In my many years as an EHS professional, I have seen many drivers that compel organizations to implement , including compliance, risk mitigation and improvements in environmental or safety performance. EHS software can help companies meet these objectives, but the software system is only as good as the data it manages.
Good quality EHS data is needed for successful EHS management programs, and there is good news: EHS software can also help improve data quality. While there are many features of EHS software that help improve EHS data quality, the following four stand out, and you should look for them when evaluating EHS software systems.
1) User Interface Guidance for Data Entry
Human error is one of the top causes of poor EHS data quality. Imagine if spreadsheets were used for EHS programs. While spreadsheets offer some capability to control the type of data that is entered, they still cannot provide full protection against bad data entry. Commercial EHS software can improve data quality through a user interface that guides people into entering the right type of data, in the right format.
The best way to prevent bad data entry due to human error is to address the issue at the source. EHS management software with a smart user interface can alert users if they enter data that does not correspond to pre-defined types and formats, and can even prevent them from entering such data. For example, if you use the metric system, software can force users to define whether the data is in metric or imperial format, and either reject data in imperial format or convert it on-the-fly. Spreadsheets can also lead to incorrect data due to changes in calculation functions. For example, updates of emission factors in spreadsheets do not happen automatically, compared to EHS software.
2) Data Capture Through Mobility
Another way to improve data quality is to capture it directly in the field. Equipping your workforce with mobile apps linked to EHS software is a sure way to achieve this. In many industries, workers will not be constantly in front of a computer or laptop. Through tablets, smartphones and smartwatches, workers can enter incident information in real-time, report observations on the spot, or conduct audits and inspections in the field. They can also include images, videos and geolocation information.
Mobile apps linked to central EHS management software enable better data capture in the field, leading to improved EHS data quality. But not all mobile apps are the same. When looking at , be sure to check for native apps that interact with and leverage operating system features and other software installed on the mobile device, and apps that can work offline so you can use them in remote areas with no Internet access, and later upload the data.
3) Automated Workflows for Data Approval
In certain industries, especially chemicals, life sciences, and pharmaceuticals, a lot of scientific or test data on substances and products that are entered must then be validated by another person with more authority or scientific knowledge. Using e-mails and paperwork to obtain data validation from another person introduces a risk of human error, which in turn can compromise data quality.
Leading EHS software offer configurable and automated workflows that ensure data is properly reviewed, validated and approved by qualified individuals, before it is saved in the system. The workflows make sure that the people who need to approve data get notifications and other reminders through dashboards. In addition, the EHS management software can provide an overview of all pending data approval requests along with due dates, to make sure that bottlenecks are identified.
4) Validation Rules and Consistency Checks
Workflows are certainly useful. But what happens when thousands of data records must be collected and processed every day or even every hour? This is the reality faced by, for example, oil and gas companies that have thousands of pieces of equipment spread over multiple facilities, with each piece of equipment requiring frequent readings on several parameters to ensure compliance. The sheer quantity of data and the scale of air emissions calculations result in millions of data records. You can’t ask a specialist to validate all of them.
Automated validation rules and consistency checks in EHS software can go through millions of data records to search for anomalies, and compare the data with historical records to see if there is anything out of the ordinary. EHS management software can flag any data records that show signs of error or inconsistency, to ensure data quality.
There are great benefits in leveraging EHS management software to improve EHS data quality. Make sure to utilize the right set of software features that can help you achieve this.
Download NAEM’s 2017 EHS and Sustainability Software Buyer’s Guide and learn more about the business objectives for EHS and Sustainability software buyers, desired software capabilities, and their selection criteria.