In 2020, it was reported that within the previous six years there had been a 700% increase in ‘safety-related incidents’ caused by underground cable, joint or link box damage reported to the Health and Safety Executive. This identified a need to make safety information more readily accessible.
Part of the remit of HAUC(UK) is to make better use of technology to support increased safety in the industry. Over the years, HAUC(UK) had developed three main features for sharing and dispersing information that would support making the industry a safer place to work:
- The Red Book - focused on safety, it is considered one of the most important guidance documents for the industry and is intended to help operatives, supervisors, managers, planners and designers safely carry out signing, lighting and guarding of street works and road works on all highways and roads making sure that all street and road works are safe for both operatives and the public.
- Onsite Checklists – simple to use one-click checklists that work as a reminder pragmatically supporting working processes.
- Sharing of guidance, alerts, and advice notes – allowing practitioners to be up to date with news, changes to legislation and good practise
Whilst many companies working in the sector makes this information available in some way, most of this information and guidance has only been available as a hard copy or at the very least held inconsistently. The challenge was to design a portal for information that could be easily updated and accessible at an office but also out on-site where people need to use this information in practice.
What we did
The solution was clear, building on mobile device habits and to ensure we could get the information the industry needs directly into the pockets of our colleagues an app was required.
Funded by a Transport for London (TfL) Lane Rental Bid, HAUC(UK) commissioned GeoPlace to create this app. Traditionally an app designed for the well-known app stores are often heavily restricted and costly to maintain, and so we decided to develop a Progressive Web App (PWA). PWAs can be used on, phones, tablets or computers and are much easier to maintain and update. The PWA also allows online and offline functionality, this means when connected to the internet information is updated live, but even offline or if a user is in a low signal area, the app will cache the latest information so that users can access it. The content will then automatically update when users next get a signal.
Following ongoing discussion with app stores, the app is also available on Android, Windows and iOS devices.
The design was key to ensure that it was easy to navigate but also holds all the information that is needed to keep people safe, via four simple buttons on the homepage:
- The Redbook – each page of the Safety at Street Works and Road Works: a Code of Practice was translated to webpages with integrated images, structured to ensure that sections are easy to read and linkable within various other parts of the app
- Activity Checklist – working with industry experts, checklists for scenarios colleagues are likely to come across whilst working on-site were identified and translated into a simple interface that could be used time and time again
- Alerts & Documents – a location to hold and link users to the latest documentation coming out of the industry. Divided into topics making it easy for users to find the information they are after
- Events – a location, fed by the HAUC website that identifies upcoming events which users can then download onto their devices
To complement these areas of the app and to ensure the app stays relevant and the following functionality was built into the design:
- Feedback process – a tool was built into the app to enable users to easily feedback any issues or improvements that would support safe working practices
- Location Intelligence – the app can use the mobile device’s location to sort the most relevant alerts and documentation to the user. For example, users in Wales will be provided with Welsh Government Covid guidance, whereas across the border the information changes to English guidance.
Once the content was created and development complete, the next step was to let people know about it and use it and so we developed a promotional video - “Save Dave” designed to be easily shareable.
Launched at the end of 2020 the app has been met with extremely positive feedback. Users are utilising all features, and the use of the Red Book within the app has changed the way some people work. Companies have positively promoted the use of the app on work devices and this itself has allowed more people to use it as and when needed.
In the first 9 months since the app was launched, there have been over 20,000 users, with over 1,000 sessions a week. Growth is steady, and we are intending to increase publicity later in the year to attract 2,500 sessions a week.
During Covid, the number of direct updates has also been extremely useful. Where information has changed quickly, we have been able to get the changes directly onto the site.
The app is available at https://app.hauc-uk.org.uk/
The app has enormous potential, and we are planning to build on early interest and usage to integrate more services and encourage more people to download and use them.