The Hidden Benefits of a Digital Document Management System for EHS

September 15, 2022

Graphic of a safety professional using document control software

Facing a regulatory inspection from OSHA or the HSE can send any EHS manager into a panic, conjuring fears of hefty fines, shutdown orders or reputational damage. However, some managers handle these situations with calm and confidence. Their secret? They use document control software as part of their EHS management system.

This software streamlines their document management systems in an organized, cloud-based format, allowing for quick and efficient retrieval. By moving away from outdated, error-prone paper or electronic storage-based systems, these managers save thousands of hours of staff time and eliminate the anxiety of not having the necessary documentation ready for surprise inspections.

While achieving peace of mind around regulatory affairs is the primary reason many organizations adopt cloud-based document management systems, there are numerous other hidden benefits that come with integrating this technology into their operations. Documentation underpins everything in an effective management system, as emphasized in ISO standard 45001.

This standard outlines document management requirements, including OH&S policies, scope and the division of roles and responsibilities, etc. By adhering to these guidelines, organizations can not only ensure regulatory compliance but also enhance their overall operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Compliance and Regulatory Preparedness

Document control software plays a pivotal role in maintaining regulatory compliance and ensuring that organizations are always prepared for inspections. By centralizing and streamlining document management, these systems help EHS managers stay organized, reduce errors and provide quick access to necessary documentation, thus facilitating adherence to regulatory requirements.

Compliance with these requirements ensures that an organization can systematically manage and improve its EHS performance. However, common document management issues can undermine these efforts. These include:

  • Organization: Are documents systematically organized and easily retrievable?
  • Access: Who has access to documents?
  • Approval Stages: What are the approval stages, and who has the authority to approve documents?
  • Editorial Controls: What editorial controls are in place, and how are new document requests managed?
  • Version Control: How do you ensure that the current version is in use and auto-updated everywhere?
  • Audit History: Is there a clear audit history of document changes and approvals?
  • Visibility and Permissions: Who can edit, view and download documents, and can they be watermarked for security?

Organizations must meticulously cross their t’s and dot their i’s to avoid the costs of poor document controls. More critically, incorrect document references can lead to incidents, such as an employee following an outdated Standard Operating Procedure, resulting in a Lost Time Incident.

Intelex Insight Report, ISO 45001: How to Keep Your Workers and Business Safe

Benefits Beyond Compliance

With older electronic storage environments, files are often kept anywhere and everywhere—sometimes buried in the depths of old servers or residing on someone’s desktop, accessible only to them. Paper-based systems are even more difficult to find and often full of human errors. Locating these assets can take hours, days, maybe even weeks, and that is if the person seeking them doesn’t simply give up the chase. This results in broken communications and misaligned team efforts, leading to product delays, safety oversights and a myriad of other negative outcomes.

Research shows 83 percent of surveyed employees who work regularly with documents end up recreating files they can’t locate. Another finding revealed 46 percent of workers find it time-consuming and challenging to find documents. The many advanced features of document control software eliminate these and other time-wasting exercises, dramatically increasing organizational efficiency.

These features include:

Standardized forms across facilities. Companies with multiple locations often run into trouble when different branches create their own versions of the same form. Document control software allows companies to develop one consistent-looking document to be used across the whole operation. Employees, regardless of their location, will instantly recognize what it is and be able to work with it. This is particularly valuable for multinational organizations.

Prefilled form fields. Repeatable tasks, such as having to fill out the same fields with standard information across different forms, eat up valuable time and make for monotonous, unfulfilling work. Document control software allows employees to pre-populate such fields on forms used repeatedly.

Automatic calculations. Nothing slows down productivity like having to carry out a complex math equation. Document control software takes care of that trouble by performing many calculations automatically.

Intelligent suggestions. Document control software can recognize common text entries and other information that is routinely entered into documents. It can also automatically populate forms with esoteric industry terms to help tailor the user experience based on industry.

Audit trails. Teams do not have to waste time trying to find out who made what to edit to a particular document, or when. All work on a file is tracked and recorded for complete visibility.

Improved Workflows and Collaboration

Document control software can establish digital workflows for common, repeatable tasks, such as the generation and completion of standard OSHA 300 or 300A forms. Once one person has completed their work on a document, they can simply mark it complete, at which point the next individual in the process is automatically notified and can retrieve the updated file to complete their work on it.

Various collaboration features help teams work together more efficiently and transparently on documents. Simultaneous editing allows multiple employees to carry out updates and edits, a particularly valuable feature as more companies move to a remote working model with employees working in separate locations. Document control software will also include a common space for discussions, where feedback and comments can be posted and commented upon.

Read the insight report: The HIdden Benefits of a Document Control System

Paper files are bulky and can quickly take up valuable real estate within a company’s premises. Often, the file collection becomes so large that off-site storage facilities are rented, incurring costly fees and creating accessibility issues. Hard copies are also susceptible to physical damage, such as that caused by water, heat or fire.

Implementation and Continuous Improvement

Your organization has committed to a digital document management system and selected a solution. Now what?

To maximize the benefits of your new document control software, follow these best practices:

  1. Digitize Hard-Copy Documents:
    • Spread the task across departments to avoid overburdening a few individuals.
    • Appoint a team member to guide each department, leveraging their specific knowledge.
    • Set deadlines, offer incentives for meeting them and prioritize crucial documents to expedite use.
  2. Conduct Training Sessions:
    • Ensure staff know how to use the new system to avoid confusion and frustration.
    • Utilize your solution vendor’s resources for comprehensive training.
    • Highlight the system’s benefits, provide basic usage workflows and include a demo.
  3. Plan for Continuous Improvement:
    • Treat the software as a dynamic tool that evolves with your organization’s needs.
    • Establish ongoing feedback mechanisms to identify what works and what needs refinement.

By following these steps, you’ll ensure smooth adoption and ongoing optimization of your new cloud-based document management system.


Document control software offers numerous hidden benefits beyond the primary goal of regulatory compliance. It streamlines document management systems, reduces errors, saves time and ensures quick and efficient retrieval of necessary documentation. By centralizing and organizing documents, companies can enhance their operational efficiency, mitigate risks and maintain a competitive edge.

Adopting document control software not only prepares organizations for regulatory inspections but also improves overall management systems by adhering to standards like ISO 45001. This technology supports monitoring, measuring, analysis, performance evaluation, emergency response planning and risk management, all of which are crucial for maintaining a robust EHS framework.

Incorporating document control software into your operations will provide peace of mind, boost productivity and ensure that your organization is always ready for regulatory challenges. Embrace this digital approach to elevate your EHS management system and secure a safer, more efficient future for your business.

Watch the Intelex Document Control Software Product Deo