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More can be done to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) introduce technology to better protect their workforce says the head of global regulation and compliance firm Ideagen.

With more than half of businesses in Europe and the US saying they still use paper or basic spreadsheets to manage health and safety, there’s concern key opportunities to protect worker health and safety could be being missed, as Ideagen CEO Ben Dorks, explains: 

“I don’t think you’ll find a business on the planet that doesn’t put the safety of its employees and customers high on its list of priorities, but only a small proportion are using technology to make the process easier and more efficient. 

“Business leaders do care and do want to embrace technology, but there’s fear around the cost and complexity to implement that maintains the status quo. We need to work harder as a software industry to enable this transition and create technology and solutions that businesses of any size can implement.” 

SMBs make up 99.9% of all businesses in the UK and US according to government statistics. There are 5.5m businesses in the UK with fewer than 250 employees employing 16.4 million people. In the US 32.5 million SMBs employ 46.4% of the American working population (61.7m). To put this into context, collectively across the UK and US SMBs employ 10 million more than the entire UK population. 

The vast majority of SMBs are in construction, wholesale, retail, the motor trade and agriculture, all of which are sectors with significant safety risk. 

Thorough research on the scale of the issue within the SMB population is lacking, but analysis carried out by research and advisory firm Verdantix in 2020 of medium to large business (with annual revenue between $250m and $10bn) revealed that 63% of companies in Europe and 51% in the US were still using paper or spreadsheets to manage their health and safety.   

For small or medium sized businesses this percentage is estimated to be even higher making it much harder to manage or prevent risk as Health and Safety expert Jane Murdoch, Chair of the Scottish Chamber of Safety, explains:  

“The problem with paper or spreadsheets is the lack of immediate trending and complete picture of incidents or trends, putting a lag on introducing mitigating action. 

“Tracking trends from a number of spreadsheets can be time intensive and there’s a risk of missing data. With paper systems it’s virtually impossible. At very best these businesses risk not being compliant in their health and safety commitments, at worst, it could lead to a preventable incident.” 

This fear is evidenced in the statistics. In December 2022 The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a worker died  every 101 minutes from a work-related injury. According to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, 41% of non-fatal injuries in the workplace in 2021/22 were due to slips, trips, or being struck by a moving object. This has an estimated cost to the UK economy of £18.8bn, and is completely preventable with the right visibility of near-miss or incident reporting.   

In a bid to redress this, software solutions provider, Ideagen have released a new health and safety product specifically designed for small to medium businesses. Ideagen EHS Essentials takes the best functionality of their segment-leading ProcessMAP solution and packages it into an off-the shelf product specifically designed for small to medium businesses that they can set up and begin using within days.  

It puts the power in the hands of employees, allowing them to report incidents or near misses from mobile devices and upload photographs. It uses incident reports to automatically populate statutory reporting forms such as RIDDOR and OSHA and has a comprehensive dashboard so managers can spot risky locations, job roles or shift patterns. 

Vijay Gudivaka, Ideagen Senior Vice President for Environment Health and Safety, said: “We strongly believe that all workers, no matter who they are employed by, should return home to their families in the same healthy state as when they left. The size of a business should not be a barrier to safety. We want to make good EHS accessible to all. 

“When we acquired ProcessMAP in October 2022 we said that we wanted to bring together the strengths of the two organisations: ProcessMAP’s exceptional functionality and Ideagen’s global reach and expertise in software solutions for small-to-medium and medium-to-large businesses. 

“By taking the most used parts of our industry-leading ProcessMAP product – such as incident reporting, root cause analysis, training, inspection and audit to name just a few - and packaging it into an off-the-shelf, mobile compatible solution, we’ve created a product that any business could easily introduce.”