Is the re-use of Safety Documents a good idea for your organisation?

28 September 2020

One debate, which comes up time and again in considering digitising safety documents, is the use of electronic libraries of safety documents and the copying of historical data.  As companies shift away from paper to a digital format, the ability to store and approve company ‘standard’ libraries of Permits, Clearances, Risk Assessments, LOTO and other safety documents raises a significant question. 

Is the re-use of safety document templates and approved libraries a good idea?”.

Organisations constantly strive for efficiency and optimal performance whilst adhering to compliance and safety policies with keen attention.  Operations teams are continually being asked to do more with less and to do so without compromising safety and compliance. 

Using a physical paper process, staff are able to copy from previous documents or refer to libraries of approved documents as the basis for new safety documents.  It is possible for this to be done without the protection of formal controls.  In the era of digital forms of safety document management, there is even more opportunity to re-use information.  One of the key improvements electronic systems bring to this process is a structure to copying previous documents. Well designed systems such as NiSoft’s e3 ePTW module not only reduce the time it takes to create new safety documents but the system enforces controls to rely on company approved documentation.

Some obvious pitfalls of simply accepting copied or reused information are;

  • Tendency not to re-check scope of isolation or work scope
  • Safety document controls relate to specific areas and work and may not apply to the scope of new work
  • Errors made but not discovered and corrected on previous documents and forms are inherited and repeated
  • Controls or equipment information may have changed since documentation was first written and approved

Employing a digital safety management system with the right mix of controls and approvals is needed to ensure that trust is created towards reliance on historical and approved documents and procedures.  Some examples of helpful controls in digital safety management;

  • Prompts and checks that cause the operator to re-think pertinent sections on forms
  • Positive revalidation of key information
  • On-screen warnings regarding using standards and documentation in areas not previously approved for work scope
  • Expiration of unapproved or out-of-date historical documents, policies and procedures

Standards, libraries, approved procedures and knowledge bases are all useful tools in helping teams learn from and reuse pertinent information.  The key is defining systems and workflows digitally that cause the user to rethink and check the content of documents as relevant and accurate at every stage to avoid overlooking erroneous information or irrelevant controls.

I invite you to contact us at NiSoft to learn more about NiSoft’s e3 Operational Suite and our experience helping companies navigate the decisions surrounding moving to a digital safety document management system.

Author of this Article

Andy McIvor

Regional VP sales