you down the line? The last thing you want is to be stuck in a position where you are working for your software rather than having it work for you.
As you can see, choosing an EHS software system that is right for you can be challenging, especially when most of the available options lack functionality that helps them stand out. Dakota Software is different.
Our ProActivity Suite is fueled by a database of relevant, action-forcing regulatory requirements. This library is continually updated by our in-house team of regulatory analysts, providing users with plain-language, up-to-date regulatory guidance for identifying and managing compliance calendars, tasks, and audits.
The result is that the software works for you, not the other way around.
The plan-do-check-act (PDCA) approach is the foundation of ProActivity, which makes it easier for companies to achieve and maintain EHS compliance by taking a proactive analytical stance supported by a comprehensive library of EHS regulations. View our demo library to learn more about how our solutions can help you create a safer, more compliant workplace.