Digital transformation is more than a buzzword within EHS – it’s the key to ensuring organizational resilience and helping EHS teams do more with less, from artificial intelligence to software applications and mobile devices.
What is digital transformation? One way to describe it is the integration of technology into various business processes to improve performance, deliver value and meet shareholder expectations. The EHS function unfortunately has been slower in its technology adoption rate compared to other functions within the organization but we see that trend beginning to change as more companies are ramping up their EHS digital strategy. Covid 19 is also accelerating technology adoption across the board.
Several research bodies are forecasting the EHS software market to grow between 11 and 12% annually for the next 4-5 years, with the Asia Pacific region showing the highest growth rate and North America continuing to hold the lion share of the market. With the overall EHS market forecasted to grow at 8% CAGR, the software market is a clear growth driver within this space.
Verdantix, a leading market research firm in the EHS space, estimated the size of EHS software market to be around $1.47 billion in 2021, and poised to reach $2.5 billion in 2026. Growth will be driven by the increasing digitization of EHS processes and the expansion of EHS software capabilities to include environmental, social and governance (ESG), sustainability risk management, and operational risk management (ORM).
Research has also shown that while 1 in 3 companies are using software for their incident management, only 1 in 4 are actually proactively managing and mitigating the risks before it occurs. This is a definite area for improvement given the cost of remediation is almost always greater than the cost of prevention/mitigation.
Data from the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) shows that a fatal employee accident would cost a business nearly £100k, while non-fatal injuries would set a business back by £1,400 on average, with injuries that incapacitate an employee for at least 7 days costing 4X as much.
Source: Nimble Fins
Why should you consider digitizing your EHS strategy? The benefits of digitization to your safety operation can be endless, but here are a few key ones that we feel worth discussing:
Keep People, Process and Assets Safe – The basis of all EHS activities. A digital system allows you to raise hazards, incidents and tasks at a tap of a button, making it easy for everyone to get involved. An increased participation will lead to a safer workplace and workforce. Many EHS software also has the functionalities to help you conveniently complete audits and risk assessments from a handheld device, further improving your EHS practices.
Stay on top of your EHS tasks and checklists – As your organization expands so will your EHS duties, and it is not uncommon for tasks to be left forgotten or undone as the level of responsibilities and the size of your to-do list grow. An EHS software gives you visibility on all your tasks and allows you to manage all of your EHS activities in a centralized calendar and track them from start to finish.
Centralize your data – It's difficult to find what you need when data is scattered across hard copies, excel spreadsheets, and multiple databases, which means your employees are spending less time on value added activities and more time on cumbersome data collection and/or processing. A good EHS software will allow you to store all your EHS materials and documentation in a single platform, making it easily accessible to everyone in your company. Various studies report that nearly 9 out of 10 spreadsheets (88%) contain errors so going digital will also help improve your data quality and consistency.
Automate Analysis and Dashboards – Most EHS software comes with built in data reporting functionalities. Dynamic dashboards will provide a comprehensive view of your EHS performance. With a few simple clicks, you can retrieve information and generate fully structured reports, allowing you to rapidly visualize and analyze trends to make better decisions and take prompt actions.
Decrease insurance cost and avoid fines/penalties – In many circumstances, firms do not pay attention to their EHS management system until or unless they are involved in a fatal accident or fail to meet regulatory requirements. By the time a firm realizes that its present EHS management system is insufficient or ineffective, the consequences have already happened, which could include a damaged reputation, low company morale, and financial repercussions. We are seeing a 50% increase in EHS regulations every year globally and sanctioned fines have continued to go up as a result. In truth, when done properly, the investment in a suitable EHS system/software would be far less expensive than the cost of a single fatal incident.
Engage Employees. Improve Safety Culture – Engaging the workforce has always been one of the biggest challenges for Health and Safety professionals. Often people on the shop floor view safety tasks to be cumbersome and time-consuming, and not always resulting in positive outcomes, or even any outcomes at all. Many employees complain of their voices and concerns not being heard. An EHS software would help tackle this hurdle by making the process simple, accessible and trackable, fostering empowerment and creating visibility and accountability. Digital features such as SafetyQube’s leader board take it one step further by providing recognition for employee engagement and contribution.
Traditionally, two of the biggest barriers to technology adoption are investment cost and implementation efforts. With so many new technologies coming into the market, there is now an option for every budget. Technology does not have to be expensive or complicated anymore. The move towards cloud-based applications makes technology even more accessible for the end users. Gone are the days where you need to install software on your desktop and rely on IT to configure it. Everything is on the cloud and accessible on mobile device, which means all your employees already have the tool they need to access the system. BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is one of the hottest tech trends in business right now and it helps cut down costs (no need for a company issued device) and minimize (or even eliminate) the need for training since your employees are using a device they're already familiar and comfortable with. And on top of that, modern EHS applications are so simple and intuitive, you can be onboarded and be on your way to improving your organization EHS performance within an hour.
As we come out of this pandemic, a renewed focus has been placed on health, safety and wellbeing. EHS is rising to take its place as a big focus in how a company operates. And in times like this, where businesses strive to differentiate itself from the competition, environmental and safety performance could be a key differentiator in how a business is viewed in the market and within its industry.