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Safety First and Last: Using technology to enhance your worker’s safety

By Jeff Thorne   

Features Business Intelligence canada construction osg ppe rental safety thorne vr

Leverage technology for a safer workplace.

Let’s take a look at several key ways that technology is shaping health and safety and how it is managed.

Ensuring identified hazards are effectively controlled and communicated has always been a challenge with traditional paper-based systems. The report needs to move from person to person through management, sometimes stalling with a specific individual or getting misplaced. With mobile safety management capabilities, hazards and deficiencies and their corrective actions can be communicated instantly amongst employees and documents can be auto-filed and never lost. You can quickly capture who has received the communication and if the desired outcomes are translated into improved behaviour.

Accountability is necessary when senior leadership sets out specific performance expectations to be completed prior to the job start. Truly ensuring items such as hazard assessments, safety communication and workplace inspections are being completed is a challenge for many employers. When these processes are documented digitally and communicated in real time, employees, especially supervisors, tend to perform differently because they are aware that their actions can be observed. There are mobile safety applications that provide the ability to support and coach employee performance in a timely fashion. Providing resources to supervisors in the form of technology allows them to complete their tasks efficiently.

Having had first-hand experience with simulators and virtual or augmented reality (very cool), I see this as an area where there could be a significant impact, especially with heavy equipment operators and those who work in high-risk environments. Virtual reality simulators can be used to train mobile elevated work platform and forklift operators. Workers can practice in environments such as confined spaces or at heights. Augmented reality is a form of technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of a real environment, thus providing a composite view. Augmented reality can place a worker in an actual piece of equipment with augmented hazards. Workers can walk on site and perform mock inspections.

An overwhelming amount of time, effort and resources can be consumed searching for paper documents and reviewing and updating a paper-based system. Having mobile or web access to policies, procedures, training records or safety data sheets creates efficiency, especially if you have remote locations or field staff requiring access.

Incidents can and unfortunately do happen in the blink of an eye. Quick digitized reporting of at-risk behaviour through an app increases the opportunity to curb and resolve it. Reporting via a mobile application or tablet also helps streamline reporting. Improved reporting results in increased data points for improved safety management. Organizations are now using data to make better decisions, increase productivity, improve site safety and reduce health and safety risks.

Personal Protective Equipment is now being outfitted with biometrics and environmental sensors, GPS and location trackers and other sensors to track worker movement, repetitive motion, posture and incidents such as a slip, trip or fall. Organizations are using geo-fencing (virtual perimeters or a pre-defined set of boundaries) allowing organizations to establish restricted or hazardous areas that will alert workers with a combination of audible and visual warnings when they have entered a restricted area.

Injuries due to exposure to occupational toxic substances are on the rise. Active sensors can be strategically placed to monitor levels of noise, dust, temperature and volatile organic compounds. This real-time data can assist with reducing exposure levels to workers.

Change is inevitable, and integrating technology into health and safety management will become the norm. Integration has its challenges, so involve your workers and evaluate your environment to ensure the technology you implement meets your organizational needs.

Jeff Thorne is the training manager at Occupational Safety Group.

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