A lot of safety programs—even at very large companies—are managed using Excel

Yea, you heard that right.  Many companies with an employee count in the thousands use Excel to manage their incident management investigations and datasets.

Don’t get me wrong: Excel is awesome.  Its flexibility to manage a wide range of use cases—even incident management at large firms—is incredible.  And it’s especially great when first starting an internal program…you can throw data at it and rearrange things until the data is manageable, actionable, and  shareable.

But at some point, an Excel-based process or workflow becomes unwieldy and nearly un-manageable.  Here are some of the more obvious issues associated with an Excel-based system for safety incident management:

  • Entering long-form text into an incident investigation spreadsheet is not exactly easy.  Excel wasn’t made for this sort of thing.  That’s more of a Microsoft Word thing.  But even if you use MS Word to enter incident investigation information, how do you attach photos to the form?
  • How does the injured person sign the form?
  • If others within the organization need to counter-sign the incident form after its been signed by the injured person, how is that done?  The old way of shuffling a physical piece of paper from one person to another using a manila “routing” envelope?
  • How do you connect the incident form to the Excel sheet that tracks incident data like manhours, incident rate, etc?

XForms + AirTable: a low cost alternative to high-end/high cost EHS incident management systems (and better than Excel/Word)


XForms is great at handling form-based data.  And AirTable is great at manipulating numeric data.  Put the two together via an automated integration and you have a pretty solid, scalable, low-cost solution that might be good enough for your organization, even if your org has an employee count in the thousands.

– Definitely better than using Excel and Word for this type of work
– Definitely less expensive by orders of magnitude than full-blown EHS incident management software tools
– Definitely less time to set up and onboard (a few days instead of several weeks or months)

The incident investigation form

In this setup, XForms handles the form-based side of things.  That is, the incident investigation report that documents what happened, how it happened, who it happened to, etc.  Here’s a short video of what the form looks like when being filled out on a desktop browser.



With XForms, you can do the following:

  • Fill out the incident investigation form using any web browser
  • Attach photos and even drive a laptop’s camera to take a photo
  • Sign the form
  • Route the form through an approval workflow…useful if multiple people need to sign off on the incident investigation report

Some basic aggregations in XForms

In the setup described, some simple aggregations are also available in the XForms Dashboard that help you slice and dice some basics about your safety incidents.  For example, which body parts are most common in injuries, or what day of the week seems to have the most injuries.

Here’s a short video illustrating this dashboard concept.



 Some deeper analysis and groupings in AirTable

An integration between XForms and AirTable was created which works as follows:

  • Details from a newly-submitted Incident Investigation form is copied from XForms
  • Those details are inserted as a new row in an AirTable app

Here’s a short video of what that looks like in AirTable.  Note that once in AirTable, you can create different views of the dataset, allowing you to group incidents by status, incident type, length of employment, or any other grouping that makes sense for you to use.  These views are fully editable, meaning that you can create groupings however you wish, and change these over time if you wish.




What does this cost?

At XForms, we use a per user per month billing model currently pegged at $25/user/month.  AirTable has a free tier.  So if you had 2 people using XForms and you opted for the free AirTable tier, the total fee for this system would be $50 per month.  While not free, most firms can afford $50 per month for a system that beats an Excel-based home-grown system.  This is also at least one order of magnitude cheaper than most EHS software.

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