It is just a fact of life: some industries are more dangerous than others. Oil rig roustabouts, for example, it is fair to say are more likely to be injured on the job than accountants. Mocking “ ‘elf an’ safety” culture became something of a cliché among stand-up comics, but there is more to the question of workplace safety than office workers taking, possibly mythical, box-lifting classes.
Workers on construction sites, though, as well as foremen, managers and owners, may well take a different view from that of the comics. On-site safety comes first.
“It’s a risky industry for workers to be in, there's a huge emphasis on safety – and rightly so,” Larry Fenelon, LexTech co-founder and solicitor, said.
Founded as a spin-out from Leman Solicitors, LexTech uses technology to simplify the practical application of the law – and in doing so, reduces costs, stress and hassle.
One of its tech solutions is aimed right at the construction sector: LexClaimer, a mobile phone or tablet app backed by cloud computing infrastructure that digitises, captures and automates data relating to injuries on site, near misses and risk management.
Fenelon said that the application of data streamlines the claims process for all parties.
“Reporting on any incidents, or near-misses, is really important. What we’ve built is an app and a platform that can record any incident – an injury, a near miss, property damage – it can pin your location, download CCTV, take audio recordings, photos and videos immediately after the event.”
All of this information is then securely passed to head office for processing and triage. The advantages on site are twofold: first, multi-language localisation and built-in machine translation algorithms mean that workers who do not have English as a first language can easily use it. Secondly, it makes it easy to get the job done, rather than tying up workers and site supervisors in paperwork.
This means that once the information is passed up the chain, it can lead to a just outcome and any subsequent legal process can be tracked.
“You’re trying to intervene early in order to reduce legal cost exposure,” Fenelon said.
This is a radical change on how things were done in the past, where paper-based processes not only introduced delays, but also confusion and the potential for error.
“Previously, a building contractor would get a legal letter from a claimant’s solicitor nine months later and by then nobody can remember anything about the incident; there’s no corporate memory, leaving them without the ability to defend the claim.”
Fenelon said that the consequences of manual record-keeping are severe.
“If you don’t have this then you have a paper-based system and, in the real world, near-misses often don’t get recorded, other things get done days later and sent to HR, then HR says there’s not enough information and they have to chase it, and so on,” he said.
The LexClaimer value proposition is threefold, Fenelon said. One, fewer claims will arise because it allows building contractors or their insurers to intervene earlier; two, the data gathered will facilitate risk-mitigation strategies; three, it allows the contractor or their insurer to be better able to defend claims. By collecting data, including on near-misses – incidents that didn’t cause harm or damage – it not only promotes a safety-conscious culture, but brings the power of data analytics to bear.
In today’s Irish business environment, where insurance costs are the subject of high politics and higher business overheads, this enables those who self-insure and those who are paying very high premiums to bring their insurance costs down.
“We keep hearing about the construction industry paying horrific insurance premiums. Well, the only way to get that premium down is not to wave a magic wand, but to take steps to address it: you correct the problem that happened, yes, but you need to prevent it from happening again,” he said.
Medium to long-term use of LexClaimer will build up a picture of where the risk exposure lies, thus allowing corrective action to be taken before danger to life and limb or expensive claims.
Fenelon said that this alone puts power back in the hand of the business. “The only people who have this kind of information, and they really only have half of it, is the insurance companies. We say that the customer needs the data. It gives a sustained competitive advantage,” he said.
LexClaimer has obvious applications in other industries, but Fenelon said the greatest immediate impact will be on construction.
“We think this solution changes the way risk is managed on-site. Everyone on a site has a phone and so they can have an app; it can work underground, up high on cranes. It can work anywhere with or without coverage.”