Falls, vehicle accidents, and overexertion are just a few common workplace injuries taking a high toll on employees and companies. The cost of workplace injuries in 2020 totaled $163.9 billion, including lost wages, reduced productivity, and medical and administrative expenses, according to a report from the National Safety Council. These injuries also lost organizations 65 million days of work, limiting potential growth and productivity.
Thanks to leaders in occupational safety, innovations in safety technology have reduced the potential for workplace injuries. A study by the American Society of Safety Professionals found that monitoring workers equipped with wearable tech revealed when fatigue set in during a worker’s schedule and what activities caused it. Armed with data, employers can take preemptive action to combat worker fatigue.
Understanding the types of tech-driven safety and their applications is key. To deepen their mastery, professionals looking to implement the latest in safety technology advancements should consider the benefits of a degree in occupational safety.
Technology and Safety in Occupational Safety
In today’s occupational safety field, technology and safety go hand in hand. The following safety technology devices and methods, for example, contribute to creating a safer and more productive work environment.
Wearable tech can track employee movements, warn co-workers of potential hazards, and track fatigue, body temperature, and repetitive action. Wearables offer more immediate assistance than data from a computer or server: Workers can respond more quickly to tech alerts signaling a safety hazard on the job.
Most wearable tech is specific to an industry, such as smart helmets equipped with vibration sensors that alert construction workers to sudden, unsafe changes to their environment. Wearable technology in manufacturing can detect when personnel is near heavy equipment like forklifts, where the danger of serious injury is higher. Proximity sensors in wearable tech can also notify heavy machine operators of the presence of other employees when working in close environments.
Certain work tasks require technological assistance. Remotely operated drones have the power to reduce and, in some situations, eliminate safety concerns connected with hazardous work conditions. Operators may fly drones into high-risk scenarios and difficult-to-reach regions to survey potential worksite environments. They can then take precise measurements that would otherwise require personnel to expose themselves to dangerous circumstances.
Robotics can help improve workplace safety by limiting exposure to hazardous situations or replacing workers with robots in potentially dangerous areas. An example is the use of robots in warehouses to reduce fall risks. Robotic equipment can reach items employees cannot, minimizing or eliminating the need for personnel to operate aerial lift equipment.
Manufacturing is another area where robot use has helped minimize worker injuries. Robotic exoskeletons, wearable devices designed to mimic and amplify physical movements, can eliminate the need for workers to do repetitive motion tasks. These robotic devices reduce the overall strain on the body by taking on most of the physical labor that can often result in physical injury from overworking joints or muscles.
Robots can also eliminate the need for workers to lift or move oversized or heavy objects, reducing the chance of back or knee injuries from improper lifting.
Safety Data via Data Analytics
One of the best ways to help prevent workplace injuries is to understand why they occur. Gathering safety technology data on issues such as stress or fatigue in the workplace can assist occupational safety leaders in determining how to best alter workplace behaviors to reduce the chance of an incident, such as maintaining better posture or increasing the number of breaks for employees.
Organizations usually gather this data remotely via a sensor, either worn by the worker or placed at a fixed location. A server or terminal then receives the data, which can include activity duration and temperature and humidity levels. Occupational safety leaders can use this data, once analyzed, to find workplace patterns that reveal existing or potential safety issues.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
With virtual or augmented reality, workers can undergo training with new equipment or hazardous environments without putting themselves at risk with the on-site first-time experience. Virtual reality uses specialized headsets to create a computer-simulated environment that users can visualize and interact with, allowing them to familiarize themselves with a worksite or process as if they were present.
Augmented reality uses cellphones or special glasses to generate computer-generated images or text over real-world objects. This allows users to visualize information about something just by looking at it. This can help those still learning new equipment and reduce mishaps by displaying information and warnings more easily.
Using these VR and AR tech in training scenarios can be easily replicated for individual users through digital technologies, such as computer programs and AI. Such realistic-appearing training can help workers get a better familiarity with new heavy equipment or prepare for work at high altitudes, such as construction workers on a high rise.
The Importance of Safety Technology in Occupational Safety
Applying the most recent safety technology strategies means going beyond simply safeguarding employees. Creating a safer workplace can raise employee morale, which promotes productivity by reducing fatigue and turnover. Safety technology advancements also bring financial benefits: The occurrence of fewer workplace accidents reduces the possibility of lawsuits and lowers corporate insurance costs.
Some workplaces may have difficulty applying safety technology. They may be reluctant to adopt new tech, use it inefficiently, or experience data collection issues.
Occupational safety professionals looking to overcome these obstacles can benefit from developing advanced tech skills and knowledge, allowing them to better support workplaces in taking up new technology. Tech-savvy professionals can also guide employers who experience server or logistics issues in how to best install tech safety innovations.
Build the Skills to Use Safety Technology in Occupational Safety
Whether it comes in the form of drones, wearables, or data analytics, technology offers many ways to protect workers from hazards and maintain positive morale and efficient production in workplaces across the nation.
If you’re looking to deepen your expertise in the latest developments in the industry, explore the online Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety from Eastern Kentucky University. This degree encompasses areas such as employee safety education, regulatory compliance, and policy and enforcement. Discover how Eastern Kentucky University can help you get the knowledge you need to apply the latest strategies in safety technology.
Managing Employee Stress in the Workplace
What Is Occupational Safety and Why Does It Matter?
How to Conduct a Job Hazard Analysis
American Society of Safety Professionals, “Advancing Safety Surveillance Using Individualized Sensor Technology (ASSIST)”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robotics and Workplace Safety
EHS Today, “7 Mistakes Companies Make With Safety Technology”
National Safety Council, Build the Business Case for Safety Innovation
National Safety Council, Drones
National Safety Council Injury Facts, Work Injury Costs
National Safety Council, Virtual or Augmented Reality
Occupational Health & Safety, “How Wearable Technology is Transforming Safety and the Industrial Workplace”
Safety+Health Magazine, “Leveraging Wearables to Improve Worker Safety”
Safety and Health at Work, “Finding Pluto: An Analytics-Based Approach to Safety Data Ecosystems”
Wolters Kluwer, “The Impact of Robotics on Safety and Health”