business training its field employees to safely perform maintenance, engineering, or merchandising and sales calls might be satisfied with ‘the right tool for the right job’. Safety training can extend from manual handling right through to hygiene and electrical. Regulated industries require certification, and in these cases the cost of hiring and promotion can add to financial pressures between Human Resources and Customer Operations.
A portion of head-office responsibility, however, remains missing when businesses fail to recognise that field service management software can align digital tools with a live overview of employee safety. Head office scheduling and dispatch teams can track and manage field activities live, thus meeting or exceeding industry safety practices. In this post we’ll look at three ways software can promote field safety and cut security risks for employees far away from the dispatch desk.
AN UN-ROADWORTHY/UNSUITABLE VEHICLE
Most field fleet managers will conduct daily vehicle checks and leave cleaning and refuelling to field employees. Some organisations choose a service and repair contract with their vehicle lease.
Problems arise when vehicles require maintenance outside of their regular service windows. A common field safety risk is a vehicle not being suitably loaded. Folding rear seats, not using fixed guards and seatbelts to secure loads (such as glass, chemicals, and heavy parts) leads to unusual and unsuitable vehicle handling. This is a greater chance for a resource to be taken off the road. Further dangerous situations arise from field employees leaving a vehicle in a traffic lane. This can be anything from changing a tyre to involvement in an accident.
To remedy a gap in resources, and to mitigate delayed appointments, some businesses will pair employees into the fewer remaining vehicles. Knowing this process may cause further wear and tear to the fleet and throw routes into chaos (especially if employees begin shifts from home), the temptation is to hire vehicles. The issue here arises in businesses paying retail hire costs and being at the mercy of a suitable replacement being available.
Software to schedule appointments and routes will reallocate resources for the best outcome. In this case, matching available and road-worthy vehicles, and a field employee with the required driving standard, such as a heavy-goods license. Preventative maintenance may be scheduled into shifts and a mobile app
may be provided to report telematics and location data for analytics and rescue. Appointments may now be optimised with the remaining vehicles and skills, and notifications of delays sent to awaiting parties. For the dispatch office, this mitigates surprises and the associated pressures of unsafe replacement transport.
EXCESSIVE HOURS AND DRIVER FATIGUE
Road safety charity Brake estimates 10–20% of all crashes are estimated to be caused by driver fatigue. With well-publicised skills shortages in both trades and professional driving, many job adverts promote overtime rates paid up to 2x. This mix of rewarding long working hours and a pressure to hit first-time-fix rates adds to the field safety risk of driver impairment. Whether beginning a route from an appointment or a depot, if the instruction to a field force is to take a break after 2 hours of driving, an organisation is inviting risk in relying on the judgement of drivers to accept their own capabilities and to pull over at the right time.
Route planning and scheduling software stops the risk of excessive hours and driver fatigue before field engineers and technicians leave their base. Against work/job type and SLAs, it will consider resource availability and adjust schedules for optimised utilisation and efficiency. Examples include ending so-called ‘postcode patches’ for field staff, and accounting for ‘home on time’ and break stop rules. Positive safety outcomes include a balanced workload leading to reduced tiredness and improved concentration, and data collection for a single source of truth overview. For the business, the outcomes of safety-driven scheduling is reflected with improved customer satisfaction and AI-powered decision making
to produce smarter appointment windows and reduce costs.