Improving Safety with Video Surveillance Solutions
These systems are used for security purposes, but they are also used for much more, including operations, maintenance, and safety.
- By Anthony Incorvati
- Jun 01, 2018
Transportation system owners tend to concern themselves with improving operational efficiency, capacity, and continuity—often, they're more concerned with these than they are with the usual security aspects. Naturally, loss of revenue and incurred costs make preventing disruptions a high priority, but at the same time, safety incidents incurred internally by staff and contractors, and externally by passengers, can severely disrupt the operation, and more importantly, cause harm to individuals.
In many workplaces, there are a wide variety of opportunities for accidents and injuries. This is particularly true in the transportation field, where people are working on safety-critical systems in an environment where there is a high potential for injury, both to the passenger and especially the employee. For example, any time someone is working around power, such as on a passenger rail or automated people mover system guideway, there exists the potential for causing harm to himself or others.
In addition to injury, safety incidents also bring the potential for lost work time, higher insurance, and workers' compensation claims, all of which affect to a business's bottom line.
This is why practically every organization has an established set of policies and procedures designed to prevent accidents and injuries. This must be the foundation of any safety program, and compliance to these policies and procedures is paramount, trumping virtually everything else.
In theory, better safety practices should deliver a number of main benefits, including fewer injuries and workers' comp claims, improved productivity, potentially lower liability insurance premiums, and much more. However, even the strongest and most stringent policies and procedures are useless if employees do not adhere to them. Therefore, it is important that organizations find ways to ensure their employees are complying with these critical policies and procedures.
There are a number of solutions that can contribute to this goal. Among the most powerful of these tools is video surveillance, the use of which is growing within transportation environments. Long considered a security solution, today's IP video systems are playing an important role in many other functional areas, as well. So while security is one of the contributing factors for the increased use of video, there’s more to the story.
Consider that a transit agency will typically have thousands of video cameras installed within their surveillance system. These are used for security purposes, but they are also used for much more, including operations, maintenance, and safety. So while security is one of the focus areas for video surveillance—and security dollars may be used to pay for the system—safety is the primary core value and a critical function for transportation companies and organizations.
Below are three main areas where video surveillance systems can deliver powerful benefits for improving workplace safety.
Ensuring the safety of employees is crucial, and compliance is key. Video surveillance provides a definitive means for organizations to verify and validate whether employees are following established policies and procedures. In the event of an accident, video can determine whether compliance was in question and/or whether non-compliance with procedures may have been a contributing factor.
Monitoring the workplace with video surveillance allows organizations to better control employee safety and the potential hazards that may exist within the environment. Transportation organizations must and do take safety seriously; they are constantly identifying and implementing solutions that will minimize potential accidents and injuries, and video surveillance systems are a valuable tool on that front. In transportation, employees face a number of hazards on a daily basis, including working around high-voltage infrastructure as well as heavy equipment that may be in continuous motion.
In addition to verifying compliance with safety policies and procedures, video surveillance is also a valuable tool for helping to identify hazards and preventing incidents from occurring in the first place.
Using video surveillance cameras and systems, operations and maintenance groups within transportation organizations can identify the causes of workplace injuries and take measures to address potential issues in the future. Following an incident, management can review video footage to determine whether implementing or improving existing policies, procedures, and processes could help reduce the potential for future incidents.
The only way to develop a solution to a problem is to understand its cause, and video provides organizations with the insight necessary to improve employee safety. For example, if incidents occur more frequently in certain areas, video cameras can be positioned to monitor those areas more closely and determine why this may be happening and how future issues might be avoided.
Video surveillance also could be used to investigate a high incidence of accidents and injuries with a particular piece of equipment and determine whether employees are following safety practices. A review of the video might show that injuries are occurring because the equipment isn't operating properly and needs to be repaired or replaced. The video might also uncover a need for additional employee safety training to ensure that equipment is being used properly and safely.
When it comes to safety, training is of paramount importance for preventing accidents and injuries. This is yet another area where video surveillance can contribute to improving employee safety. Any time an accident happens, an organization can use video as a tool to help identify when, why, and how an incident occurred. As a result, a transportation organization can gain insight into what, if any, policy modifications may be needed. The video also may reveal opportunities for additional training to reduce the likelihood of future issues.
Unless there was an equipment malfunction or other extenuating circumstance, an incident may have occurred because someone was using equipment for which he or she had yet to receive proper training, or an individual may not have been following proper safety protocols. Regardless of the cause of an accident or other incident, employees can then be shown the video to demonstrate how adhering to proper policies and procedures could have prevented a problem.
"Verification and validation" is everything. Remember the old saying that "seeing is believing"? This is definitely the case with safety training. There is a big difference in effectiveness between employees hearing or reading about potential safety issues and their solutions, versus seeing for themselves exactly where something may have gone wrong and how following established policies could have prevented it from occurring in the first place.
Video is a powerful tool in the training process, providing a concrete—and highly memorable—case for why employees should do things correctly. As a result of viewing video of an actual incident, employees will better understand the potential outcomes of their actions and will be more likely to follow proper safety policies and procedures.
Using video as a learning tool enables continuous process improvement that will pay dividends in helping to prevent future incidents from occurring. Additionally, video may provide insights into policies and procedures that may need to be updated, altered, or even replaced in order to further increase employee safety.
When using video surveillance for improving workplace safety, it is important to consider video quality and the system’s ease of use. From a quality perspective, organizations should opt for cameras that will provide the level of detail necessary to accurately determine the relevant who, what, when, where, why, and how from the video. Given the variety of camera styles and resolution available, organizations should work with a skilled security professional to ensure they are choosing the right camera, recorder, and video management software for the right job.
Regardless of the quality or robustness a video system may deliver, if a solution is difficult to understand or use or doesn't offer a high level of convenience, the chances that a transportation organization will actually use it are greatly diminished. There are a number of video solutions that offer the ability to easily access and manage the system from a desktop, along with the ability to monitor the system remotely from a smartphone or tablet. The easier the solution is to use, the more likely it is to become a valuable tool in an organization’s safety toolbox.
Workplace safety should be everyone's concern, but it is only as effective as the policies and procedures an organization has in place, and compliance is critical for protecting employees, contractors, and users of the transportation system from accidents or injuries. Video surveillance provides the means for verifying that employees are complying with those policies and procedures, identifying potential problem areas and, providing insight into opportunities to implement or strengthen employee training—all of which enable transportation system owners and their operations and maintenance and other contractors to proactively address potential safety issues, sometimes before an incident can even occur.
This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.