According to the ONS there were nearly 4,000 mergers and acquisitions between 2005 and 2011. Last year alone there were 373.

Here at SHE we have seen time and again the massive opportunity to improve health and safety management systems presented when organisations merge. Often, the opportunity is seized by organisations desperate to throw out the filing cabinet and ring binders and streamline their safety management systems.

A surprising proportion of health and safety management systems are based on spreadsheets compiled by safety professionals to keep track of training, incidents and inspections. Such methods work up to a point, because of their familiarity with their organisations’ specific needs, but they can quickly be outpaced by company growth or, as in the case or a merger, a sudden expansion. The truth is, many safety professionals would be left badly exposed in the event of any sudden changes at their companies.

Prior to installing a package from SHE, many customers have increasingly seen their time drained by updating fairly complicated Excel spreadsheets. Because they are usually the only person to understand the system they have created, this burden is all theirs and there’s a risk that in the case of an emergency absence the company’s health and safety management systems could become paralysed. The chances of two of these “systems”, produced in complete isolation, being truly integrated following a merger or acquisition are absolutely zero. Therefore the choices include starting the spreadsheet all over again by manually copying over the essential information; maintaining separate systems for each employee group or being a bit smarter about the situation and adopting a purpose-built, scalable tool.

Once the decision is made to pursue a new corporate safety strategy, it’s the workforce that makes or breaks the associated new processes and health and safety management systems. At SHE Software we’re careful to highlight early on to prospective customers exactly how important it is to have an awareness plan and it’s interesting that during a merger, a workforce is generally more receptive to change. Once workforce buy-in has been achieved, experience has shown us that safety management software must reflect an organisation in both appearance and language in order to secure long-term engagement. If it looks and sounds like the company then it will be easier to understand, more user-friendly and less overwhelming.

The main problems safety professionals who adopt safety management software are trying to solve are crammed-to-bursting paper files and over-complicated Excel spreadsheets, which are both obstacles to effective health and safety management systems. They are also symptoms of a lack of transparent action management and a major cause of time-wasting administration and duplication. Just as importantly, however, this is also a way of working that couldn’t hope to keep up with the pace of change that a merger might bring about. It’s much better to be prepared than caught napping by a completely predictable problem.