Maybe you haven’t yet realised you could use SharePoint for more than just storing your documents and folders?
Don’t worry – you’re not alone. SharePoint makes the old adage ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ seem like an understatement.
Despite being under-utilised, SharePoint is really good at providing workspaces where teams and colleagues can work together; sharing documents and knowledge, and collaborating on ideas and issues. Putting all the information, forms and files that staff use together in one place makes it convenient for users to find what they need, and gives them no excuse not to follow procedures.*
Here are my key reasons why I advise our clients to use SharePoint as a Health & Safety hub or intranet portal to manage, communicate and foster a culture of health and safety in their company.
1. One-stop shop for all things Occupational Health & Safety and Wellness
As I mentioned before, providing staff with one place where everything they need is not only convenient, it’s sensible. It helps them to be more productive, more likely to follow process and it’s easier for the H&S Manager or Safety Rep to manage. What’s not to love about that?
Everything your staff need to know about your organisation’s H&S policy and their personal responsibilities can be communicated, shared and accessible from your H&S hub. There are no limits to the type of information you can store and share.
Create a promoted link to your H&S page or to important lists that staff need to use often.
Display one version of the truth in a Policy and Procedure wiki and document library.
Log incidents and record hazards, and use lists and views to manage and track these.
2. Encourages staff participation and ownership
Everyone has a responsibility for Health and Safety – but how do you encourage everyone in the company to take ownership and participate in good, safe practice? Providing a place for staff to share ideas and concerns, as well as easy access to policies, FAQs, forms and training guides helps to encourage ownership of H&S by individuals and teams.
SharePoint has a range of apps to build up an engaging H&S hub that staff participate in and add content to by sharing useful information, commenting on forums, and recording incidents and hazards.
Link to external websites, share examples of staff demonstrating best practice, link to important documents and forms, or run anonymous surveys and open suggestion boxes. You can also insert video and images to help keep content fresh, relevant and interesting.
3. Secure area for H&S Committee to work together
This fundamental feature of SharePoint lets you set up a secure site (a sub-hub, if you like) where the Health & Safety committee or representatives can work together, but noone else can access. They can store meeting minutes, staff certification lists, draft docs, emergency contacts, and any other list or file relevant to their H&S role knowing that confidential or sensitive information is securely blocked from the rest of the staff.
It’s easy for H&S sub-hub users, e.g. the H&S Manager or GM, to view the data from a SharePoint list in Excel. This lets them analyse and manipulate the data and create pivot tables or charts directly in Excel.
4. Stores key information and automates workflows
So, you’ve probably got it by now – SharePoint lets you store lots of different lists as well as storing documents. So what?! You have your happy, if busy, big ole Excel spreadsheet and that has everything you need! Pragmatically I say “don’t fix what ain’t broke”, but you’ll be missing out on a major benefit of using SharePoint lists versus keeping your data in a spreadsheet or Word doc. SharePoint lists can automate some of the workflows you perform manually. Like magic!** The simplest form of this is to set an alert that sends you an email when something changes, e.g. a document is edited, a policy is updated, or a new incident has been logged.
The next level of automation is a workflow – where based on a change to a status or category, SharePoint carries out a task (or set of tasks) that you would normally have to do manually, like sending an email to the person responsible for the warehouse to investigate a hazard. If a workflow is applied to the list, the email would be automatically sent to the correct person when the hazard was logged by the original staff member. In fact, a range of people can be emailed, depending on the criteria that gets logged. It could save you heaps of time, money and heartache over lost forms on paper-laden desks, or chasing folk using email or your phone.
5. Helps you meet regulatory requirements
The new Health and Safety at Work Act comes into effect early 2016. Worksafe NZ advises you become familiar with the new legislation and review your H&S practices. They also recommend identifying H&S risks and taking steps to prevent them, leading by example and making H&S a part of your workplace culture. Well, blow me down if that isn’t exactly what a successful H&S hub helps with!
SharePoint apps let you display emergency procedures and store policies and documents, you can set up systems for recording, investigating and monitoring hazards, near-misses, accidents and illness. And it’s auditable, and easy to update.
Just by regularly communicating with staff, keeping policies in one place (and one version!), encouraging staff engagement using surveys, videos and cool links, you’re already meeting many of the regulatory obligations.
There’s heaps of great reasons to use SharePoint as a hub or intranet for H&S and whenever staff need to collaborate.
* SharePoint is not a miracle-worker, unfortunately humans do have to do their bit to read and follow procedures. Sorry about that.
** SharePoint is not a magician – but it has some magical features that can make your job simpler and save you time.
About the author: Susan Carlow is an Associate Trainer at ‘Excel at Work’ with over 25 years experience working with world-class IT systems, methodologies and organisations. She is a certified Microsoft® Office Specialist specialising in training, design and development services for SharePoint 2010 and 2013, as well as cloud SharePoint – the online offering in Office 365.
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