How Workplace Safety Technology Is Creating Safer Working Environments

Modern enterprises consider employee safety and well-being as a priority and a primary necessity. Governments also mandate safety protocols to ensure that businesses comply with them to prevent injuries and keep workers safe from pollutants, and accidents.

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Why is workplace safety important?

A safe working environment benefits both employees and the organization. It is vital for employees to feel safe when they are at work. When organizations eliminate potential or known hazards and provide a safe environment, employees feel valued and motivated to do their best. Conversely, organizations that are negligent about safe work practices develop a negative reputation, which does not reflect well on the company's branding and talent attraction efforts.

From the organization's point of view, putting safety first makes good financial sense:

  • U.S. businesses spend more than $1 billion a week on serious, nonfatal workplace injuries, with the total cost of all injuries amounting to $58.61 billion in direct U.S. workers' compensation costs.
  • The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires all employers to follow specific guidelines for safe workplaces. Not following OSHA's rules and guidelines can lead to serious legal and financial penalties.

Luckily, creating a safer work environment has become easier thanks to advances in technology.

Smart tech helps create a safer workplace

Emerging technologies like robotics, robotic process automation (RPA), advanced data analytics with predictive and preventive capabilities, AR/VR technologies, and the rapid growth of IoT devices are making the workplace much safer than before.

Smart tech can be used to monitor employees' health during physically intense activities, reduce physical stress and strain on human workers, and allow jobs to be done remotely, keeping humans out of unsafe zones or harsh environments. In addition, safety monitoring technology curtails high costs of insurance, reduces attrition, and improves employee morale.

Businesses with physically intense operations—such as construction, transportation, warehousing, and farming—may see the greatest benefits from cutting-edge workplace safety technology.

Here are some smart tech devices and apps that focus on health and safety:

  • Wearables: Wearables are fast becoming the go-to solution for worker safety, especially in construction, engineering and field jobs. A hat that sounds an alarm if a construction worker wanders into an unsafe area of the construction zone. A GPS tracking device keeps managers informed of a remote worker's location during off-site repairs or rescue operations in remote areas. A headset with a voice recorder helps technicians remain hands-free while giving real-time reports during inspections and other essential safety checks and routines. The applications of wearable tech for safety are endless!
  • Drones or robotic helpers: Camera-equipped drones provide a close-up view of areas that are difficult for workers to access. Robotic automatons are now available to perform checks in hazardous areas, confined spaces, or at extreme heights, eliminating the need for workers to enter such areas with potential hazards.
  • Smartphone safety apps: There are now apps that enable workers and supervisors to evaluate tasks and working conditions. For example, measure noise hazards, check ladder safety, and identify and inspect hazardous materials. Some sector-specific apps are helping businesses stay compliant with safety regulations.
  • AR and VR: Virtual reality (VR) and artificial reality (AR) applications for safety training programs enable workers to simulate potentially unsafe working environments so that they are better prepared to handle hazards on the field.
  • Incident reporting and safety audit records: Workplace safety compliances mandate document management support for accurate incident reporting, inspection reports, and safety training documentation. Organizations need quick access to a paper trail of how they are protecting their assets, people and business.

All these workplace safety technology solutions and devices necessitate digital readiness.

For example, wearables generate data, which needs to be collected, processed and analyzed to derive actionable insights and improve safety conditions. In addition, AR/VR devices require connectivity to content servers to access real-time digital data so users can correlate the real-world image with the digitized content.

Take another example: A facility maintenance manager surveys an office area (such as a pantry) and finds that the gas supply line needs repairs to its insulation. He must visually inspect the area and then compare it to the existing asset documentation. Digitization enables quick and easy access to the asset documentation via an ECM or content server for the manager. He can immediately create a work order or approve the insulation repairs by comparing the as-is state of the gas line to the original documented state.

Similarly, drone-surveyed images or AR/VR-generated images can be compared or superimposed with original engineering drawings for work order approvals, to assess the as-is state of equipment, for preventive maintenance, decision-making and other such scenarios. Therefore, communicating with the drone servers, retrieving, and extracting data and digital images is mission-critical. The extracted data and images are converted, classified and stored in a central cloud server repository, making them accessible for further processing or decision-making.

Documented safety SOPs must be accessible to teams and managers to decide and plan for onsite activities in remote or inaccessible areas. Work order approvals and safety authorization permits also need to be created quickly from any location or at any time and made accessible to the team and auditors.

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How DRS supports workplace safety technology solutions

DRS provides digitization services for legacy documents and cloud storage and archival for data generated by smart tech to help organizations keep their safety procedures compliant. 

  • DRS provides scanning and indexing services to get your organization up to speed and provide a strong baseline to use and enable smart tech solutions to enhance safety for your employees.
  • Mercury, our ECM solution, is a robust system to search, store, manage and access critical business documents from any location or device. In addition, it provides cloud-based storage for all kinds of safety documentation enabling easy access from remote areas.
  • Our advanced data capture solution automatically and accurately extracts key data from digitized images and makes it available for processing by downstream apps and systems.
  • Our partnership with Hyperscience gives our clients access to cutting-edge ML-based data extraction and document processing functionalities to support high-tech workplace safety devices. In addition, the Hyperscience platform streamlines and executes workflows for work order approvals and safety officer authorizations.

Workplace safety technology is indispensable for urban infrastructure assets and in many use cases in the food industry, defense manufacturing, warehouses, shipyards or any other remote industrial installations—wherever there are hazardous chemicals or equipment which could be a potential risk for workers' safety. It helps organizations conform to expected safety KPIs such as 0 LTIs (Loss Time Injury).

Managing hazards and promoting worker safety requires a systematic and consistent approach that includes clear guidelines for workers and managers, incident reporting and predictive maintenance training, and frequent assessments of existing or new hazards.

Get in touch with DRS to enhance and support your digital readiness for advanced workplace safety technology. Speak with our digital transformation consultants today!