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How to Pick the Best EHS Software

Toby Graham /

Selecting the right EHS software for your business is like shopping for the right pair of jeans. There are tons of options to choose from and no immediately obvious best choice. You want a system that feels good, is built to last, and ideally works within your budget. Most importantly, it needs to fit well—it should align with your organization’s style and cover everything that needs to be covered.

Unfortunately, comparing EHS software solutions isn’t as easy as trying on different pairs of pants. It takes significant time and effort to evaluate your EHS needs, assess the various options out there, and implement a solution successfully. If you make the wrong choice or invest in a platform without performing sufficient due diligence, you could end up with something that either constricts your workforce or leaves you exposed when regulators such as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration come to visit.

So, how do you find the best EHS software—one that’s affordable, suits your people and your business, and provides the right mix of workforce management and compliance capabilities?

We’ve put together a quick guide on everything you need to know about how to select EHS software. Continue reading to learn tips for navigating the market, understanding the link between EHS software and OSHA compliance, comparing different solutions, integrating software in your business, and more.

What Is EHS Software, and Why Do You Need It?

EHS stands for environment, health, and safety. It’s everything your organization does to keep people safe while on the job—training workers, preventing accidents, taking care of injuries and illnesses, providing personal protective equipment, managing safety data sheets, cleaning up spills, and so on.

You can try to do all of that manually with binders and spreadsheets, but if you have more than a handful of employees, you really shouldn’t. Companies that rely on manual EHS processes tend to perform below their industries’ standards. Compared to average employers, their workers get sick and injured more often, they take longer to fix issues, and they face greater legal and financial risks. Between workers’ compensation claims, regulatory fines and penalties, high ex-mods, employee turnover, reputational damage, and stifled productivity and innovation, the costs of manual EHS are immense.

EHS software allows you to stay on top of everything and easily manage workforce health, safety, and compliance. It can provide better visibility into your EHS program, keep you up-to-date with changing regulations, streamline operations, automate time-consuming processes, reduce or eliminate paperwork, minimize risk, and ultimately improve employee safety and productivity.

It requires an upfront investment and dedication on the part of leadership and management to get up and running, but the right EHS software will quickly pay for itself.

Plus, OSHA and other government agencies increasingly expect employers to have some form of EHS compliance software in place. To an OSHA inspector, a manual EHS program is often the first indication that serious health and safety violations are occurring.

(For more about what EHS is and does, check out our in-depth explainer.)

How EHS Software Solutions Differ

Once you understand the purpose of EHS software and the benefits of using it, you’ll need to determine which kind of EHS software is right for your business.

This is where the jeans-shopping metaphor begins. You know you need something to wear over your legs, but what, exactly? What kind of cut and style of denim is correct? Straight, skinny, bootcut, flared, acid-washed, stone-washed, distressed? Mom jeans or low-rise? Zipper fly or button fly? Capris or clam diggers?

A similar panoply of choices can be found in the EHS software market. Do you need an all-in-one safety and compliance platform, or a specialized solution for a discrete process? Will you be using it primarily to manage incidents, train workers, keep records, generate data, or all—or none—of the above? Can you use something more or less off the shelf, or will it need to be carefully tailored to your organization? Should it be installed on devices or available as a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS)?

Clearly, there’s a lot to know about and consider here. Alternatively, if you want to avoid the effort of finding the perfect system for your organization, you could attempt to build one in-house. However, this is equivalent to sewing your own pair of jeans—it’s possible, but it will involve a great deal of time and frustration, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’ll end up messy and almost certainly fall apart. For the vast majority of employers, it’s best to find an existing EHS management and compliance solution rather than try to develop one in-house.

EHS Software Features to Look For

With all that in mind, here are some key features to pay attention to, along with questions to ask to narrow your search:

Key EHS Software Feature #1: Inspections and Audits

The first and perhaps most important function of any EHS software solution is to tell you what’s currently going on at your facilities. You need to know about existing issues and gaps in your safety and compliance program—what’s working and what needs to be fixed. EHS software should facilitate this process and ensure it occurs a) regularly and b) thoroughly every time.

Questions to ask when looking at EHS software:

  • Will this help us perform audits and inspections? Does it make it any easier than doing them by hand?
  • How does the software track and store the results of regular safety observations?
  • Are pre-built audit checklists included?
  • Can the software help us prioritize our highest areas of exposure?

Key EHS Software Feature #2: Corrective and Preventive Actions

After performing an audit or inspection, the next step is to assign corrective actions—i.e. to fix the problems you discovered. Ideally, you’ll also be able to take preventive actions—to proactively solve potential issues before they become worse. The best EHS software solutions make this part a cinch by automating workflows, assigning people to take corrective and preventative actions, prioritizing things, sending reminders, and capturing the results of actions.

