When technology is discussed in the context of business and industry, it is most often within a framework of productivity and efficiency. Today safety needs to be added to this list. Robotics, AI, data analytics, VR, wearables, nano- and other evolutions in safety technology are consistently shaping and transforming the working environment.
Safety technology not only protects workers. It boosts morale, reduces turnover, presents a smarter company-image and lowers insurance (and other ‘unseen’) costs. This is nothing new. Technology has done all this for years, decades even. Still, new innovations in tools, hardware and software, ceaselessly create new ways of looking at and improving worker safety.
Communication is key
Better, faster and smarter ways of communication are often a key ingredient in the vast and diverse field of safety technology. Improved communication systems allow for a better tracking of employees, whether those are lone, remote workers or shop floor personnel.
Potential issues can be flagged up and responded to in a more timely manner. Smart and seamless communication can be integrated in a prevention-focused system that provides a better level of alertness. Simultaneously it offers a faster emergency response.
The shift from ‘call-in’ and ‘fixed interval’ communication towards an open, 24/7 continuous communication, is in its final stretch. Whether it’s man-to-man, man-to-machine or machine-to-machine, this non-stop, real time communication offers tighter safety control and monitoring. At the same time it provides exhaustive and thus more reliable data for after-incident analysis.
3D, AR and VR in safety technology
The better visualization of real-life situations, problems and hazards, makes for a better prepared safety strategy and behavior. 3D-visualization, augmented reality and virtual reality provide excellent tools for training and simulations.
Virtual reality can ‘expose’ workers to an extremely high-risk situation in a perfectly safe environment. The immersion and hands-on training has proven to be highly efficient in learning to use new equipment, simulations of crisis-scenarios and much more. As the saying goes “experience is the best teacher”.
Augmented reality is all about providing that hassle- and hands-free extra layer of real-time information that is, or rather, should be contextually relevant for the job at hand. In addition to training and support AR has a growth potential for data-gathering.
Speaking of data-gathering. That might not be the thing that first comes to mind when it comes to drones. Still, it’s most often a by-product of their primary task: avoiding endangering human health. Nevertheless, when used in potentially or confirmed high risk settings, drones can monitor, steer and/or manipulate the environment, all the while documenting the data for later analysis.
In remote or shielded locations drones can be deployed to create and/or support the continuous communication with the abovementioned benefits.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning both tie in diverse ways into almost every safety technology. It can be as ‘simple’ as seeing the bigger picture or noticing – and potentially predicting – patterns relating to safety issues.
AI is equipped to handle huge amounts of data. As a result, companies and safety-systems can opt for a bigger data-influx rather than prioritizing, selecting or limiting the sources.
Recently AI and smart cameras have opened up a new and interesting path towards better worker safety. With either AI-enabled cameras or AI that can analyze images, recordings and live video feeds.
Wearable technology devices gain momentum in workplace safety strategies in a number of diverse ways.
One of those ways is supporting the worker with that extra layer of information through AR glasses.
There’s also a versatile monitoring side to wearables. Those can measure data of the person wearing them. This varies from fall detection, SOS emergency situations and localization, to body temperature, respiration and heart rate. Wearables can also monitor the immediate environment of the wearer for potentially dangerous exposure to unsafe or harmful elements, compromised air quality, etc.
Last but not least there are the immediate benefits of proximity monitoring and detection by way of wearables. This prevents accidents by helping or warning workers to steer clear of hazardous areas, getting too close to equipment and vehicles … . Another high value benefit of this wearable tech adoption is that it allows for tracking and analyzing of near miss incidents and heat mapping unseen but potentially hazardous zones.