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The future of worksite safety: How social helps save lives

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Emergencies every day

Blerter is all about human safety.

We began with our Alerter product, which helps government agencies notify people about natural disasters and other emergencies. But we wanted to be able to help people on a daily basis too. So we did some research into where people need better systems for ongoing safety information. That led us to occupational health and worksite safety.

In New Zealand, about 50 people are killed on the job every year, and hundreds are injured. In the United States, it’s far worse, with 13 people a day killed on the job—more than 4,600 people a year.

So we looked at occupational safety and asked, “What can we do to change this?”

Standard safety processes

Health and safety is all about checklists, people finding the right paper on a clipboard, checking forms, and that sort of thing. It really is like the 1980s. We thought, “How can we automate this? How can we use all the technologies we have available to us to create a whole new way of looking at it?”

We didn’t want to just automate the piece of paper. There are electronic processes out there for tablets, but actually all they do is automate the existing process. Someone has to chase everybody down with a tablet rather than a clipboard.

The clipboard challenge

On a construction site, you see a lot of people, a lot of equipment and a whole lot of logos representing all the contractors and subcontractors involved in that project. The people getting hurt are not necessarily the employees or the prime contractors. They tend to be workers of the subcontractors, maybe five or 10 layers removed from the construction site owner. People come on and offsite very briefly, and they don’t know what the hazards are, what the worksite safety procedures are, or that things have changed from the last time they were there.

On these projects, every day is a different day, and the workforce is different every day. And, that’s the real challenge. That’s what the paper systems can’t cope with.

The social network approach

We designed and built our Blerter app using social networking concepts, and here’s why:

1. Familiar interaction

Anybody can download Blerter and set up their profile, just like you would LinkedIn or Facebook. Each person’s profile captures their qualifications, the activities they’re supposed to be doing, and more. Then, a business owner can register in Blerter, invite employees to their business and assign them to a project. People’s profiles follow them, from employer to employer, site to site, job to job.

2. Dynamic process

As workers come on and off different projects and sites, they’re automatically made aware of all the hazards on that site and the site-specific hazard-reduction processes. Subcontractors can now more easily and more safely move people on and off of a project as needed.

3. Transparency

We have the advantage of allowing anybody to see at a glance who is actually checked in and onsite at any given point, as well as what they’re supposed to be doing. The social networking model creates this real-time transparency, and enhances the safety culture at these sites.

The cloud foundation

We’re a start-up company with a team of developers, but without a team of network engineers. IBM SoftLayer gave us the scalable cloud platform to make Blerter a reality, and IBM gave us the support to let our developers focus on developing. When we looked at other cloud platforms, the support just wasn’t able to resolve issues. We did some experimentation. When we played with SoftLayer, we were pretty impressed. The performance was fantastic, and the support, I must say, was pretty stunning.

With a secure platform, we can focus on what matters. It’s about our ability to innovate on top of the platform easily, and to pick up the phone and call somebody to get something sorted out in a hurry.

We sleep a little better at night, and I think our customers will too.

 

Find out more about Blerter (formerly known as CLOUD M) in this case study.

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