340 million — that is the number of occupational accidents that occur every year — according to the International Labour Organisation. And approximately 6000 people succumb to their deaths every day due to work-related injuries. The grim situation reflected in this data has become a major concern for safety professionals.
Needless to say, companies, big and small, have, over the years, realized the fundamental importance of workplace and employee safety. Concerned authorities turn to excel sheets, audits, meetings, and whatnot, to combat the risks that accompany their respective fields.
Different industries will encounter different health and safety hazards. For instance, heavy equipment leads to physical harm to a construction worker. Thus, depending on the industry, there will be different measures in place to ensure safety. The way ahead across all sectors is to introduce new strategies and move with the current trends.
Technology has paved the way for many opportunities and redefined multiple spaces in our day-to-day life. It has undoubtedly made life easier and processes more cost-effective and less time-consuming. It does not hold back when it comes to workplace safety as well. The penetration of technology in other aspects of life is common compared to the combination of AI and safety. Nonetheless, technology, especially AI, has opened up many avenues for improvement. It helps promote and sustain a safer workplace for the benefit of employees and employers.
How does AI help in improving Workplace Safety?
Workplace safety, by its very nature, is a complex issue. It isn’t one problem that plagues the companies, nor is there one solution that can solve all safety concerns. As such, AI tackles the issue of workplace safety and introduces better and safer practices. As per the needs of the company, AI is customized and chosen.
AI has also proven to be helpful in managing the workforce and overcoming challenges. Owing to its unique features and ease of use, AI has drastically improved the safety culture that penetrates any workplace. The role AI plays in workplace safety is phenomenal. The general benefits of AI in the workplace are as follows –
Data Collection and Analysis
Today’s world is essentially data-driven. Everything and anything produces data for everything and anything. Companies, especially, have a never-ending relationship with data. Data storage has come a long way since its beginnings when it was first kept in cabinets.
Thereafter, typed records were stored on secure Excel spreadsheets and further modernized to Google Sheets/Docs. With human intervention, it would take over months to analyze said data into meaningful sets.
But AI can sweep across the data to offer valuable insights enabling companies to make informed decisions for their safety programs. It also allows for the prevalence of a better safety culture which facilitates accountability and visibility. Data related to all workplace injuries would aid the management in identifying the most common injuries. It would also help them take the necessary action to remedy such situations.
What workplace is free of accidents? Be it a food manufacturing company or any warehouse, for that matter, life-threatening accidents are right around the corner. AI provides real-time information about any incident that has occurred in your workplace. Companies will have access to information relating to accidents as well as near-miss incidents. Those in charge of safety will gain knowledge about which group of people are more likely to run into accidents. Depending on the at-risk practices of the employees, required solutions can be introduced to improve their behavior.
AI would also be able to identify accident-prone zones, materials, and vehicles which would lead to actions being taken to reduce said risk. This advantage of AI empowers the company to have better control over the working environment. Such reporting is an important tool for following the plant safety protocols of any company.
Employees are the biggest assets of a company. Monitoring their behavior has proven to bear exceptional results. With AI-powered employee monitoring, the company can expect better productivity and outstanding performance. Employee monitoring also enhances the creation of a safe working culture. It can keep track of the employees’ essential vitals and their location within their workplace. Additionally, AI helps identify behaviors harmful to the well-being of others and/or the company.
This intervention by the AI also assures employee safety by alerting them of nearby hazards and safeguarding them from physical harm whenever possible. If an employee is in the blind spot for a forklift, constant monitoring would mean that they are alerted beforehand, and a crisis is averted.
Dangerous and often lethal equipment fills the workspaces of many companies. Hydraulic presses, handheld grinding wheels, and cranes are but to name only a handful of the dangers of warehouses and plants. Faulty tools and machinery are one of the leading causes of workplace accidents.
AI tools and software are strategically designed to pinpoint equipment that is not functioning properly and may cause harm. Checklists can also be enabled to confirm whether the equipment has undergone required updates and to set off alerts for pending repairs. With AI lending such a helping hand, Safety Heads can reduce workplace accidents and ensure the efficient functioning of all vehicles, tools, and machines.
Replacement for Dangerous Tasks
There are certain activities that employees have to undertake, despite those being a big health hazard. But with the introduction of AI, times have changed. Employees no longer enter risky places and control harmful machinery.
AI can enter zones otherwise deadly for human beings and send across the necessary data. This again reduces the chances of employees being victims of dangerous accidents. Drones, along with AI, have rapidly been growing popular. It is useful in inspecting hazardous environments such as underground mines, construction sites, and rooftops, among others.
AI in the Working
Now that it is established that AI lends the upper hand to companies concerning workplace safety — let’s indulge a little bit in understanding the various customizations AI undergoes to be molded as per the safety requirements of different industries.
- Forklifts are a major contributor to workplace accidents. Forklift accidents occur due to poor driving, lack of visibility of pedestrians, improper turning, and speeding. Integrating AI into this workflow would mean that the management will have a better grasp on the driving behavior of the employees for the forklifts, thereby implementing measures for improving their improper skills.
Like a two-pronged fork, AI provides another edge to the management in relation to sending alerts when a pedestrian is in the vicinity of the forklift to avoid collisions.
- The field force of the companies is employees as well. For them, their work constitutes the roads they travel on. Companies with assistance from AI in the form of driving safety solutions can help make their employees safer on the road. For them, road safety equals workplace safety.
As such, data regarding driving behavior, incident reporting, trip details, etc., allow companies to take strict actions to curb road accidents.
- Sensors and alert systems in loading docks and Action Tracking Systems in plants/warehouses also help in cultivating a culture of safety in the workplace.
In conclusion, Workplace and employee safety should always assume priority for any company. While traditional methods have been effective, they do have certain shortcomings.
However, with the integration of AI, companies can fill these gaps and shoulder the goal of creating a ‘Zero Harm’ workplace and achieving results in any health and safety audits.
The affiliation between AI and workplace safety would spell optimized safety management and reduced risk of human errors.
AI is a fairly recent player in this game and, thus, will undergo many changes and updates in the near future. It is safe to assume that all these amendments and accommodations will only help further the cause of workplace safety.
Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Pexels; Thank you!