Modern technology is a remarkable thing in so many ways. It is functional, yet entirely divorced from anything you might find in nature. It is so sophisticated, refined, and practical it seems to have superpowers people just a generation ago could only dream about.
The modern world offers an abundance of impressive tech that seems to defy expectations. Nobody could have predicted the power of some of the inventions that we have seen in recent years. And yet they are right here with us, making the modern world a very different place from the one that came before.
Nowhere has technology been more successful than in keeping the workplace safe. The number of people dying on the job has fallen by a factor of ten in the last fifty years. And part of that has to do with the creative use of technological innovations. What’s more, the rate continues to fall as firms introduce new devices and software that monitor people.
The workplace shouldn’t be a place rife with danger. Instead, it needs to be the sort of place that people feel safe. There are multiple benefits to this. The first advantage is higher productivity. People who feel safe at work are less likely to take sick days or find new roles elsewhere.
The second reason is purely financial. Companies that protect workers using technology are far less likely to incur legal costs associated with poor health and safety records.
The third reason has to do with branding. The more your firm can promote itself as a safe place to work, the more likely it is to get customers. Remember, modern consumers are susceptible to workplace health issues. If they suspect that company management isn’t doing their bit to protect people, they will take their business elsewhere.
The fact that fatal workplace injuries have fallen by more than 85 percent since the mid-1970s is an impressive statistic and one that should make people proud. But there is still a way to go. A lot of people die while at work – an estimated 5,000 people per year. So the risks are still real. There are also still 2.9 million non-fatal injuries per year, meaning that work is maiming and wounding a lot of employees too. And the rate of injuries is actually going up as reporting and recording improve.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at all the incredible ways modern technology is making the workplace safe. Your business can use these ideas for the reasons we discussed above. When you deploy them, you get higher productivity, fewer legal actions against you, and a better brand. You can think of health and safety tech as a strategic accessory you can use to improve your marketing and boost efficiency.
AI Safety Technology
Artificial intelligence is going to make health and safety much more intelligent in the years to come. In many ways, it already is.
Artificial intelligence, for instance, is adding cognitive capabilities to security cameras. Businesses are already using the tech to distinguish between, say, a stray cat and a criminal trying to break and enter. But soon, we could see cameras that alert management if an employee isn’t following the correct safety protocols when operating machinery.
AI safety cameras are already doing this to some degree by identifying employees who aren’t wearing the correct safety equipment. For instance, some construction firms are deploying cameras at the entrance to sites that pick up any workers who forget to put on their helmets or high-visibility jackets.
This technology is also making its way into wearable devices. We are not far from the point where smart software in headsets will provide warnings to employees if there are hazardous chemicals in their environment. It may also warn them if they are about to do something dangerous.
The applications of drone technology to workplace safety are numerous. In short, they’re a game-changer. For instance, we see the introduction of drones for safety checks. Construction companies no longer need to send somebody to inspect difficult-to-reach areas at height using ropes and pulleys physically. Instead, they send up a drone with an HD and feed images to the person on the ground. If there’s a problem, then and only then do they need to send somebody up to fix the issue.
Law enforcement also stands to benefit tremendously from drones. Police and security officers are sending drones into dangerous areas to collect information to prepare in advance. The technology can track rioters, allowing police to position themselves effectively to prevent the spread of violence and protect businesses. And it can provide views of dangerous hostage situations.
Finally, some small drones are suitable for inspecting small spaces or reconnaissance for firms that prospect. Instead of sending employees out into uncharted territory, they can check it first with drones to see the lie of the land. Then, and only then, should they throw real people into the situation.
When business leaders think about autonomous vehicles, they primarily have the consumer market in mind. Elon Musk has been promising self-driving cars for the nation’s motorists for several years. So that seems like the most likely place it will show up first.
That, however, probably isn’t the case. It is far more likely that we will see autonomous vehicles on company campuses and premises in advance of public roads.
The reason for this is simple: companies can create much less chaotic environments to facilitate new technology.
Autonomous vehicles are a genuine safety technology companies should be taking very seriously indeed. They eliminate the need for human drivers, potentially cutting the risks to which employees are exposed.
So to take an example, we could see forklifts become autonomous. If that happens, their shape will change, and they will become less prone to falling over when carrying heavy loads. If that happens, then drivers are much less likely to injure themselves. Cognitive technologies could allow designers to change the center of mass to prevent toppling. That would be a tremendous improvement over the current setup.
Projected Safety Signs
Modern premises are not static. Instead, the demands that businesses place on them change all the time. For that reason, projected safety signs are becoming increasingly popular.
The idea here is to modify the workplace using a combination of gobo outlines and projectors. The technology can adapt in real-time to safety needs in premises. So, to take a simple example, let’s say that your business operates a policy of maintaining a 2-meter distance from forklifts in operation. The system could adapt in real-time to project a virtual cordon around the vehicle while in motion. Employees wouldn’t have to guess at the distance that they should keep. Instead, it would be immediately evident if they were in the way.
Something similar could happen with stop signs, caution lines, and so on. The result would be a reduction in downtime and fewer employee injuries.
Check-In Monitoring Technology
Companies need to know who is on their premises at any given time to operate the desired safety protocols. Things like protecting against fires become much more challenging if firms have no idea who is in the building at any given time.
Check-in technology, however, is becoming much more advanced than simple sign-in sheets. Now it includes a variety of safety alerts designed to protect workers in extreme situations. For instance, you can now get safety wristbands that allow employees to call for help in potentially dangerous situations discreetly. A quick touch of the wrist, and workers can gain access to panic buttons to get help on the scene fast.
In the future, we could see these technologies become even more integrated with the people wearing them. So, for instance, an employee might be able to summon security services with the flick of an eye while wearing safety glasses.
Finally, we are likely going to see the rise of projected visualizations in the coming years. Workers will be able to see wireframes and 3D maps of the projects they are working on, seeing “safety layers” and other important information. Microsoft is already pushing this tech with its AR lenses. In the future, though, we could see it permeate other sectors. Eventually, it could show up in practically every industrial setting, changing their safety approach in fundamental ways.
Gaining insights could also become more straightforward if the technology can overlay educational material besides the schematics. An AI-driven system could provide warnings in real-time if a worker tries to do something dangerous. For instance, in the oil and gas industry, AR systems could warn workers about whether undoing a certain bolt is going to lead to a leak or plant failure.
Therefore, technology is making a massive difference in the modern workplace and will continue to do so. We’ve already seen tremendous gains in health and safety. And with the new tech coming online, this pattern looks set to continue. Perhaps the number of fatalities in the workplace could fall by another order of magnitude.