Why Facilities Management Health and Safety is getting a digital makeover

David Davies, Managing Director, Checkit

Digital technology has helped to streamline and modernise many public sector departments and tasks, from finance to HR. Gains range from removing time-consuming processes and cutting manual errors, to improving real-time control of operations. Facilities management teams can also benefit by going digital, with technology helping to transform the way organisations meet their Health and Safety (H&S) obligations.

Organisations understand the potential consequences of failing to create strong policies that protect staff and the public. However, one of the big challenges is finding effective ways of ensuring these policies are consistently adhered to– especially in large dispersed, multi-site organisations where senior managers cannot be constantly monitoring what’s going on. Record keeping is vital, not just to ensure that tasks are carried out, but also to provide an audit trail that can be inspected by managers and relevant authorities.

Manual processes

When it comes to carrying out and recording tasks, until now there has been a reliance on old-fashioned pen and paper and spreadsheets. Manuals provide guidelines on how tasks, such as cleaning or food preparation should be completed safely, and these are coupled with paper checklists to record that they have been done. Not only is this time-consuming for employees, but it also fails to provide much in the way of control.

More importantly, as checklists can be completed incorrectly and sometimes falsified there is no guarantee that staff are carrying out their responsibilities in line with the guidelines. Non-compliance is a serious issue and increases the risk of something going wrong, such as injury to staff or members of the public or illnesses caused by poor standards of food safety. This could result in legal repercussions and damage to reputation that can resonate for years to come.

The essential point is that existing paper-based checklists and basic spreadsheet systems fall way short of what is required. This is why organisations are abandoning them for digital systems that prompt and guide staff to carry out food, hygiene and safety tasks the right way and provide a tamper-proof, time-stamped record.

Moving to digital makes compliance simpler, faster and more transparent. New cloud based systems combine smart sensing technology with work management software for scheduling food, hygiene and safety tasks. These are displayed as interactive digital checklists which staff access through a handheld device. This addresses the industry challenge of tracking staff activity and securely recording the data.

Digital checklists provide step by step guidance on how to perform scheduled routine tasks, with staff logging their activities and results of any checks (assisted by temperature probes and smart sensors where necessary) in real-time, which is automatically uploaded to the cloud. As records and data are time-stamped, trusted and visible, managers can monitor activities remotely, across multiple sites as they happen, with confidence that they have an accurate picture of operations.

Not only does this provide greater visibility, but it also ensures that any problems are dealt with quickly and in accordance with agreed policies. There is also no need to retype hand-written records into spreadsheets, which is inefficient and can introduce errors.

Here are four specific examples of where automated monitoring and digital checklist systems increase efficiency and compliance.

  1. Food safety
    Digital checklists ensure catering staff have clear guidance about what they should be doing from a food safety and hygiene perspective. Catering staff are notified when work is due, what the task is, with it automatically time-stamped when completed. This information is immediately available to managers, giving real-time control and providing a full audit trail for environmental health inspections.
  2. Cleaning
    For building cleaning and inspections, digital checklists provide a time-stamped record of when inspections took place, as well as giving cleaning staff step-by-step instructions on what needs to be cleaned and how. From a legal and compliance point of view, having a digital record shows that the job was actually completed at a specific time – useful if any complaints are made by users.
  3. Security
    Digital checklist systems are an efficient way of recording when building security checks have been carried out. Staff are prompted on what needs to be inspected, along with what to do if problems are discovered, while managers can be immediately alerted to any issues.
  4. Automated monitoring of facilities
    Health and safety tasks, equipment maintenance or ensuring the right temperature and humidity inside buildings usually requires a multitude of manual checks to be carried out in order to maintain an efficient operation and meet quality, health and safety standards.
    Smart monitoring frees staff from these checks, saving hours every week, as readings are recorded and uploaded automatically from sensors within buildings and equipment such as fridges.

The old way of managing health and safety tasks, by using pen and paper or spreadsheets is inefficient and cannot be relied on for compliance. Moving to a digital system transforms the process, bringing automation and control, reducing the chance of errors and providing an accurate, legal audit trail in case of any issues.

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