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Our second webinar, Protecting EHS — Delivering Next-Generation Compliance & Enforcement, Today, was led by myself and industry expert Peter Trick, and was built on the heels of our first installment, where we looked at how digitally powered field inspections are changing the way agencies are becoming data-driven and modernized. Now stepping in the shoes of the administrator and management team, our latest webinar focused on how data can spur new frontiers of efficiencies through automated workflows in the back office — how management can better plan and prioritize inspections to align with risk and other factors. If you missed this exciting webinar you can watch a playback of the webinar here!

EHS industry analyst and expert, Peter Trick co-hosted the webinar with me and presented a thorough analysis of the challenges that inspectors face. He described a situation familiar to so many in the industry, backlogs of inspections at the State and Federal level and budget constraints impacting the ability to make a dent in those backlogs. There’s also the human aspect of resource constraints with an aging and retiring workforce that has ushered in a new class of inspectors who are more tech-savvy and expect digital tools to conduct their work. Additional challenges can be categorized into four big buckets:

  • Lack of tools – inspectors are typically not armed with an optimized mapping of routes or the actual facility they are inspecting. Phone calls are their only mode of communication back to the office or with personnel at the facility being inspected.
  • Lack of access to background information – relying on paper files means if an inspector did not pull a document back at the office they will not have access to it in the field. This can include facility diagrams, past inspection reports, EPA and State background documents, and more.
  • Lack of compliance benchmarks – with no standard auto-updated repository, inspectors could be measuring to out of date standards especially given how quickly the regulatory landscape changes. Additionally, in a litigious environment, enforcement efforts need to be rigorous and defensible in court. Meeting this demand requires robust documentation that is not always available via manual efforts.
  • Lack of digital tools – without tablets or digital systems, inspectors must manually enter findings at a home office, taking away valuable time in the field.

Peter’s in-depth analysis confirmed our team’s research that government agencies need access to digital tools, rich data analytics engines, means to run risk assessments, all birthed from public-private partnerships to help them do this critical work. Today, the hundreds of thousands of inspectors deployed in the field each day protecting the health and safety of our communities receive their inspection assignments from management teams who for the most part leverage the use of spreadsheets and various lists to do this planning work. In addition, the way these daily schedules are assigned varies greatly from agency to agency, creating a myriad of processes and protocols. Amidst this data chaos, agency leaders are still working to do the right thing by trying to prioritize inspections based on risk, the time needed to complete, and a host of other factors. However, due to the lack of digital tools, and dependency on manual processes, these factors tend to be (educated) guesstimates based on facility size and past performance. ARInspect is helping agencies take the guesswork out of scheduling by providing access to all of the data needed to clearly see where their limited inspection resources can make the biggest difference in keeping communities safe.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has implemented its Smart Inspection initiative to prioritize inspections and make inspectors more efficient in the field. In addition, using tablets with digitized checklists and workflow that send data directly to office systems, they are using that data to make management decisions. Using AI algorithms, the ARInspect platform gathers inspection data, facility data, equipment data, and more to create two indices – compliance risk and environmental health and safety risk. Compliance risk looks at which facilities have the highest chance of being in non-compliance based on past performance as well as age/state of items being inspected. The environmental health safety risk number looks at the risk to the community if the (in NJDEP’s case) tank was to leak. Having these upfront and available for inspectors and managers alike provides a new context to guide inspections.

Once the inspections are prioritized, managers can also use data to assign the right resources. The system provides recommendations on the best inspector for a job based on their history with the site or similar sites. Productivity numbers by inspection type and team are easily pulled for more insight into who is best for difficult assignments. Managers can also look at the workload per inspector to see how better to balance schedules.

This shift to data-driven compliance practices is on pace to save the agency over 2,400 hours and increase inspector efficiency by 43%.

If you missed this eye-opening webinar, or you just want to learn more about how you can leverage digital tools to supercharge your inspection workforce, you can watch a playback of the webinar here and/or download the presentation here.