Safety App Can Prevent Accidents

Simple reporting of safety concerns and near-misses is an easy and effective safeguard.

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What started as a way for Rob Sweeney to send texts and emails to his technology-challenged mother has grown into a way for companies to identify, report and track near misses and safety concerns to protect workers.

Sweeney’s invention started a few years ago as a simple printer called messageQube that prints text and pictures so he could send messages to his 82-year-old mother.

That printer is now backed by an app for smartphones and software to track and report near misses and safety concerns called WorkplaceAware ( “If you’re not encouraging employees to report near misses, you’re selling yourself short and not giving yourself the opportunity to find errors or issues that could end up causing an injury or something else down the road,” says company representative Laura Baumgartner. Finding such things early allows for equipment repairs or changes in procedures or work practices.

As Heinrich’s accident triangle says, for every major injury, there are 29 minor injuries and 300 near misses. While the accuracy of those numbers is debatable, the notion that minor events foretell serious events is common sense and has been borne out by the research of others since Herbert Heinrich developed his theory in the 1930s.

The WorkplaceAware app is downloaded to all employees’ iPhone or Android smartphones and allows them to file reports from the field, including photographs. “It has an anonymous feature so they don’t have to worry about their name being tied to the report as a person who raised a red flag about something like their boss not following the proper work protocols,” adds Baumgartner. “That encourages more people to be contributing and reporting any incidents or problems that they notice. Instead of having one person going around doing routine safety checks, you can have the entire workforce sending in incidents in real time.”

It is also easier for workers to file reports by phone rather than filling out paperwork, going to an office or logging onto a website. Baumgartner says some customers have reported that they are getting 40 reports monthly compared to just three or four in the past. “It makes employees feel more involved, more invested in the business.”

All reports print immediately on the desktop messageQube printer, smaller than a box of tissue, so that there is an instant hardcopy. Receipt of reports is indicated by both a blinking light and an email notification.

One user is a large construction company that covers a nine-county area. In one case, an employee noticed that a trench for a water and sewer line project had not been properly barricaded. After the report was filed from the field, the safety director received an email notification and called the site supervisor. The proper fencing was up within 30 minutes.

All reports are stored in an online dashboard to help analyze report histories to see if there are any common trends, enter corrective actions, record if something has been taken care of, and escalate reports to others for corrective actions. It includes a mapping function to show the location of
the report.

Launched in January 2013 as a development project, WorkplaceAware went commercial in early 2014, with new features and functions being added since. The service requires an annual subscription of $1,995 (plus $1 per employee over 1,000 employees), which includes training and support. The company says it can easily pay for itself by avoiding one accident, since the average workers’ compensation claim costs around $5,000.


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