For years, modern technology has been revolutionizing the many different aspects of the workplace—from simple things like eliminating inefficiencies in communication to more important matters like streamlining business processes. Increasing workplace safety is no exception. Along with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, technology has played a significant role in reducing the number of workplace fatalities from 1 ,000 to 6,000 a year.
However, 6,000 is still a huge number, not to mention the millions of injuries that American workers sustain each year. With that, workplace safety technology continues to develop in order to further reduce the number of people sustaining injuries and losing their lives at work every year.
To better understand how important technology is for workplace safety, here are specific applications that are in wide use today:
Drones in hazardous work environments
Certain work environments are inherently dangerous, as in the case of the mining, construction, and logging industries. Before the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), workers had no choice but to expose themselves to hazardous situations to get work done. For example, if a piece of machinery in the middle of a mining facility is faulty, a worker had to go down there to manually survey the problem. With UAVs, or most commonly known as drones, workers can survey hard-to-reach and dangerous places without putting themselves in unnecessary danger.
Mining is just one of the industries that greatly benefit from drone technology; sectors like construction, civil engineering, rescue, and agriculture can also use drones to improve worker safety. Not only that, but drones can also increase efficiency and productivity. For instance, modern drones for agriculture can streamline agriculture management by observing, measuring, and targeting areas that require attention remotely.
Wearable technology for workers that work independently
Wearable technology has made waves in the areas of occupational safety in health, especially in facilities where workers tend to work independently.
If a worker mostly works by himself or herself, they are less likely to receive immediate attention when they experience a medical emergency. Many would argue that security cameras are enough to reduce this risk, but there is no guarantee that security personnel will spot a collapsed worker right away unless they are looking at the right camera at the right time.
Wearable technology eliminates this problem by monitoring workers’ heart rates, signs of fatigue, and other biological parameters. If, for example, a worker’s heart rate spikes suddenly, the technology they are wearing can send an alert to management right away and pinpoint the exact location of that worker, helping them receive medical attention right away.
Aside from monitoring workers’ biology, wearables can also help workers track behaviors that increase their risk of injury and alert them if they are in potentially dangerous situations. For example, if they walk into an area with unsafe levels of toxins, their device can prompt them to respond immediately
Virtual reality technology for training
Some would argue against the efficacy of virtual reality (VR) technology for training, especially in highly critical jobs such as emergency medicine and construction. However, VR training is not only proving to be an effective method of training but is also becoming the safest method to do so.
With VR training, workers get to learn in realistically simulated environments that help build both their technical skills and soft skills—but without putting themselves or others in any real danger. For example, if a worker uses VR to train in identifying and assessing safety risks in construction, they are more likely to learn effectively than if they would use visual aids. Most importantly, they do not put themselves or others in any danger with their inexperience.
High-tech sensors to detect hazardous workplace environments
One of the most common causes of workplace accidents is the lack of awareness. However, the lack of awareness is not always a human fault. At times, the hazard is simply not detectable by the naked eye, as in the case of odorless toxic fumes. Other times, the hazard is a normal part of the workplace, but workers are not able to tell if it is in excess, which is the case for excessive noise and dust particles.
High-tech sensors reduce these risks by detecting them in the environment and alerting workers if they need to vacate. For example, if the noise level in a construction site is above the safe level, the sensors will send an alert to workers so that they can respond accordingly.
These are just some of the applications of safety technology in the workplace, but they should be enough to illustrate the importance of developing and utilizing technology for worker safety.