Almost all employers want to ensure that their workplaces are safe, accident-free zones. However, despite this, work-related incidents and health concerns persist.
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive has revealed that 565,000 workers suffered work-related injuries during the 2021-2022 financial year. The financial cost of injuries and illnesses due to working conditions exceeded a whopping £18 billion. It is clear that a proactive change is required.
Data and artificial intelligence (AI) are driving advances in almost every part of HR and people management, and these technologies also offer remarkable opportunities to improve safety conditions. Companies can improve hazard detection, reduce risk and create safer overall working conditions.
The Internet of Things: A Revolution in Workplace Safety
The rapid evolution of technology has brought us to the brink of a new era in workplace safety, spearheaded by the Internet of Things (IoT). This transformative technology isn’t just changing the way we work. reshapes the very fabric of workplace safety. Through innovative applications and intelligent monitoring, the IoT is setting new standards in security protocols and behavior modification. It’s a shift from reactive measures to proactive strategies, leveraging data and smart devices to cultivate a safety culture that permeates every level of the workplace. Let’s dive deeper into how the IoT is not just changing but revolutionizing worker behavior toward safety.
How IoT is shaping employee behavior
The Internet of Things (IoT), with its suite of smart devices, wearables and sensors, has revolutionized worker safety.
Many employees find it difficult to influence employee behavior to comply with safety policies. IoT devices help monitor safety-related behavior, particularly in sectors that employ contract or temporary workers such as construction. These devices offer real-time data on workplace safety and employee activities. They validate compliance with security rules and provide information to improve the security program.
IoT devices even offer real-time data transmission so that managers are instantly notified of unsafe practices and can act quickly to correct situations. For example, video analytics can spot an employee who isn’t wearing the proper safety gear and alert a supervisor.
Real-time analysis has the potential to significantly reduce workplace accidents. For example, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are developing security models that accurately predict the occurrence and location of security events.
Using Wearables to Improve Security Awareness
Many industries are now using wearables such as sensors, tracking belts and smart helmets. The advent of the “connected worker” is raising security awareness among workers and supervisors.
Wearables can alert when a person is nearing physical exhaustion or not using critical safety equipment — and with this real-time data, AI can provide personalized advice and suggest specific actions to people.
Sensor technology also allows monitoring of the environment. Sensors can collect data on variables such as temperature, noise levels and toxic gases. “Sniffing” robots can detect chemical signatures such as blood or alcohol in the air. Blanca Lorena Villarreal, a researcher from the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico, has developed an “electronic nose” that can be integrated into robotic devices.
Using data and artificial intelligence for safer driving
Driving is one of the most dangerous jobs a person does — and that includes commuting, visiting clients or operating machinery at work. Driver fatigue is a major contributor to accidents, and this is a major concern for transport companies. Any operator of a vehicle, including heavy machinery, is potentially at risk of accidents.
Caterpillar and Australian company Seeing Machines have introduced a system to detect driver fatigue using eye and face tracking. With this system, cameras, GPS and accelerometers track eye and eyelid activity, even when drivers are wearing sunglasses. Sensors even track head position to determine when fatigue has occurred.
An alarm inside the truck is activated if the driver’s eyes remain closed for more than 1.6 seconds. A second alarm contacts a supervisor and a third usually results in the driver being relieved of his duties. The system, which can also detect when the driver is distracted, has reduced fatigue-related incidents by up to 90%.
Improving industrial and manufacturing worker safety with data-driven insights
The concept of a connected worker may soon become the norm in industrial and manufacturing contexts. Companies like Honeywell are introducing wearable technologies that can improve worker safety by collecting data on heart rate, breathing, movement and posture. Managers can aggregate this data into a dashboard and get a real-time snapshot of employee performance.
Sensors can also assess machine compliance, detect safety anomalies, identify causes of machine stoppages, and more. With this technology, companies can understand real-time conditions on the shop floor, assess safety risks, detect machine misuse and minimize safety-related downtime.
Revolutionizing construction safety with wearable technology and immersive experiences
Despite strict safety protocols, construction sites are inherently dangerous places to work. Each location is unique, ever-changing, and fraught with hazards and dangers that can be hard to pin down. Wearable devices, including “smart” hard hats with fatigue-sensing sensors, offer solutions to monitor worker conditions and create safer environments.
The EcoSpot mortar board system, which reduces the time workers spend with their backs bent more than 20 degrees, reduces back strain in masonry by 85% and increases productivity by 17%.
Emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are valuable tools for improving safety on construction sites. With immersive VR training, professionals can visualize conditions and identify potential hazards before construction begins, which is more effective than relying on conventional 2D drawings.
In construction, AR can act as a safety visualization tool. With AR glasses, workers remain aware of their surroundings while receiving additional data overlaid on their field of view. This can help employees spot hidden features or understand hazard warnings more effectively.
Harnessing AI-enabled innovations in workplace safety
Technologies such as IoT devices and immersive training can help protect workers and contribute to a healthier work environment.
Together, these cutting-edge tools create safer, healthier work environments, reduce accident rates and even save lives. However, their benefits go beyond safety. The data generated by these technologies offers invaluable insights so business leaders can improve operational efficiency and productivity.