Normally, we don’t really talk about Health & Safety stuff at QualityInConstruction.com but we recently discovered an online tool that seems really promising.
The tool is called HandsHQ and it is introducing a new and innovative way for managing and producing H&S documentation at any construction site.
QIC: Usually, we don’t really touch Health & Safety stuff at QualityInConstruction.com but HandsHQ is a really new and innovative tool for construction sites that changes many things in the way H&S is managed on site. Could you give us an idea of what HandsHQ is, what’s the story behind it and what’s your vision with it?
Alex: HANDS HQ was born out of the frustration of health and safety paperwork and the belief we could make sites more efficient and safer. During my time as a construction manager, I was aware of the eternal struggle in submitting accurate risk assessments & method statements. What I quickly realised was that many contractors had the certificates to prove they could work safely, but not the same competence to create H&S documents on a computer. In my research I found many businesses were spending anywhere between 40 minutes – 6 hours per document! ! In addition to this, a lot of businesses’ found the process so frustrating and they were at the point of just “ticking boxes” to gain site access, with back office staff completing risk assessments with the staff onsite having little or no involvement in this process. It was from these findings that HANDS HQ was born. We wanted to alleviate the frustrations of health and safety paperwork, but also get everyone engaged with health and safety onsite – some would say the holy grail of H&S! HANDS HQ offers a way for businesses to create, edit and share accurate and compliant Risk Assessments, Method Statements and COSHH Assessments in minutes. It can be used from any computer, tablet or smartphone and it’s simple, easy to use design means staff can produce perfectly formatted and company branded documents regardless of their technical ability.
At HANDS HQ, we aim to make health and safety more efficient, prevent injuries and make our customers’ projects more profitable.
QIC: In H&S (as in Quality) it’s all about compliance. How do you ensure that the data in HANDS HQ is up to date? Do the users have to keep on updating their documents according to the new legislation that is coming out every now and then?
Alex: HANDS HQ is a cloud based application, this means that any updates we make to our content is instantly reflected across all of our customer accounts. We monitor any proposed legislation changes, so by the time they become law all of our customers are already armed with the latest information. For some of our larger enterprise customers, they choose to use HANDS HQ with their own bespoke content – the customer would then become responsible for any updates. Never the less, updating any H&S information is still seamless and quick, with any changes distributed across the software immediately.
QIC: So, it’s all about the Risk Assessments and the Method Statements. Is HANDS HQ able to cover/produce RAMS for any type of activity? What if there is a very specific activity/trade?
Alex: We currently provide a huge library of common activities and trades that our customers can select from. This library is updated almost daily, when regulations change, or at a customers request. The software is also fully flexible, so if a new or varied type of activity is required you can easily edit or create new content to suit the work – our software provides the easiest way for you to edit tasks or activities on each job. On the rare occasion that a client finds they need a risk assessment which is not currently covered by HANDS HQ, we work with them to create the correct content that then gets shared amongst our customer base.
QIC: In what projects has HANDS HQ been used up to now and what type of companies? Is there a limitation on the size of the project or activity?
Alex: HANDS HQ is a fully scalable solution that’s been used on projects of all sizes – there is no limitation. Our documents have been accepted on TFL underground, Government, Military and UK’s largest (and smallest) main contracting sites.
We initially started HANDS HQ to concentrate on micro size businesses but thanks to the scalability of the software, in the last year we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of SME’s, multi nationals and publicly listed companies joining the service. We’re currently trialing our software with a leading FTSE 250 construction company who hope to roll out it to 70,000 projects across the UK in the new year. We discovered that whilst each member of the supply chain has a very different problem to solve, the commonality between them all is the need to find a scalable and simple solution for H&S compliance for their business.
QIC: There is an old debate within the Quality World in construction, that says: “Doing it safely also means doing it right-most of the times”. I don’t necessarily agree, but what’s your view on that?
Alex: With health and safety, the better emphasis would be “doing it right, means doing it safely”. Health and safety is rather unique as getting it right first time is the only way – failure can result in financial loss and the loss of time and can extend as far as serious injuries and fatalities. Here in the UK, failure to provide a safe system of work can result in a director going to jail, and from next year it’s looking like turnover linked fines could come into place that could result in a £20 million fine for the most serious infractions. Just like Quality, full and detailed assessment of risks, best practice, education and regular communication and management of staff typically provides the best results for both projects and staff wellbeing.
