A Day in the Life of a Field Worker
Raise your hand if any of these have happened to you or one of your field workers.
- A mud slide in a remote section of the Rockies closes the highway in an area of spotty cell coverage, stranding a team on the way to site.
- Your Land Agent stumbles across a grow op in the middle of the forest.
- An angry cat takes offence to your census worker at a private home, biting their hand and causing it to swell like a balloon.
- Unforecasted high winds create a life-threatening situation for workers up a cell tower.
- Tree planters encounter a mother bear with cubs.
- A landowner doesn’t like the news you are delivering and pulls a gun.
These are actual examples of situations our clients’ employees or contractors have faced. The last one happened to one of our founders. He was working alone in a remote location and had to pass on information to the landowner that wasn’t well received. The landowner literally wanted to shoot the messenger but luckily our founder got out of the situation safely and went on to start Field Safe with a view to protecting other “at risk” workers.
The Early Days of Field Worker Safety: That Was Then
Inefficient Processes and Manual Paperwork
Worker safety is every leader’s number one priority. Governments at all levels, industry associations and of course employers have all put regulations, protocols and safety programs in place that are designed to protect. Originally, and current state for those companies yet to invest in a digital solution, that amounted to arming workers with:
- A cell phone (great when you have cell coverage);
- A binder with all regulatory and safety documentation (usually stored somewhere in the back seat of the company truck); and
- Multiple pieces of paperwork to document each worker’s day including journey pre-assessment forms, incident or hazard documentation, training and certifications tracking, etc.
Certainly, these were a step in the right direction. But they were also fraught with issues like limited cell coverage impacting connectivity, regulations and safety manual protocols changing rapidly leading to outdated hard copies, and limited paperwork completion and submission by the workers they were created to protect. Additionally, from an operations perspective, the data collected was often incomplete, illegible and late… if delivered at all.
Field Worker Safety: This is Now
The Connected Worker
Worker safety is still a top priority for leadership, but now they are also focused on the digitization of the entire enterprise and also creating efficiencies that lower operating costs. Truly best-in-class safety programs incorporate a digital solution that impacts and advances all of these priorities. A digital solution isn’t going to eliminate all of the threats your workers may face, but it will improve their ability to respond to them (or even avoid them), communicate with other team members and create efficiencies like easier forms completion and submission, as well as “just in time” access to current regulations and corporate protocols. These efficiencies result in cost savings and give your workers more time to focus on their core roles so that you can more efficiently meet business commitments.
Connecting workers with a digital safety application makes their jobs easier and improves their well-being while also creating optimized, lower cost operations. The superior data generated by improved forms completion is instantly shared. Health and safety data can be used to:
- Predict and protect against emerging risks.
- Conduct root cause analysis to mitigate future threats.
- Lower insurance and workers compensation costs.
- Operate by priority and improve workforce planning and asset maintenance scheduling.
Change Management and your Health and Safety Program
The best health and safety applications are easy-to-use and create an all-in-one health and safety system that facilitates user adoption and improves corporate decision making. But they must also include more than the technology. They should also facilitate efficient processes and workflows.
At Field Safe, we conduct a review of these for each client prior to implementing any products. This review inevitably uncovers opportunities to implement change management initiatives to create smarter, more effective workflows. Forms consolidation is a common improvement. For one client, new workflows led to a reduction in required forms by almost half. Another cites a savings of over 1100 completion hours per year for each of its 30 forms. And another has reduced revenue leakage by introducing new workflows that allow it to digitally understand well production and deploy maintenance teams more optimally.
For Your Lone Workers
... never truly alone
North America has some of the world’s most stringent regulations designed to protect lone workers. According to feedback from our clients and news articles like this one in SECURITY magazine, the number of lone workers is on the rise and a higher duty of care is expected to protect them. Arming your lone workers with a digital solution with real-time communication capabilities means they are never truly alone. By improving their protection, you also ensure compliance with ever-changing regulations (all updated and available “just in time”) and protect against fines for non-compliance.
For workers without a digital health and safety application, they typically start their day by calling or texting a designated person or call-in centre. That works great if each worker remembers to do this, but if they don’t, a time consuming and inefficient process of calls out it initiated to track down the “missing” workers.
Digital solutions not only automate the process but track the individual via maps from check-in, check-out and all points in between. If an individual misses a check-in, another team member in the same vicinity can be deployed to investigate and emergency service providers engaged quickly should they be needed. Reporting allows head-office to take corrective actions to ensure any hazards are identified and actions taken to mitigate future occurrences.
A cell phone is still the cornerstone of your workers’ safety but thanks to advanced technology like Iridium Go! the service area is extended dramatically, meaning your ability to communicate back and forth happens in real-time more often. Those workers on the cell tower? They would have been notified as soon as the weather shift was observed and would NOT have been up that tower. The mud-slide example? Your team would have been able to communicate immediately that they would be delayed so that a workaround could be implemented to deploy alternate workers so as not to impact the project they were on the way to complete.
Regulations and safety protocols change fast. A cell phone now replaces the binder in the back of the truck with digital documentation that is updated immediately and available as soon as the worker needs it.
And forms? They are all stored and easy to complete and submit. Head office receives completed data instantly, incorporating it into workplace planning, safety programs and many other initiatives that affect operational efficiencies and lower costs while improving safety.
The Road to Zero Incidents Must Include the Journey
One of the riskiest activities your field workers face is the time spent in-vehicle. Your health and safety program should place strong emphasis on this critical part of worker safety and include:
- A pre-trip risk assessment that not only identifies potential threats but provides guidance on avoidance and mitigation based on that assessment.
- Real-time updates of road conditions, weather, construction and other activities that can impact your ability to conduct your business or threaten worker safety.
- Route optimization advice to keep you on time… and travel costs down.
- Incident documentation that can be communicated in real-time to head office and that includes photo evidence.
On the road to zero incidents, you must be able to track the status of a journey from end to end. Through prompts and reminders sent via mobile devices, workers can easily update, complete, share and report on all stages of their travel.
Field Worker Safety: Looking to the Future
Internet of Behaviors
Companies are always interested in advancements that improve worker safety and support their goal of zero incidents. Geofencing and Internet of Behaviors (IoB) are two areas our clients are embracing and seeing exceptional results from. At Field Safe, we are incorporating the advancements they create to continuously improve our application. Here’s one simple example. By utilizing the IoB and geofencing functionality, you can push out reminders for your team to complete a vehicle inspection report even before they get to the vehicle, eliminating the potential for this important journey management step to be overlooked.
Our trusted advisor relationship with clients is one of the main reasons we can nimbly respond to emerging market conditions. Field Safe’s data capture capabilities are now being leveraged by several clients to meet ESG goals and this is establishing them as leaders in this emerging area. Of special note, the environmental savings (along with the reduced paper, vehicle maintenance and travel costs) provide a near revenue neutral investment!
Overview: The Internet of Behaviors (IoB) and its Impact on Health and Safety
Everyone is familiar with the Internet of Things. Fewer are familiar with the Internet of Behaviors (IoB).
Overview: Connect your workers to save time, save money and save lives
Connecting your workers with a digital safety application helps executives, board members and health and safety professionals meet their goals of improving worker safety while creating optimized, lower cost operations.