On Safety

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The digital frontier

June 26, 2014

The proliferation of Wi-Fi and handheld electronic devices has thrust us into a digital age, and workplace safety is coming along for the ride. But is this a good thing?

Hawaii took a step earlier this month to go digital with its workers’ compensation program, and OSHA for the past several years has been pursuing a rule to electronically collect injury and illness data.

In addition to new rules requiring digital data submission, a number of digital tools are available to the safety professional in the form of smartphone and tablet applications. Whether it’s a safety walk-through or looking up the proper maintenance procedures, it seems more individuals are checking items off on a digital screen rather than paper.

I love being able to access all kinds of data – no matter where I am – and the Internet has been a boon to my journalism profession, as I’m sure it has for those of you focusing on safety.

But sometimes I prefer the ability to hold information in my hand rather than look at a screen. I avoid e-books in favor of the printed page; my desk and office wall are covered in pieces of scrap paper with half-thoughts scribbled on them; and I still print out much of the information I could otherwise see on a screen. (Double-sided followed by recycling, of course, to save the trees.)

What do you think about the move to digital? Do you support the transition? Are there downsides to such a move, and what effect – if any – does it have on workplace safety?

And, finally, will people who prefer printed books and paper products over computer technology be seen as “crackpots,” as Star Trek suggested nearly 50 years ago (below)?

Let me know in the comments what you think of the safety profession becoming more digital.

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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