Questions to ask when looking at EHS software:

  • Can we use this to easily assign corrective and preventive actions following an audit or inspection?
  • How are corrective and preventive actions assigned? Is there a dependable and repeatable process?
  • How can we choose which employees will be responsible?
  • Will people be reminded automatically when actions haven’t been taken?
  • Does the software offer citation and regulatory requirements and recommendations? Are all levels of government—federal, state, municipal—covered?
  • Can we track the status of corrective and preventive actions in real-time?

Key EHS Software Feature #3: Incident Management

Accidents, injuries, and illnesses happen. Your EHS software should let you respond to and manage those incidents as quickly as possible. It’s essential that you’re able to record information and capture all relevant details to ensure both swift action and proper reporting. The software you use should aid this process rather than adding unnecessary steps.

Questions to ask when looking at EHS software:

  • How will this help us in the event of an accident or illness?
  • What information does the software capture?
  • Can employees record and manage incidents on their mobile devices, or do they need to log in to a desktop computer to use the software?
  • Are there any pre-built wizards or automated workflows that automate and standardize the process?

Key EHS Software Feature #4: Training

This is one area where many EHS software solutions fall short. Few solutions on the market provide comprehensive, high-quality EHS training. Many organizations are thus forced to use both an EHS management solution and a learning management system (LMS), resulting in a disjointed experience for employees. Information is kept within two systems, which are often out of sync with one another and may, in fact, conflict with each other.

Questions to ask when looking at EHS software:

  • Does this solution include training?
  • If so:
    • What topics are covered?
    • How is the training delivered?
    • When was the material last updated?
    • Does the training use real-life examples?
    • Is it optimized for engagement and retention?
    • Is it available in multiple languages?
  • If not:
    • Does the software provider offer any kind of educational solution?
    • Are there LMS solutions the software easily integrates with? What do those systems look like, and how much do they cost?

(For more about what sets effective training apart, download our free ebook, The Keys to Better Workforce Training.)

Key EHS Software Feature #5: Compliance and Recordkeeping

OSHA and other regulatory agencies want to know about your audits and inspections, corrective and preventive actions, and incident response. A good EHS software solution will serve as a home for all your health and safety records and help you ensure ongoing compliance, report information, and answer regulators’ questions.

Questions to ask when looking at EHS software:

  • Does this help us complete and file OSHA logs—Forms 301, 300, and 300A? How about any other regulatory forms?
  • How can I make sure all records are complete, accurate, and up-to-date?
  • Where are records stored in the system? Can they be pulled up quickly when necessary?
  • Who in our organization will have access to this information? Does the software allow us to set different permissions for different users?
  • Does the system maintain records for at least five years?

Key EHS Software Feature #6: Document Management

A robust EHS software solution does more than track and store incident records and audit results. It serves as a repository for all EHS materials—policies, handbooks, how-tos, legal documents, the organization’s written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), safety committee meeting minutes, and so forth. The software you use should help you keep your workforce informed and prepared for virtually anything.

Questions to ask when looking at EHS software:

  • What documents are included?
  • Can we upload documents of our own?
  • Are document templates available?
  • Where are documents stored?
  • Are documents available to all employees?
  • How easy is it to update documents within the system?

Key EHS Software Feature #7: Hazardous Materials Management

Speaking of documentation, hazard communication is a critical element of any EHS program. The software you use should help your employees stay informed of hazardous materials kept within your facilities and respond quickly in the event of chemical exposure. Make sure the solution includes an SDS library—your safety data sheets should all be in one place.

Questions to ask when looking at EHS software:

  • If an employee was exposed to a hazardous substance, would this system help us locate the relevant SDS within 5 minutes? (Again, mobile access is key.)
  • Are all SDSs kept within the same library? Is the library searchable?
  • Does this software meet employee Right-To-Know requirements for hazardous materials?

Choosing EHS Software: Other Variables to Consider

Above are some of the main features that differentiate the best EHS management software from the rest, but there are many other variables to consider, including…

  • Cost: How much does the EHS software cost? Do you feel the cost is justified by the value the software provides?
  • Cost structure: How will you be paying for this software—through a single payment or monthly or yearly subscription? Are there different payment tiers for different kinds of organizations and/or that provide access to different features?
  • Accessibility: What devices is the software available on? Is it downloaded/installed on computers or available via SaaS or another cloud-based application? Is there a separate mobile app?
  • Ease of use: Is the software simple and intuitive, or clunky and bloated? Does it provide the right features for every user? How easy is it to learn?
  • Customizability: Think of this as the “Apple vs. Microsoft” question. Can the software be configured for different users and environments, or is it supposed to be used as it comes “out of the box?”
  • Level of support: Is the software provider available to answer questions and troubleshoot when needed? How do their customers/clients rate their support?

Finally, consider what you’re paying for: Is it just software, or a combination of software and services? Here at KPA, we provide our customers not only with technology but consulting, audit and inspection services, and more delivered by a team of EHS experts with decades of industry-specific experience.  

