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How Automated Workflows Can Improve Incident Reporting Compliance

In July 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) started requiring U.S. businesses to submit their OSHA 300A forms, the form that covers work-related injuries and illnesses, digitally. For manufacturers, this is a huge shift. Not only do they have to retire their old paper-based processes but they also need to put completely new, electronic processes in place. With fines for non-compliance starting at $10,000, it is essential for manufacturers to get on board by ensuring that their incident reporting processes are easy to apply and consistently enforced across their whole organization.

At first glance, this change may seem to be time-consuming and costly. However, it also presents manufacturers with a great opportunity to continue digitizing their business and operational processes. While the initial costs can seem significant, the reality is that moving away from the old paper-based processes is going to help manufacturers increase their organizational efficiency and reduce costs while also putting them in a better position to take further advantage of other emerging technologies that can help them better streamline their operations in the future.

To properly digitize their OSHA processes, manufacturers will need to adopt a manufacturing document management system. There are countless options available, including cloud-based options, like G Suite, that integrate with document control software. One of the major benefits of these systems is their automation and workflow features. Obviously, they can help manufacturing businesses in many ways. One of those scenarios is incident reporting and OSHA compliance.

How Automation Makes it Easier to Stay Compliant

Digitizing and automating an organization is great. However, putting the right processes in place is only half the battle. The other, arguably more challenging half, is getting the company's employees to follow those processes.

Make Sure Employees Know the Policies and Procedures

The first step to improving incident reporting compliance is making sure that the company's employees actually know the incident reporting policies and procedures. Companies can only expect 100% compliance if 100% of its employees know all of the policies and procedures.

How Does Automation Help?

The right manufacturing document management system helps companies properly distribute their policies and procedures to every employee, even those who are not working at a desk. As part of a workflow, companies can make sure that their employees actually read the documentation that they share by requiring workers to confirm that they have read each policy and procedure.

Another common problem that manufacturers encounter is keeping all of their manuals up to date. Physically sending manuals to production sites takes time and, even when they arrive, there is no guarantee that someone will not accidentally continue to use the old version. If employees do not start using the new policies, the potential for non-compliance opens organizations up to significant fines from OSHA. With automation, when organizations publish a policy change, all of their documents are automatically updated while the obsolete versions disappear.

Make Incident Reporting Easy

After making sure that employees understand the company's policies and procedures, the next step is to ensure that they implement them. Any "friction" or difficulties in an incident reporting process will inevitably lead to accidents not being properly documented. Companies should make reporting an incident as easy as posting an update on social media. Automation helps make that a reality while still ensuring that there are proper processes in place.

Reporting an incident often elicits the feeling of "telling on yourself." Usually, accidents happen because someone did not properly follow procedures. The fear of being disciplined by a supervisor report an incident can be a reason why employees do not. Automation helps solve that by enabling employees to easily and privately submit incident reports. Workflows log the incident and forward it to the appropriate people. This helps employees avoid uncomfortable situations and, instead, only shares the incident with the internal teams who are meant to deal with them.

Furthermore, since the whole process is tracked and any related content is archived and retained by the document management system, incidents reports are easy to produce when undergoing an audit.

Investigations are Transparent

Incidents should always result in incident investigations. By using workflows, companies can ensure that investigations are conducted in a timely manner. Generally, incident investigations are supposed to happen as soon as possible to make sure that information from witnesses and the incident site are not lost. With digitized workflows, organizations can have an auditable log of the timing of events, from the initial incident to the conclusion of the investigation. Investigators are also able to add all kinds of files, including photos and videos, to incident reports before storing them in the document management system. During an audit, it is easy to show the full log of the investigation along with all of the supporting documents and files.

While it can seem intimidating in the beginning, digitizing incident reporting can provide manufacturers with efficiencies and benefits that reach much further than just OSHA compliance. With the right document management system, manufacturers can leverage automation to streamline their operations, procurement, quality management and other processes, helping them to improve their operational efficiency while simultaneously reducing costs. With that mindset, the new OSHA compliance requirements should not be viewed as a burden but rather as an opportunity.

Authored by Christian Weil, Deployment Specialist at AODocs

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