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How to Comply with OSHA Digital Records Rules without the Anxiety

May 17, 2018
OSHA requires e-reporting of all workplace injuries and illnesses, but not every manufacturer is set up to easily comply. Luckily, there's an app for that.

When there’s a health or safety problem, reporting it as quickly as possible is one of the first steps companies should take. Yet, despite technological advances, old-fashioned paper and pen forms mailed off to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is still much more common than you might expect.

Recognizing that a faster, more reliable system would be a boon to improving work safety, OSHA implemented a rule in 2018 that requires the electronic submission of all workplace illness and injury records. More than a year later, many companies are still using paper forms to submit any breaches.

OSHA sets guidelines and expects companies to meet those thresholds, defined for different industries, and not complying with them can lead to substantial fines. Complying with statutory safety rules is more than just a legal requirement, any good employer would want to make sure staff are able to work safely. Both good employer practice and wanting to avoid a major fine make for powerful incentives, yet companies avoid submitting problems electronically anyway. The obvious question is, why is the shift to electronic submission of forms so slow? And, understanding that, what can be done to make this new system more appealing?

Companies' resistance to filing these electronic forms with OSHA and other agencies can be attributed to trepidation over the digital transformation. A wholesale change in a company’s operations can be overwhelming to implement, and disorienting for employees who have to revise everything they do for their job. Concern about complying with regulations might make some employees hesitate to use a system they are unfamiliar with, lest they get it wrong. The paper forms may be slower and cause their own problems, but they are familiar at least.

We all feel like overwhelmed children when it comes to digital transformation sometimes.

But, the digital transformation doesn’t have to be sudden or encompass every element of a company’s operation in one go. In the case of OSHA’s new requirement, GoCanvas created an out-of-the-box solution for companies suddenly in need of a new pipeline for reporting problems. The forms are digitized in a way where a company simply has to fill in the details of the incident. By demystifying the system as a whole, these kinds of apps do the hard work and assure that the company is compliant with all the relevant regulations.

Ensuring compliance is a much bigger deal than it might seem at first. Digital applications make it seem straightforward to file reports in accord with regulations, but understanding which regulations apply in each case hasn’t always been easy. Historically, companies were left on their own to hunt for regulations, with just the blanket command to ‘be compliant’ from OSHA. Employers don’t want to leave staff at risk by not reporting when there’s a problem, but sometimes business owners can feel beset by regulations on every front. With a few questions, a digital app can crosscheck all of the relevant regulations and make sure the business isn’t forgetting a step along the way. Digital submissions with apps can relieve that anxiety, take away a bit of pain and reassure business owners they are covered on the compliance front.

The benefits to using digital apps for OSHA reports go well beyond compliance however. The improvements in accuracy and speed of reporting paint a more complete and detailed picture for OSHA of what is happening in workplaces. If there’s something that needs to be investigated, OSHA will be quicker to do so, and with a better sense of what to look for right from the start. Companies will be able to apply the data as well, preventing future problems and improving working conditions. On the financial front, that represents a potentially huge savings in terms of insurance, lost man-hours, and of course avoiding giant fines from OSHA.

Plenty of companies already have the technological potential to complete their digital transformation. What they’ve lacked is a solution to fit specific needs. With platforms like GoCanvas, companies can now fit digital devices into their business models. Today, it’s mainly the biggest companies that benefit from digital solutions because they can afford to throw money into building their own solutions. Other companies may have the knowledge but face a utility gap, a lack of the key component to radically improve their efficiency the way OSHA offers with its digital submission.

Using digital applications to report health and safety issues can be the first, simple step toward a complete digital transformation of a company. It sets a company on the path to seeing how digital apps are flexible enough for all kinds of activities. Then comes the wow moment, and businesses start digitizing and connecting dispatch services, cost estimates, invoicing, and more. It all starts and finishes with capturing data digitally to keep a workplace safe.

James Robins is Chief Marketing Officer of digital transformation platform GoCanvas. For more info, please visit: https://www.gocanvas.com.

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