QIC: There is no doubt that HANDS HQ saves a lot of “document preparation time” for the Engineers and the H&S professionals, so that they can actually focus on the important stuff on site. We often see great documents but extremely poor implementation on site (which is true for Quality Management as well). Would you agree with that? What do you think is the root cause of it?
Alex: I believe that documentation is only the first phase of working safely on site, and very similar to quality – it all comes down to implementation. I’m sure many have debated the reasons why it can be harder to implement than to document, I personally think it comes down to having an effective system in place that produces clarity and engagement for the end user. An effective system can provide a means of communicating a company’s expectations of their staff, a reference point that can be continually referred to and ‘checked off’ against as work proceeds. With the advent of mobiles and tablets, information has never been more readily available, however we need to make sure it doesn’t overload the end user.
Finally I would say engagement is crucial. HANDS HQ’s approach is not just to lift the burden of H&S administration, but also to prompt end users to consider their risks before undertaking work and to engage with the Health and Safety process unhindered by clumsy templates and out of date information.
QIC: One of the main headaches that almost every Contractor has, is the approvals and submissions to the Client (especially for big projects)? How can HANDS HQ help get those H&S documents approved right first time?
Alex: HANDS HQ provides a workflow that results in the fastest and most accurate way of creating a risk assessment or method statement – and it can be done whilst onsite too. A case study we released last month demonstrated how a company went from a rejection rate of 90% to 0% after using HANDS HQ (https://www.handshq.com/customers/jd-contract-sealants)
On top of this, we also have an ‘internal approval’ process for our larger customers. For example, when a site manager has completed his risk assessment & method statement he can then submit it for approval with his superior, who then has a choice to either approve or reject the document before forwarding to the client. One of our largest clients, OCS Environmental, are using HANDS HQ’s approvals feature to double check their RAMS documents for Asbestos notifications works before they are submitted to the HSE. This will save them hours spent on needless resubmittals and edits.
QIC: There are some solutions in the market for recording H&S Data (accidents, near misses, training records, inspections, audits, KPIs etc). Have you thought of expanding HANDS HQ into that area? It would probably provide a very holistic and powerful solution for any construction site.
Alex: There are lots of things we would like to bring into the platform in the future. KPI’s, accident reporting and other features you mentioned are all areas we want to address but we want to do it in a way that makes peoples lives easier and safer. We don’t want to rush out quick fixes when we can develop full, efficient solutions. In my personal opinion, there’s plenty of products available that record H&S info but don’t offer any breakthrough in the processes – they typically just transfer a paper process onto a computer screen. We believe our success thus far has been due to how we focused our efforts on developing our core product and developing new exciting solutions at the same time. In the last 6 months we’ve introduced COSHH assessments, image and document uploading for RAMS documents, multiple users, a H&S consultant login, and an ‘internal approval process’ to name a few. We look forward to realising some of the other products you mentioned above in the new year – but don’t want to give too much away!
QIC: We certainly live in an amazing era where new SaaS (Software as a Service) tools for construction sites pop up like mushrooms almost every month. It is a revolution! How well do you think the industry reacts to that and how different (from today) you think a construction site would be in 10 years time?
Alex: Looking at the industry historically, construction has been behind other industries, like manufacturing, by around 20 years when it comes to implementing new technology. Now we are in the midst of huge changes and growth when it comes to the construction industry implementing IT, but construction operatives have not had the same requirement to learn about computers and technology as other trades, hence why we have prioritised ease of use when it comes to HANDS HQ.
With ever tighter margins, companies will be looking for ways to cut costs and stay competitive. I believe reducing administration and paper work will offer the biggest and easiest win in the near term; and SaaS solutions are best placed for this. As a result operatives may find that they will need to start submitting documentation digitally more often and will find a tablet computer as much of a necessity as anything else in the tool box. I also see cloud computing as a necessity for the modern, competitive construction business. Apps are already getting smarter and more interconnected, and as we progress into the future I think we will find a lot more of our current administration tasks become automated with little need for human interference.
QIC: And for closure…would you like to give a Health & Safety message to everyone working in construction?
Alex: Health and Safety does not need to be something to be dreaded nor does it need to be seen as a hurdle between you and your jobs finish line. The better systems you have in place to support you, like HANDS HQ, the less stressful health and safety compliance becomes. The less stressful it becomes the easier it is to remember that health and safety legislation exists to keep us all safe and well at work.
THANKS VERY MUCH!
PS: QualityInConstruction.com is not commercially linked with any of the products that are presented or any of the interviewees (read our disclaimer).