WorkSafe BC bets on new wireless network

WorkSafeBC (Workers’ Compensation Board) says its deployment of a new wireless network will enhance the effectiveness of its field prevention officers, offering them mobile access to the data they need, when they need it.

WorkSafe BC promotes workplace health and safety for workers and employers in British Columbia. Headquartered in Vancouver, with regional offices across B.C., the Board carries out its mandate through prevention officers.

These officers conduct routine workplace inspections, reviewing first aid service levels to determine if they meet Occupational Health and Safety regulations (OHSR).

The new wireless network is expected to help the officers do all this quicker and more effectively.

The network, which is slated to debut in the second quarter of next year, will use Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 development system and SQL Server 2005. Dubbed WorkSafe Mobility, the network will allow officers to enter data into a Windows XP Tablet while on the road, according to the Board.

That’s a far cry from what they can currently do.

Technology that has supported officers in the field until now was aging and inefficient. “We had an old Power Builder application that we built 10 years ago; but it ran on laptops and officers had to have a little office in the back of their van,” said Brian Cooper, CIO, WorkSafeBC. “We wanted our [prevention officers] to have more information at their fingertips when they [went] on site.”

WorkSafe Mobility will meet that need, he said. According to Cooper, the network will allow WorkSafeBC to do more inspections, and these will be more informed as officers will have more history about things like prior waivers or other infractions.

Cooper said with the old system too much time was spent trying to extract information about employers and downloading inspection data. In rural areas, where employers are often far from town, most of the time officers would walk into employer sites for inspections without any information in hand.

With the new system, all that will change.

It will allow officers to enter data into SQL databases on each machine, and later upload that data to a central WorkSafeBC DB2 database. Officers can now download an employer fact sheet from WorkSafe’s data warehouse, Cooper said. This fact sheet would provide officers with an overview of everything there is to know about the employer before they get to the site.

He said when officers start the inspection process, and begin filling out the forms, a lot of the information is pre-filled out from the data they just downloaded. “That [gets] rid of a lot of errors at the backend.”

WorkSafe believes it will provide more information for safety consultations. “Inspections aren’t the only thing we do on site; we do consultations and education as well,” Cooper said.

He said around 150 – 170 prevention officers would be equipped with the new technology. A team of officers has already been involved with prototype testing. A road show that displayed the technology to a broader spectrum of prevention officers has been completed.

“We’ve had positive feedback (from prevention officers),” Cooper said. “They would like us to get it out there as soon as possible.”