Labour Day weekend is coming up. Bet you knew that. In fact I bet you know exactly which day Labour Day is. You probably even have some activities planned to take advantage of the last “summer weekend”.
How did you do that?
In the real world, you would have marked the date on a calendar early on in the year and periodically counted the remaining days or months until it arrived. As the present and the future converged, it became easier and easier to pinpoint the important day.
The example above is pretty simple. Tracking one day out of a year is easy. You can put considerable effort into ensuring that date isn’t missed and can also lavish considerable time on planning the events related to the day.
In the business world, and more specifically in the world of health and safety, there are typically many dates that need tracking. Often there is overlap. Sometimes an event, which takes place over several consecutive days overlaps with another event, which takes place on a single day. Time management becomes an issue.
Often the events aren’t actually events, but are expiry, recertification; or, training dates. As a result, missing these dates can be serious. Expired licenses, certificates, or training can lead to serious consequences for individuals and companies alike.
Sometimes the items needing tracking are somewhat intangible: lists; inventories; tasks; jobs; or, occupations for example. These are items that have been compiled in one place and now need to be tracked so as to be able to do the right things at the right times to keep people safe.
For example; question 3.1.2 in the COR audit asks:
Has the organization compiled an occupation/task/hazard inventory list showing all occupations, all tasks carried out by people in each occupation and all hazards associated with carrying out those tasks?
So the company needs a list of occupations as a base to build from. Then a list of job tasks for each occupation can be developed from that base. Finally, hazards can be identified and compiled as a hazard inventory list. (Safe work procedures can then be developed based on the hazards identified. But that’s another blog.)
These lists are relatively easy to develop, but are difficult to track over time. As a company grows, the number of occupations tend to increase. Is the original list being updated? Hazards associated with occupations can also change with time. Is an assessment being done and is that change being tracked and the list updated?
You can probably see that tracking even these three items is challenging. There needs to be a system. Typically for these types of items, the system employed is an annual review. Once per year, management and the JHSC/safety rep at the company review the lists above vs. the state of operations to determine if anything has changed. If so, they make changes to the lists and resulting documented risk assessments and hazards. Not exactly real-time tracking, but a reasonable method to ensure everything is up-to-date and accurate.
Tracking information is tough. There can be many variables to juggle all at once. Typically you are not just tracking a simple date, but are making plans based on that target date. There needs to be lead time to get the work done before the date arrives.
Sometimes the mechanism or technique employed is key. Annual review, as an example, is a powerful mechanism. It is systematic in nature and easy to understand conceptually. But it is also very complex as it typically involves reviewing large amounts of interconnected data and making many comparative decisions. The mechanism of annual review, by its nature, automatically schedules and ensures that tracking happens. Tracking, by extension, automatically results from the process.
At the nuts and bolts level, a paper-based tracking system can be very effective. If done in pencil, it is easy to edit/change and is visual. Spreadsheets like Excel can also be very effective. They can track fairly large amounts of data simultaneously and also provide graphical output for easy visualization. As an aside; maybe try Googling “Gantt chart”. Gantt charts can be a powerful scheduling tool.
As a last point, simple is best. Try to use the simplest system that will get the job done.