I came across the following article when I was doing a little Sunday morning reading on blockchain. More specifically, how it will impact the occupational health and safety profession.
Please understand that I did not write the article below and was not able to get permission to reprint (option wasn’t available) so instead I will just give mention here to the website and author and you can visit their very interesting website on Emerging Tech for our OHS industry.
Emerging Tech : Blockchain and OHS Management
Risk is a significant aspect of doing business. It requires significant resources and expertise to ensure that business opportunities are seized, and that loss and injury does not affect the operations and objectives of the organisation.
Like brand reputation and competitor action, management of worker health & safety is an important dimension of enterprise risk. Companies who fail to address statutory requirements in health & safety regularly suffer legal and business consequences.
In the following items we look at the potential to leverage blockchain technology to manage key components of a health & safety management system:
(I) Third-part prequalification in Contractor Safety Management
Smaller contractors and organisations can struggle to meet the requirements of larger clients. Maintenance of proprietary system accounts can be a full time job for contractors, especially when different clients adopt different management platforms. From a clients perspective the selection and monitoring of safe and competent contractors is a key objective in risk management.
The introduction of a ‘unifying platform’ through blockchain would bring measurable efficiencies to all stakeholders. For example, a maintenance contractor would be obliged by the blockchain platform to update training, inspections, audits and performance reports. The contractor submits this information once as required, and in doing so ensures that all their clients have eyes on the information.
This system would negate the need for ongoing resources from both parties to ensure due-diligence and compliance is achieved. It would also remove many of the frustrations for small contractors struggling with profits margins and the myriad of conformances that come with each new client.
(II) Safe systems of work
Typically organisations attempt to manage workplace safety by outsourcing risky tasks to contractors. They then try to control the work activity with tools such as pre qualification, work permits, site controls, and safe work plans such as RAMS.
It can be tricky, expensive and frustrating for smaller organisations who have to comply with the varying requirements on each work site. And the clients initiating the work are often far from comfortable with the quality and authenticity of the information they receive. Often times they struggle to get actual visibility on the work to verify who is carrying it out, and to what standard. For example the work may be outsourced 3 to 4 times to smaller and smaller contractors without the clients knowledge.
The above requires huge resources on either side of the contract, which can make the process of submission, review and document approval painstakingly slow. Blockchain tools would create a visual sandbox where all required information would be available to all stakeholders with full clarity on all sides of the “contract”. The health & safety requirements would be unambiguous and this would remove human bias from the approval process.
(III) Auditing and inspections
Blockchain enabled systems would allow full visibility on historical work events, both positive and negative. This trusted record of performance would provide valuable feedback to both government inspectors and system auditors who would both be linked to the platform.
The open platform would also give the workforce peace-of-mind that identified workplace hazards and unsafe conditions are either closed-out, or in progress, and not brushed-under-the-carpet.
And this is why blockchain is so powerful. Absolute clarity and full disclosure may actually be too much for some companies. Especially those who are used to flaunting legal requirements and ‘white-washing’ over environmental, safety and health concerns in the workplace.
(IV) Anonymity for workers and contractors for BBS and other reporting
The safety culture of any workplace is improved by the direct involvement of the workforce in health & safety management. The requirement for employers to consult with workers on matters of health & safety is also a legal requirement in many jurisdictions. Provision of information on work hazards and involvement of the workforce in managing the associated risks helps to ensure a safe and efficient workplace. This type of collaboration benefits both parties.
Self-reporting and worker-driven health & safety may be the goal for many large organisations but it is rarely achieved. Through blockchain technology, this level of workplace trust and cultural maturity may actually be achievable . A platform open to all stakeholders would allow workers and contractors to anonymously speak out on health & safety conditions in the workplace, without fear of repercussion. This type of system would create an important conduit between senior management and the workers, where it would be virtually impossible to dilute or distort important information.
How will blockchain affect the future role of the health & safety professional?
With each year we are better able to predict the emerging technologies that will disrupt current business models. Blockchain is front-and-centre as a technology that will impact our world within the next 5 years. The organisational applications for blockchain are endless and the potential savings will be attractive to big business.
Blockchain technology will disrupt and automate the current model for compliance management in the same way it is changing other management fields. And whilst some jobs will be lost it is becoming clear that most roles will change due to the “automation” of certain management tasks.
Companies will require personnel to up-skill and learn how to operate complex blockchain tools. But the health & safety professional may not be too keen to do so. Fear of professional obsolescence in favour of automated technologies, and age-related shyness towards digitalised systems is sure to present major barriers to blockchain integration. These are in fact classic symptoms of job disruption through technology.
As challenging as it may be, the potential to leverage blockchain technology to drive cooperation, consultation and collaboration between stakeholders is too great an opportunity for private business and regulators to pass up. Given the effectiveness and savings involved the adoption of blockchain into risk compliance seems imminent. It will likely be up to each individual health & safety professional whether they choose to evolve with these impending technologies or diversify into other areas of employment.
Garry McGauran is author and editor at Emerging Tech Safety. He has 17 years experience as a prototype risk assessor, design safety consultant, and academic research advisor, as well as heading up his own drone inspection service. He is a freelance safety consultant serving the tech, industrial, and utility sectors in Ireland and the UK.