The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals the number of fatal occupational injuries in 2015 rose to 4,836. This was the worst year for workplace safety since 2008. However, isn’t all bad news, as forty years ago, 14,000 workers died every year, mainly because workplace safety was largely ignored in favor of profits.
These days, employers have a duty of care to their workers, so health and safety are a priority; or at least they should be. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is there to help employers improve safety, but technology has an important role to play in the fight to improve working conditions, particularly in the manufacturing, construction, and mining sectors.
The rise of online high-speed digital communications has made it much easier to keep track of employees and identify where people are in a crisis situation. In an ideal world, the workplace would be 100% safe, but things can and do go wrong.
For example, if workers are operating in a war-zone, they are vulnerable to numerous outside risks. Location GPS apps can help companies track employees if they are caught up in a dangerous situation or they are kidnapped for ransom.
The same technology can help law enforcement officials locate workers if a shooter enters the workplace; something that happens more frequently than we care to admit. Smart technology allows workers and emergency responders to link emails, text messages, and intranet communications, and display messages to help people stay safe or escape is there is a crisis unfolding. Technology enables an enhanced emergency response, which saves lives and ensures that the situation is brought under control as quickly as possible.
Robotics and IoT
Robotics and the Internet of Things are helping to save lives too. Employee complacency is responsible for a huge number of deaths and serious accidents each year. People forget to monitor equipment or ignore safety warnings because they are distracted, tired, or simply haven’t received the correct training to operate machinery or complex equipment.
Data lets managers know when safety violations occur or pinpoint areas of greatest risk. Technology can warn managers when important safety materials and equipment such as friction material, i.e. Kevlar or automotive brakes, are reaching the end of their lifespan, so they can be replaced before someone is seriously injured or killed.
In high-risk environments, humans can be taken out of the equation and replaced by robotics. This is increasingly the case in complex manufacturing environments. In the automotive industry, robots routinely build vehicles and humans are only there to oversee the process. Robot automation is safer and more efficient. The introduction of robotic machinery has already improved safety levels in many industries, including the mining and forestry sectors.
Investing in Technology for the Future
Technology is not as expensive as it once was, so investing in technology is cost-effective in the long-term. Businesses can usually expect to see a return on their investment within a few years and in many cases, there are tax incentives for investing in technology.