The Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Environmental, Health and Safety Office is responsible for inspecting facilities and laboratories across eight campuses in the Texas A&M University System.
A total of 11 health and safety officers conduct more than 3,400 annual inspections—2,950 fire and life inspections and 537 lab inspections. During these visits, they look for code compliance, potential hazards and safety issues. The data collected is then analyzed and reported back to facility managers so that risks and hazards can be addressed. While the inspection process was solid, generating reliable reports was labor intensive.
The time required to document issues, submit data, have the data be analyzed and entered into a central system and then be sent back to facilities managers to be addressed took more than a week. “In the meantime, new safety issues popped up,” says Erich Fruchtnicht, a radiation safety officer.
One solution was to arm officers with iPads, which allowed them to take notes on-site and provide typed data for analysis. But the time required to calculate the risk-based inspection schedule going forward and generate reports to be shared with inspectors and department managers was still excessive.
Part of the problem: Only one individual was assigned to handle the data, causing a huge bottleneck. Limited experience with the analysis methodology and required data preprocessing prevented other personnel from sharing the load. It took the one person two hours to analyze the data and seven business days to process and return the reports to the responsible parties.
To eliminate the office’s reliance on one employee, Fruchtnicht and Emergency Management Coordinator Leslie Lutz spent two months automating the inspection process. The resulting system is the Risk-Based Inspection Schedule and Reporting package. Based in Excel and making use of Visual Basic code to perform its functions, the package has revolutionized the efficiency and effectiveness of inspections.
The simplicity of the program now allows anyone in the Environmental, Health and Safety Office to run reports that, previously, could only be generated by Fruchtnicht.
What used to take a week or more now takes six minutes. Generating inspection reports for a single campus in 2012 took seven business days; in 2013 that same campus took 1.5 business days—a 78 percent reduction.
The new system has “dramatically reduced the time required for report generation, which has improved inspection effectiveness and the overall level of campus safety,” says Fruchtnicht. —M.L.T.