Daniel Wieder, Field Service Consultant, HSO outlines some of the ways field service management solutions can help improve health and safety amongst the field workforce and why in doing so many companies see additional benefits within the wider business also…

When it comes to ensuring your field service engineers are working in the safest possible environment, technology can play a major role whilst also assisting companies in exercising their duty of care towards their field workers. It can also help to improve customer service.

Take, for example, Geofencing which was recently added to Microsoft Field Service. This monitors the GPS position of the engineer and can automatically notify the contact centre if the engineer has not left the site beyond a certain time. So, in a lone-working situation, you have an additional capability to alert you to a potential safety issue.

Risk Assessments also bring real benefits

Today’s cloud based, mobile app, service management software can be configured so that an engineer is only able to open a job once he has gone through a full risk assessment questionnaire on the device. The questionnaires themselves can now be made flexible, so the questions are relevant to the type of work for the job in question and hence to the risk involved. This makes sure that all relevant risks are being considered and minimised. In future, it is possible that some engineers will wear body-cams or similar devices to help ensure their safety, perhaps in sectors where engineers’ security is a concern.

There are numerous areas that field service organisations need to focus on when it comes to health and safety.

Several areas immediately spring to mind: Risk Assessments, Method Statements, Working Hours & Breaks. We already mentioned Risk Assessments.

Method Statements are the next step to ensure safe working practices. In the past, this involved carrying hefty paper folders, and it was difficult dealing with site-specific documents. Nowadays, this is a lot simpler. Method statements can be stored against a site record and accessed seamlessly by the engineer via a hyperlink.

Working hours need to be monitored too.

Thinking about a single day, we need to ensure that an engineer does not work excessive hours and also that they take the required breaks. When we combine the real-time data we get from mobile data about engineer whereabouts and time entries with the power of business intelligence tools such as Power BI, we can monitor these and take immediate action if we think an engineer is overloaded. The same applies when planning.

In my role with HSO, I have regular interaction with many field service organisations, from various sectors, and I have been told by several service managers that they got considerable benefits from emphasising Health and Safety, including increased productivity.

A lot of these are to do with employee engagement and can be difficult to measure, though. Once an engineer feels that the company cares about their Health & Safety, they are less likely to change employer. Employee retention, in turn, reduces recruitment costs for the field service organisation and subsequent training costs.

This can be important for engineers who may think their employers see them just as a “number”. A more quantifiable measure is the number of accidents and ensuing days lost to sickness. Particularly in smaller companies, any long-term absence can have a huge impact.