Anyone who works in a physical workspace, whether in an office or an industrial setting, knows the value of feeling safe while doing their job. That is why, for many employees, a company that does everything possible to guarantee employee safety and mental and physical health is a great place to work. For this reason, most companies are increasingly leveraging OHS to ensure workers’ safety, health, and welfare at work.
But what is OHS? It stands for Occupational Health and Safety and is a multidisciplinary field devoted to preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by working with employers and workers towards that goal. OHS is essential to any workplace because it guarantees employees’ well-being and businesses’ long-term viability.
In the last few years, OHS has benefited from emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR), predictive analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI), which are changing the OHS environment and posing new opportunities and challenges. By incorporating cutting-edge technology at each sampling level to identify, evaluate, and control workplace risks, businesses can eliminate weaknesses and maintain and promote workers’ health and safety.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning have been hot topics in many economic sectors worldwide for several years. However, safety and compliance at the workplace have yet to reap AI’s benefits. Artificial intelligence can revolutionize how employees are trained and how accidents are predicted and thus prevented.
AI systems can significantly enhance OHS practices beyond recommending where to put safety first sign in your facilities. For instance, they can improve worker health and safety by lowering the mental demands placed on workers and the cognitive complexity of many job functions. Also, AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and detect potential risks in real time.
This technological edge allows for proactive measures to prevent accidents and injuries and save lives. For example, companies can train machine learning algorithms to recognize hazardous scenarios and suggest preventive measures, enhancing safety at the workplace. Another example is AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants that can instantly guide staff members on safety protocols and risk assessments and help them make decisions.
Human error, lack of information for the performance of tasks, lack of training and preparation of employees, distractions, and negligence in complying with safety protocols are the most common causes of accidents in the workplace.
However, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become the best alternative for monitoring, gathering sensor data, and better understanding work surroundings in the last few years. Employing security IoT enables businesses to monitor all potential workplace risks and dangers because, regardless of the industry, every company should prioritize workplace safety.
IoT technology, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the architects of monitoring, preventing, and reducing workplace accidents. In addition to improving the productivity and efficiency of Industry 4.0, these technologies play a critical role in occupational safety since their integration considerably reduces accident data.
Wearables with sensors, such as vests, watches, and helmets, make monitoring the environment at work easy. In addition, companies use mobile applications to check these technologies continuously. As a result, many sensors work independently to stop, secure, and scale back actions that endanger the workplace.
AI-powered predictive analytics have transformed many industries, from retail to finance and aviation; these industries use predictive analytics technology to face operational challenges and drive growth. But since we can predict workplace accidents and safety incidents using analytics, safety professionals can use this technology to anticipate and prevent workplace injuries.
Regardless of the workplace risks they face, most organizations can apply predictive analytics in the EHS field to improve their prevention strategies, the costs associated with OSH initiatives, and the overall efficiency of their businesses.
Most organizations’ occupational health and safety indicator analysis reviews historical accident and incident data to identify potential trends. Therefore, most of them are based on the study of isolated indicators and are limited to data directly linked to specific events. However, in most instances, this data only shows what happened rather than the root cause.
To understand why these security incidents occur, companies need to identify the factors that could potentially cause an incident, thus predicting the probability of future incidents.
Augmented and virtual reality technologies are disrupting many work environments regarding operational health and safety. Today, companies can implement a responsible approach to shaping sustainable development through virtual reality.
Hazard identification, emergencies, and fall protection training are some of the current applications of VR in safety. Thanks to immersive learning, trainees are placed in realistic work environments where they can experience and leverage what they see through the visor, which scientists call “embodied cognition,” instead of using a computer.
Companies can also leverage VR simulators for equipment and machinery familiarization, reducing the learning curve and, as a result, the chance of accidents. In addition, AR overlays relevant safety information onto the real-world environment, guiding workers through complex tasks and identifying potential hazards in real time.
Still, some experts advise adopting virtual reality in addition to other types of safety training, usually for brief periods of no more than 20 minutes per session. This is to avoid risks such as “simulator sickness” or colliding with objects, which would end up being counterintuitive.
From improving the precision and accuracy of monitoring results to shortening the time it takes to analyze OHS hazards and making control measures more effective while reducing costs and the consumption of resources, there are many benefits to leveraging the use of emerging technologies in OHS.
Using AI, IoT, predictive analytics, AR, and VR in the workplace improves safety procedures, lowers accidents, and boosts general well-being. In addition, these technologies allow businesses to be proactive, see risks immediately, and promote a safety culture.
Adopting these technologies presents tremendous opportunities but also significant difficulties. It’s essential to address privacy issues, data security, and the need for proper training and upskilling. In addition, organizations must balance utilizing new technologies with ensuring human oversight and accountability.