The Invasion of Smart Devices
Smart devices are everywhere these days; even my 5-year-old granddaughter has something called a Leap Pad which is apparently a junior version of the adult devices. I sometimes think I am the only person on the planet who doesn’t have one of these things – I’m still struggling with my 6-year-old standard mobile phone.
I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay a Luddite in this. The increasing use of these devices for everyday things such as grocery shopping; paying your bills and so forth will probably overtake my wish to remain untouched by this communication revolution. One of the things that is driving me to think about changing is the growth in apps that allow the use of smart devices for health and safety auditing which may impact on my ability to keep working in the field.
Advantages of using Pads and Phones for Auditing
The big advantage these devices have is the speed with which a client can receive an audit report. As I don’t have one I don’t know how fast this happens but suppliers websites imply that it’s almost instantaneous. You complete the audit, plug your gizmo into a network and print off the report – at least a draft version of it. Some apps even allow you to integrate sound, video and still photos to supplement your report. Pretty clever stuff, eh?
Weaknesses of using Pads and Phones
One of the weaknesses that I can see with the use of smart devices for H&S auditing is that you must have an internet connection. The software doesn’t seem reside on your device, rather it seems the app configures the device to download and upload information to and from a server somewhere. So no internet connection no audit unless you revert to the “old school” method of pen, paper and camera (although some of these devices do store information such as photos and others have text editing and even word processing capabilities so all may not be lost if you’re out in the wilderness).
Most of the apps seem to be focused on a single country which is pretty reasonable I guess given the variation in legislation between jurisdictions. However, it is something you’d want to check up on – an OSHA compliance template isn’t going to be much use in Europe. An alternative is to make sure you can upload your own templates instead of being limited to the supplier’s templates.
Health and Safety Auditing Apps
Web sites I’ve looked at don’t provide much detail about their apps; what they do or don’t do; how you interact with them, whether you can use your own audit templates or must use to use theirs; the configuration and format of the reports, what auditing templates are available. Not too many provide access to free temporary accounts so you can try before you buy either. So in many cases it’s buyer beware since not too many suppliers seem offer any money back guarantee.
Protecting Your Smart Device
One thing that probably goes without saying is to make sure the smart device is protected.
We’ve all got tales of mobile phones and the like being dropped into storage vats, down the toilet; off the roof or bonnet of cars and so on. Many survive but many don’t and since most of this sort of equipment comes with touch screens I don’t imagine it would take too much to make them inoperable. If all your audit information’s stored on your tablet or mobile phone you’d want to make sure it stays in good condition – at least until you can get it somewhere where you can download the information to a more robust device.
It’s probably worth investing in a pretty rugged case that has a wrist strap or similar just to be sure.
All in all, there I can see a lot of advantages in using smart devices for health and safety auditing. They’re compact, transportable, can be reasonably flexible and enable better service to clients. As time goes on I’m sure that developers will come up with better software with more options and more flexibility. I’ve no doubt that just as the digital camera replaced film cameras so smart devices will replace paper based health and safety audits – it’s the way of the future.
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