Today workfloor safety is just as important a driver for safety technology as productivity. AI, robotics, wearables, data analytics, nano- and other safety technologies are continuously transforming the safety-centric work environment. 

Alas, not all “new and advanced” safety technology leads to strong or comparable results. Too often self-proclaimed tech-pioneers try to dazzle with alluring expectations, while downplaying the selectivity of their statistics, an endless list of conditionals or justifications to compromise your productivity. 

Generally the efficacy of these safety technologies hinges on the way(s) and ease they interact with your workers and vice versa. This makes the human-machine interface a critical element. 

So we made a list of questions you should ask before choosing and adopting any new safety technology.

1. What’s the impact on my operation and productivity

During the install phase, some downtime of systems, machines and/or personnel might be unavoidable. Still: the less the better and at the very least it needs to be clear exactly how long the install will take. Once everything’s ‘up and running’ there should be no significant burden on operation or productivity, unless clearly outweighed by the safety benefits. 

2. How user-friendly is the safety technology?

Even the most brilliant safety system will fail if nobody wants to use it,  or doesn’t know how to. Ideally workfloor safety technologies require no installation and very limited training. Their use should be intuitive and in the case of wearables they should provide multiple wear factors. They must in no way hinder the worker in his actions, while always maintaining functionality.  

3. Does it work where I need it to?

Have you got lone workers operating in silos or manholes? Then you need safety tech that works there. It should work indoors and outdoors. It may work with cellular, but also without. Same goes for WiFi. Think UBW, extension applications, …  the best workfloor safety technology covers a broad and complementary range of connectivity options. 

4. Does it work with what I already have

Running newly adopted safety technology separately from your overall system is a definite no-go. Especially when it concerns safety technology. Make sure the new tech can be – preferably easily – integrated in your existing Permits to Work, LoTo process systems, safety control room, internal notification process, etc. 

5. And all that is real-time, correct?

Image being able to change the location and dimensions of a hazard and/or muster zone on the fly, and instantaneously communicating these changes to all concerned. This is but one example of why most modern safety technologies need to address urgencies in real-time while adapting to unpredictable circumstances. Real-time detection and reaction can literally make the difference between life and death. 

6. How much control do I keep?

You’ll want instant and automatic detection. For instance when a worker on a remote site seems to have made a serious fall. But you’ll also want options that let all parties eliminate false alarms. Same goes for the setting of each type of collision alert that works for your site, or a more specific site location, or even a temporary process. 

7. What can I learn from it?

One of the perks of new safety technologies is the ability to collect and analyze a once unsurmountable volume of data. Data that may expose weak links, otherwise invisible or unreported near misses and unsafe behavior, … It can spur urgent or later improvement. And it can also build cases for (extra) investments in additional workfloor safety. 

And how about privacy?

When safety and new safety technologies meet, they often come with better, smarter ways of monitoring and tracking. For instance to identify and locate that one missing person during an emergency evacuation. Justifiably the more invasive means of tracking and monitoring employees, workers and visitors raises the question of privacy. Forward thinking safety tech innovators know how to find a workable and efficient balance between the two.  

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