Technology is growing rapidly, and with it, new and advanced safety innovations. From warehouse workers to construction tradespeople, ideally everyone is highly focused on keeping their people safe while on the job. This demand to know how to provide safety in the workplace has created an amazing emerging market filled with gear and gadgets that all have the same goal: worker safety. Here is a look at some of the ways this is being accomplished.
Safety Innovations in Construction
The construction industry has long been filled with many work-related hazards. From the use of heavy machinery and power tools to risks related to weather, falls, burns, and cuts, it truly is one of the prime candidates for innovations in safety.
One of the ways that technology experts have found to help keep injuries at a minimum is through the use of sensors. Just as your tire pressure sensor notifies the driver when the tire is low or the oil life monitor system reminds you that an oil change needs to happen soon, sensors can be used to monitor all kinds of health and safety issues that might plague a job site or an individual worker. Things like body temperature, heart and respiration rates, noise or hazardous gas levels, and even poor posture can be monitored and tracked to identify problems as early as possible. These sensors can be incorporated into safety work vests, hard hats, and various machinery.
Another great way that the construction industry is improving safety is through the use of drones and other unmanned recording devices. Because many construction accidents happen when a worker has to physically enter a structure or examine a site that is not safe, remote-operated recording devices can help identify these hazards without putting a person at risk. The data from these devices can be reviewed from a safe location, and any weaknesses in structure or risks related to stability can be carefully assessed and mitigated.
Safety Innovations in the Warehouse
Warehouse workers play a key role in the logistics of just about everything that we enjoy as consumers. They also make up another industry that is prone to accidents and workplace hazards. Daily work in a warehouse usually involves the use of cutting tools; forklift and pallet jack machinery; and various other things with moving and mechanical parts such as dock doors, box bailers, and lifts.
Because many warehouse work hazards seem to be related to the improper use of mechanical devices, warehouse safety innovations in the form of digital and smart controls are helping to mitigate some of the risk. Years ago, it was not uncommon to see levers, pulleys, joystick controls, and other manual-operation mechanisms throughout most warehouse facilities. These, however, rely heavily on a person’s dexterity, operating experience, and general attention to detail in order to be safe. New digital control systems have many more safety functions built in and are much more streamlined to learn and use.
Digital controls allow for specific levels and stops to be set, as opposed to a thumb-controlled lever that has to be lined up by feel or sight. Additionally, smart controls are often equipped with data collection abilities that transmit signals about use patterns or problems to supervisors or safety officers. This allows them to pinpoint areas where additional training might be needed for an individual operator before an accident occurs.
Safety Innovations in Manufacturing
The manufacturing industry in the U.S. accounts for almost 13 million jobs, and is a growing sector for innovations in safety. Those employed in this field of work very often deal with complex tools and machinery that, if not functioning properly, could result in loss of productivity as well as worker accidents. One safety innovation that is helping combat this is in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Essentially, assembly line processes can be monitored closely by AI technology, which can provide very complex and accurate reporting. This data can then be learned by the machine and used to identify errors, maintenance needs, and even detect early signs of machine failure. With the right processes and equipment in place, just about any variation to the normal way of operating can be quickly flagged and carefully inspected to help prevent a future accident.
Hazards in manufacturing aren’t limited to just machinery though. In many instances, there are also harmful chemicals and dangerous materials that can lead to worker injuries too. Technological advancements in the area of QR codes, however, make information about a hazardous substance more readily available to workers who encounter it. Because QR codes can be scanned by just about any smartphone camera, factors like the processes for handling, delivering first aid, checklists for storage, or even emergency contact information can quickly and efficiently be delivered.
Safety Innovations in Healthcare
Working with patients as a healthcare professional can be quite rewarding, but a job in this field also comes with its own set of occupational hazards. Healthcare workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, face a high risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Moving, lifting, and repositioning patients on a regular basis takes a toll on the body, and can result in acute and chronic back pain, among other things.
Innovations in the form of assistive devices are making big strides in reducing these types of workplace hazards. Mechanical ceiling lifts, for example, are beginning to become more commonplace, especially within intensive care and critical care units. Patient transfer devices that use air pressure or hydraulics are helping to convert many of the “pull” motions into “push” actions, in an attempt to reduce spinal force on workers. These kinds of devices, when paired with proper training, can help to greatly reduce sudden injuries as well as long-term musculoskeletal disorders.
The Next Step in Safety Innovations
So what will the future hold for workplace safety? Thomas Edison once said, “If there’s a way to do it better...find it.” When it comes to reducing workplace injuries and making job environments as safe as possible, the key is to keep moving forward. By always being open to learning about safety control measures, growing in our knowledge of risks and hazards, and bettering our trades through technology implementation, we will continue to see great success in the area of work safety innovations.
How can I successfully implement new safety initiatives?
How do I get buy-in from management and workers?
What’s the best way to build trust and rapport?
Should EHS be a C-Suite position?
We explore these questions and more on the Safety Labs by Slice podcast. Check us out using the links below.