An integral part of setting up a data collection system for quantitative risk assessment is selecting and/or designing an appropriate software program for database management. Given the volume of data required to assess the risks of workers (exposure data, surveillance and screening data, biological monitoring, etc.), it is imperative that some form of automated data collection system be implemented. Often the problem of assessing risks is not so much the absence of relevant data as it is its inaccessibility and lack of quality assurance in the data that exists (Lippmann, 1995). Whether the system used is commercial or specifically designed by company personnel, it should embody the following features (Verma et al., 1996; ICME, 1999):
- Compatibility with other computer databases in the company (e.g., payroll or health benefits).
- Use of unique identifiers as the key field for all employee-based files.
- Development of a centralized database that can summarize and link all individual records.
- Quality assurance programs to check data quality and integrity.
- Built-in mechanisms for protecting the confidentiality of employees’ personal information.
- Fail-safe operations (e.g., database replication) to prevent loss of information. Storage of hard copy computer records (although resource intensive) can provide an additional level of safety, ensuring that no data are lost (Duffus, 1996).