Maximizing Productivity and Reducing Workplace Accidents

conformitBy Rajitha Sivakumaran

In 2015, there were 852 fatalities in the workplace across Canada, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC). More than 232,000 people were compensated for loss of wages following a work-related injury or permanent disability. Over the years, these numbers have generally been declining. Stricter regulations and laws can be thanked for that, but advancements in information technology is also a reason.

There is a devastating emotional and psychological aspect to workplace accidents for affected employees. From a business perspective, the costs associated with accidents can be crippling. There are direct costs, like medical expenses, compensation and even fines and lawsuits. To add to the nightmare, there are indirect costs too, like property damage, liability costs, labour replacement, decreased productivity and higher insurance premiums. Moreover, a tainted business reputation can be irreparable.

Software specializing in environment, health and safety (EHS) like CONFORMiT has been creating safer working conditions and increasing company productivity over the past 30 years.

“The world is more and more complex and there is more and more risk in facilities. In our world, only 20 per cent of companies use software to manage EHS,” said CONFORMiT’s CEO, Eric Desbiens. As regulations become stricter, businesses face the new challenge of keeping up with new protocols, but CONFORMiT lessens the burden of staying ahead of the game.

“We help our clients on challenges in terms of environment, health and safety,” explained Desbiens. “The objective of our software is to eliminate the risk of accidents.” And it does this by an integrated EHS platform that addresses the issues of strategic EHS management and the actual execution of EHS processes in the field.

While providing strategic dashboards for executives, the software manages events and it helps implement safety procedures, such as creating rescue plans or lockout sheets. It manages permits (e.g. excavation permits) so that companies never end up paying fines. The software even creates occupational safety audit forms for executives. The result? A single, centralized interface helps companies increase productivity and reduce accidents. In fact, CONFORMiT offers a return on investment within nine months.

When CONFORMiT emerged in 1986 in Saguenay, Quebec, it began as a service company specializing in occupational safety. Soon, the company started to develop the software to support the service. Three years ago, having changed its business model, CONFORMiT re-emerged as a software company. But this transition came with many challenges and took three years to implement. When you change your business you need to change the people, Desbiens explained. Being a service company, the CONFORMiT team had to change its focus, something that can be tough to do after devoting years and years to one business model.

Despite the initial difficulties, the changes have been for the best. Now with a modest workforce of 45, the company opened an office in the U.S. last year. Its partners continue to be distributed across Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Morocco and Europe. From mining and metallurgy to food services and manufacturing, CONFORMiT’s EHS management software is used across the world in all sorts of industries. Prominent clients include Rio Tinto, Johnson & Johnson and Kellogg’s.

Desbiens, a serial entrepreneur who founded eight businesses in various industries like information technology, business consulting and Internet services, joined CONFORMiT in September 2015.

“The market is really crazy now. A lot of clients directly call us,” he said, adding with a laugh that the biggest competition his company faces is Microsoft Word and Excel, which continue to be the tools that many companies use to manage their EHS. But not opting for the best occupational safety management tools on the market has serious consequences and can affect a company’s productivity. Not only will there be increased risk and accidents in the workplace, but violating or neglecting legal standards, perhaps due to unawareness, costs money, employee loyalty and brand reputation. So there is lots of room for growth for IT companies like CONFORMiT.

In fact, Desbiens’ future projections for the company in the upcoming years are numerous, including setting up shop in Europe by the end of 2017. “My objective is always to build a company,” he said. And he has plenty of experience doing that.

Before becoming CEO of CONFORMiT, Desbiens worked in Germany, Sweden, the United States and France in various executive and management level roles. Additionally, he devoted nearly seven years of his career working for the Canadian Armed Forces. He was a two-time finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. He is actively committed to CONFORMiT’s mission of saving lives.

“When you have risk, you need CONFORMiT,” he says, but improving the safety of its clients is only part of its vision.

In the same year Desbiens joined the company, CONFORMiT implemented a sustainable development policy, which puts into effect practices that respect the environment and encourage environmentally responsible behaviours in employees (e.g. heating, electricity and paper management practices). So the company is bettering the environment here in Canada, while saving lives around the world.