Un responsable HSE faisant sa veille réglementaire

Is it still possible to carry out a regulatory watch on an Excel sheet?

One of the essential tasks of the HSE function is to keep a constant watch on changes in regulations relating to the company’s activities. Many HSE managers still use Excel to manage this aspect of their work.

However, with the advent of new technologies and dedicated software, it’s logical to ask whether the use of a simple Excel spreadsheet remains effective and relevant for managing increased monitoring flows and dealing with all aspects of regulatory compliance.
It is now widely recognized that digitization, i.e. switching to a web application and databases, leads to considerable savings in terms of time and financial costs.

The advantages of Excel for regulatory monitoring and compliance

  • Simplicity

    Microsoft’s office suite software is almost 40 years old, so it’s certainly easier for many people to work with this familiar spreadsheet program. What’s more, learning to use a new tool may discourage some employees, as it adds to their workload.

  • Flexibility

    The well-known spreadsheet can be customized in a number of ways, giving the person responsible for regulatory monitoring a great deal of flexibility. In fact, the HSE manager will completely adapt his tool to his way of working. What’s more, the software makes it easy to review and correct these errors.

  • The cost

    Integrated into Microsoft’s Office suite, companies who already have this license won’t have to invest in a new tool for regulatory monitoring.

The disadvantages of Excel software for regulatory monitoring and compliance

  • The weather

    Time spent on Excel is a real problem when it comes to regulatory monitoring. In fact, designing a regulatory watch strategy in Excel is very time-consuming: there are many regulations, sometimes exceeding a thousand lines. The time spent on this tool can really represent a huge loss for the HSE watch manager, who is often alone, exhausted by this task and unable to attend to the other parts of his job.

  • The risk of error due to the number of lines

    For a typical industrial site, environmental regulations combined with occupational health and safety regulations represent over 300 texts and therefore some 16,000 requirements to be examined. Each requirement is placed on a line in an Excel spreadsheet, and the HSE manager has to check his site’s compliance with each of these requirements. It’s easy to understand that the risk of error is high on a simple spreadsheet, where it’s easy to lose track.

  • Lack of automation and overview

    Each requirement in the text has to be checked by hand, and each action plan to remedy the non-conformity also has to be created “manually” each time, wasting a lot of time for the person in charge. It is not possible to create scenarios or automate certain checks.

  • Lack of overall vision

    It’s obvious that on a spreadsheet of over 15,000 lines, there’s a serious lack of overview and data consolidation, especially if the site belongs to a Group. Of course, it is possible to create associated graphics, but the work will have to be redone each time there is a change in regulations.

  • Lack of real-time vision

    The Excel spreadsheet only takes changes into account when the HSE manager adds a regulation to the spreadsheet. Nor does it provide a real-time view of either work progress (number of requirements assessed) or site compliance, unless the HSE manager updates it every day, which is extremely time-consuming.

  • Working together

    A simple Excel spreadsheet doesn’t enable effective collaboration between different employees or departments. The risk of multiplying versions is high, as is the risk of losing data or versions. While online collaboration can be a solution, there is sometimes the risk of error that remains with such a large file.
    What’s more, this tool and the extreme customization of the spreadsheet don’t make it easy to manage employee absences, particularly for vacations, or to pass on to new employees.

What are the alternatives to Excel today?

At a time when digitalization is taking hold in companies, there are many regulatory monitoring and compliance tools on the market.

A good regulatory monitoring and compliance tool will save you a considerable amount of time compared with Excel-based monitoring, thanks in particular to the automation of certain processes and regularly updated databases.

The last word…

Moving from Excel to a digitized solution is a major step forward in streamlining the work of the HSE manager. It’s a definite investment for the company, but one that will pay for itself in just a few months, thanks in particular to :

  • saving time for the HSE manager,
  • exhaustive lists of applicable texts
  • productivity gains due to process automation: compliance assessment, action plan management, relevant and targeted extractions
  • overview and real-time consolidation.

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