How technology can help prevent workplace injuries
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
A few months ago, we reported on workplace fatalities being at their highest levels since 2008, although workplace injuries are trending down.
And now, the National Security Council recently released its first Work to Zero research report, “Safety Technology 2020: Mapping Technology Solutions for Reducing Serious Injuries and Fatalities in the Workplace.”
The report identifies the most relevant workplace hazards, along with technologies that can help to mitigate the risks.
“The National Safety Council Work to Zero initiative is committed to eliminating deaths on the job through the use of technology,” says Emily Whitcomb, director of Work to Zero.
“Workplace deaths have reached the highest number in a decade, with more than 5,000 deaths in 2018, and that means thousands of families have lost a loved one in a workplace incident.”
However, she says that by adopting technology, those potential hazards can be significantly reduced. “The good news is that hundreds of technologies — such as drones, wearables and other devices — exist today that can eliminate these preventable deaths and ensure people go home at the end of the day.”
These are some examples of how technology can help save employee lives.
Work at Height
Some of the situational risks in this category that contribute to serious injuries and fatalities include employees falling to lower levels, falling objects, and injury from sudden arrest of lifeline.
Systemic risks include worker behavioral failure and scaffolding/platform failure.
The technologies that could be most effective are mobile and stationary anchor points; aerial lifts and platforms; and self-retracting lines. In addition, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) can prevent workers from having to work in extreme height environments. And virtual reality and digital training can help mitigate worker behavioral failure by training them on dangerous tasks in a 3-D environment.
The most serious situational risks in this category are intentional physical violence to a colleague, weapon violence, and violence due to robbery.
Systemic risks include lack of workplace awareness, lack of training or supervision, and lack of security measures.
These risks can be mitigated through real-time response management mobile apps that use phone location tracking to pinpoint workers during an emergency situation. Also, both mounted and body-worn video cameras can use machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect workplace abnormalities. Panic buttons, whether wearable or mobile app-based, allow employees to alert emergency personnel immediately.
Repair and Maintenance
Significant situation risks in this category include machine energization, being struck by machinery, and being entangled in machinery.
Systemic risks include lack of training or supervision, fatigue, and machinery malfunction.
Technologies that can help mitigate these hazards include machinery cutoff light curtains that automatically stop the machinery when the light field is interrupted if the worker gets too close. Power management systems can control electrical functions and manage capacity and load shedding (which ensure electrical and arc flash safety). Mobile apps can centralize permit-to-work authorization and clearance tasks. In addition, augmented reality displays can project content (schematics, details, and safety information) to workers.
Construction and Installation
The major situational risks in this category are falling to lower levels, control of energy, and electrocution.
The systemic risks include lack of training, and lack of workplace awareness.
Technologies to mitigate risks include proximity sensors and workplace intrusion detectors that send an alert when a person or object enters a set proximity. Also, fall protection kits, which include a harness, straps and lines, can reduce falls. VR and digital services can provide training.
The situational risks that pose the greatest threats in this category include fires, being struck by vehicles or equipment, and explosions.
The systemic risks include lack of training and lack of workplace awareness.
Technologies to reduce hazards include lone worker monitoring, which includes real-time location tracking and communication. Vital-sign monitors track sleep and other well-being factors, like fatigue. Digital floorplan and mapping software can help first responders locate victims, entrances, and exits. Panic and alert buttons and air supplying respirators also mitigate response risks.
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