How to Do It: 12 Simple Steps for Finding, Selecting, Buying, and Implementing EHS Software

All right—we’ve explored what EHS software is, why it matters, how solutions differ, and what key features you need to look for. All that’s left for you to do is go out there, find a solution, and implement it at your organization.

Okay, so maybe this is the complicated part. Truth be told, the whole process of searching for, evaluating, and trying out different solutions can last weeks or months. Moreover, it probably won’t be easy or pleasant. As with trying on dozens of pairs of jeans, evaluating EHS software can bring up a multitude of negative feelings as you discover gaps, inefficiencies, and uncertainties in your current approach to EHS.

And then there’s the effort of bringing new software to your workforce and ensuring it gets adopted—i.e. that people actually use it. Maybe that’s the complicated part.

These considerations warrant an article (or several) of their own. For now, here’s an overview of what it takes to go from where you are now to EHS software bliss:

1. Gather all your existing EHS information. Figure out what you know and what you don’t know, what you’ll need to migrate into your software system and what will need to be created anew.

2. Develop a timeline and scope. Map out how long it will take to find and implement EHS software. Give your organization enough time—90 days is typical.

3. Create a team and project plan. Appoint members of your organization to help in evaluating and implementing EHS software. You’ll need at least one member of your executive team to be involved. Break things down into manageable tasks with their own deadlines and assign members of the team to lead or coordinate those tasks.

4. Create a list of key features. Using the considerations outlined above (or your own set of criteria), come up with a list of must-have software features and elements.

5. Shop around. While there are no Amazon listings for “EHS software,” there are plenty of sites that list different solutions and allow you to compare features, sort by rating, read user reviews, and learn more. Examples of these sites include Capterra and Software Advice.

6. Narrow your search. Start by casting a wide net—look at as many different EHS software solutions as you can. You’ll likely find a bunch you can immediately write off, some that look great, and others you’re not sure about. Try to winnow things down to 5 or 10 top contenders by evaluating your various options against your list of key features.

7. Do your homework. After you’ve identified the best EHS software choices out there, it’s time to do even more research. Check out the companies’ websites. See how they describe themselves and their solutions. Read their blogs and About pages. Look at their social media presences, business listings, Glassdoor profiles—anything you can find that gives you a sense of who they are and what they stand for.

8. Perform a few test runs. Many EHS software providers (including KPA) offer free demos. Contact the companies on your shortlist and see if they’d be willing to show you how their platforms work.

9. Discuss your needs. Determine whether and to what extent each of the providers you’re looking at would be able to tailor their solutions to your needs and/or offer additional services. This is your opportunity to get a sense of how easy each company is to work with.

10. Present your top choice to company stakeholders and get buy-in. When you’ve figured out which solution would be best for your organization, make your case to the other decision-makers on your team. Ideally, the choice of software provider should be unanimous, or as close to it as possible.

11. Purchase the software. This part’s simple—hopefully.

12. Work with the provider to implement the software. You can’t just pay for a system, call it “done,” and assume your employees will start using it with no problems. You’ll need to work alongside the software provider to ensure adoption and address issues as they arise.

Industry-Leading EHS Software from KPA

Now that you’ve got a solid set of requirements you can use to evaluate EHS Software platforms, put KPA to the test.

Vera EHS: The Backbone of Your EHS Program

Vera Suite platform on the screens of multiple devices

With Vera EHS, you can…

  • Automate manual processes. With KPA’s EHS and workforce compliance software platform, you’ll spend less time on paperwork, spreadsheets, and reporting and have more time to spend in the field with your team: conducting inspections, audits, safety meetings, and training employees.
  • Reduce total cost of risk. Workplace accidents and injuries, worker’s comp costs, and insurance premiums all contribute to your total cost of risk. KPA helps you control those costs by keeping your workforce in compliance with OSHA, EPA, Department of Labor, Department of Transportation, and other regulatory standards.
  • Manage safety in one comprehensive platform In Vera EHS, employees log in to complete safety training, access Safety Data Sheets, read and understand policies, and report incidents and accidents. Managers can track inspection results, employee training records, accidents, and overall compliance status. Safety managers can complete audits and corrective actions and then view a roll-up of these activities that can be compared across departments or facilities.

With these insights, program managers have a complete view of safety trends and areas where they can improve. And they have the peace of mind that nothing falls through the cracks.

Key Features

KPA is the leading provider of EHS and workforce compliance software and services for mid-sized companies. KPA combines innovative cloud software, online training, and on-site audit and loss control services to help over 10,000 client locations achieve regulatory compliance, control risk, protect assets, and retain top talent. With our solutions, you can hire, onboard, educate, and inform your employees from one place to ensure full participation in your safety and compliance culture.

Get Started with KPA

Want to learn more about Vera EHS? Curious about how KPA’s EHS technology can transform your organization? Give us a call at 866-356-1735, or send us an email at info@kpa.io.

Ready to see our solution for yourself? Click here to request a demo. 

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