I was posed this interesting question a short time ago, I suspect the person didn’t get the answer they expected. The answer is a simple – maybe. I know it sounds a bit evasive but it just isn’t a simple question and a few issues affect the answer, some factors to consider are:
1. It can’t do anything by itself - I remember buying an early PC in the early 1990’s and being very disappointed that it didn’t seem to do much. It seems silly now, but I still think many companies buying software think this is somehow going to do things for you – wrong! Good systems will warn you something needs to be done, remind you if you haven’t done it and even tell the boss you haven’t done it.
2. Rubbish in rubbish out - In computer lingo this means computers today are really smart but they don’t really know what you mean. So if you enter vague generalised statements you will get vague generalised data out. The whole indicator of how well any system will work is directly related to how well you understand what needs to entered and that you do this consistently. My observation recently is increasing emphasis is being placed on statistical analysis of data being generated from incident data. I suspect this reflects increasing interest from Boards of Directors, however if the incident data is poorly collected and particularly if accident investigation is poor the resulting data is likely to seriously faulted.
3. Is the system developed by people who know health and safety? - Rather embarrassingly I need to admit that I once spent months loading huge amounts of data into a large complex software system to only discover that I was unable to then report on it in any sensible way. The system I’m sure was technically impressive and did many wonderful things – just nothing I needed. It was written by programmers who really had no concept of the flexibility needed. Today I think this is overall much better than it was, but still it’s a valid question, make sure there is the flexibility to change both what is being reported and the format of the report.
4. Know what you want
a.What’s it meant to achieve? - A number of basic systems are largely a data storage facility where they will keep all of your procedures and records in an orderly fashion. This is particularly useful for the person keeping this information and at times needing to go and find it again. At the other end of the scale certain systems are extremely thorough but this can add to their complexity.
b.Who’s going to use it? - The complexity of these programmes vary considerably and it pays to consider who you think will be accessing the system and loading data. Problems with corrupted or duplicate data are difficult and time consuming to solve.
So it can be yes, the right software will help - but remember it is just a tool and like any tool you need to get the right one and you need to know what you are doing with it.