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The QR Code’s New Role in Gathering Safety Information

QR codes provide instant accessibility to safety data and relevant information.

What once took safety personnel hours and sometimes longer to complete, what was once forgotten, placed aside until later or simply avoided because of time, can now be done with the swipe of a cell phone, ensuring not only machines and work environments remain hazard free, but the employees working there are also safe.

Unfortunately, the safety professional on most sites is wearing a variety of hats, forced to complete a slew of other responsibilities including everything from front desk reception and HR services, to payroll and maintenance requests.

And there are machines needing an inspection or audit in every manufacturing firm or job site across the country. Done on paper, the task can take hours, days or even weeks to complete. How much did the machines and work environments degrade in this time? Are employees at risk of being injured now, or even worse, killed?

The commonality of this sequence is shocking and leads to countless injuries, OSHA penalties and even death. A 2019 study by the AFL-CIO Safety and Health Department illustrated this toll of neglect, showing employers reported nearly 3.5 million workers experienced work-related injuries and illnesses in 2017, while the true number each year actually hovers between 7 and 10.5 million due to limitations in the injury reporting system.

According to the data, there is widespread under-reporting of workplace injuries.

But a digital side-by-side replacement of the standard hard-copy is now available. What was once done with pen and paper is now completed in nanoseconds with your pointing finger and touchscreen, meaning the only difference is input.

Using an iPhone, Tablet or mobile touch device, QR codes can seamlessly replace the paper versions of audits, incident reporting and observations, guaranteeing not only a safer work environment for employees, but building a fatter bottom line and saving on an endless amount of manhours.  

Just imagine yourself as safety professional for a large manufacturing firm with more than 100 fire extinguishers in need of monthly inspections. Are they full? Are they properly tagged? Are they legible? Are they in their proper place?

As outlined by OSHA, fire extinguishers must be readily accessible by employees in the event of a fire, and depending on your facility’s fire hazards, extinguishers with different ratings will be required in different locations.

The ratings include Class A, B, C, D or K, with each one addressing a different type of fire cause and subsequent burn, whether it be flammable liquids, metals and gasses or ordinary combustible materials like cloth, wood, paper, rubber or plastic.

What happens in the case of an audit or surprise inspection? What happens when your machines, walkways and fire extinguishers fail the OSHA sniff test? Did they uncover any faulty equipment, unsafe environments or inaccurate documentation? They will not forgo any fees or penalties because your company’s safety professional, whether they’re wearing other hats or not, ran out of time. Did they use the correct form? Was it filled out correctly or was it simply stored and ignored? Unfortunately, “pencil-whipping” to complete checklists is a common occurrence and potential safety issues are always bubbling under the surface here.

In addition to drastically cutting down inspection times and ensuring a good report from a surprise audit, employee observations of safety issues are now opportunities rather than a cumbersome hinderance on the shop floor. Making note of a potential safety issue while passing from one department to the next is now as simple as swiping your hand while you pass by.

And should someone get hurt, there is no getting out of a report. When someone is injured on the job, OSHA demands accurate records are kept or face serious fines and penalties.

Nonetheless, when a person is hurt, the last thing someone is thinking is paperwork. The speediness and timeliness of your incident is paramount because the information is fresh, the people involved are there, and any story is bound to change the longer it lives.

It’s simple too. Click, scan and done.

Using QR codes to record and report safety issues not only provides online accessibility to data and immediate notifications of relevant information, they are customizable, consistent and make safety issues workable in real-time while offering trackable accountability.

Global aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin are utilizing the technology to avoid a severe clog in their on-boarding contractor process. At one time, contractors moving from one site to another were required to retake the original orientation each time before entering. As one can imagine, this had a negative impact on the firm’s abilities to maintain deadlines and an efficient bottom line with their on-boarded work.

By utilizing a customized QR code technology, the defense firm now has a system in place capable of delivering and validating contractor training while also making transcripts immediately available online and on-site.

Large construction companies like RCS Grading are implementing the technology to guarantee their fleet of vehicles and equipment across the region are maintained and repaired in a timely manner. Today, maintenance is notified instantly as issues arise, making sure the sum of the contracting firm’s equipment and vehicles remain in perfect working order, to not only complete the job correctly but to keep the men and women operating the machines are safe. 

As technology goes, so does industry, and so too must safety. Recording and reporting safety issues by the touch of a finger is worth more than time and money, it safeguards a company’s most prized investment - their employees.

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