Technologies Helping to Drive the Future of Jobsite Safety
New products and systems designed to supplement observations and free up managers to be more efficient.
- By Ray Mann, Heidi Lopez-Hidalgo
- Sep 01, 2019
In a world where 2 million people die annually from work-related accidents or diseases and a further 650 million suffer from work-related diseases or accidents each year, HSE managers are always in pursuit of new options to help reduce these negative outcomes. On many jobsites, HSE managers frequently spend their time addressing problems as they are observed or reported. It’s exciting to imagine how new products and systems designed to provide near real-time data from digital dashboards may provide valuable supplements to these observations and allow HSE managers to work more efficiently, ultimately freeing them up to focus on additional important tasks.
Technologies such as virtual reality and connected devices are becoming ever more popular in the workplace. Their applications are broadening to support communication, visibility, and training across a variety of industries, including general industry and construction job sites. Virtual Reality (VR) training activities may include demonstrations on workplace tasks, safety applications, and other jobsite or facility activities commonly associated within general industry and construction jobsites. Connected personal protective equipment (PPE) devices, such as personal fall protection equipment with embedded sensors, can provide a stream of data that may ultimately enhance HSE management’s visibility to their workers’ daily PPE usage patterns or the overall status of these critical pieces of PPE.
As training evolves, more and more organizations are looking to supplement their traditional training methods with virtual reality (VR) training modules. VR technologies allow workers to experience key sights and sounds, and sometimes even feel motions, of the job task in a safe, simulated environment. Some workers may have already experienced VR in recreational gaming applications and may carry new enthusiasm over to workplace training activities. Hype aside, what are some of the real benefits of VR?
- Workers can be allowed to learn from mistakes. In the real world, mistakes must be prevented because the health and safety of all the workers on the site may be at risk. In the virtual world, a worker can be allowed to experience the consequences of their decisions without real world risks to themselves or other workers.
- Workers can be trained to respond appropriately to high risk events that may happen infrequently, like rescuing a worker from a confined space.
- VR training can be repeated easily, potentially allowing HSE managers to more frequently assess worker skills and abilities.
- Data suggests that VR training can be more easily remembered than video content. When considering a VR investment, it’s important to consider how it will support the goals of the organization and provide an experience that is valuable for its workers. Measuring progress against the established goals will help management teams evaluate the ROI of the program.
When quality VR training is effectively implemented, organizations often set goals relating to the following: influence worker behavior or change certain practices, reduce illness and injury rates, drive safety culture, supplement other types of training, meet compliance goals and support refresher training and reinforce best practices.
VR is a new and exciting training experience for many workers. This engaging, fresh style of training can help reinvigorate the training program and help motivate workers to improve their skill sets. But what about tracking everyday performance of the equipment provided to help keep workers safe? That’s where innovations in connected safety can play a role.
Connected safety applications, platforms, and programs are part of a new wave of digital, Internet of Things (IoT) products that are being designed to help organizations drive improvements across various elements of their safety programs. This next generation of PPE is beginning to evolve with embedded sensors and companion software applications to help organizations advance the digital transformation of worker safety through innovative combinations of data science and PPE technologies. One of these “next-gen” examples is a connected Self Retracting Lifeline (SRL).
This digitally-connected fall protection PPE is designed to help HSE managers gain new insights into their fall protection PPE with detailed usage history. Supplementing the required visual impact indicator, HSE managers can now remotely access detailed data regarding falls or “brake events.” In addition to recording the date and time of brake events by sensors embedded in the SRL, the device sensors also track day-to-day usage—how many extensions, pawl locks, and minutes of active usage the device has experienced, all time-stamped for ease of later analysis—a fall protection industry first. A connected SRL could provide new insights to help organizations increase worker safety and overall compliance tracking. How can one imagine using these new capabilities?
Safety. A manager tasked with oversight of multiple worker shifts could use the data to confirm that SRLs are being used as expected even when the manager is not able to directly observe the workers. If a concern is identified from the manager’s review of the data, s/he can more easily focus follow up activities to the specific shift or work cell that seems to need additional support or training.
Compliance Tracking. The manager can also easily see if any SRL in their fleet has experienced a brake event, not only via the SRL service light, but also through the product’s mobile or web applications. This allows the manager to ensure that any incidents are properly documented and they can proactively have any SRL involved in a fall replaced before it is needed by the next work group.
How to Select Connected Safety Solutions?
Choosing a software solution to help enhance a safety program can be an unfamiliar process for many HSE managers. The success of executing new software implementations can be improved by:
- Understanding your specific HSE goals and evaluating any new program in relation to them
- Choosing a trusted vendor with deep understanding of the day-to-day work of the HSE manager and commitment to support over the long term
- Conveying the value of the new tools across the organization, igniting the imagination of internal stakeholders to energize change efforts and sustain momentum.
As technologies continue to evolve, employers will increasingly have new tools to elevate their employees’ interest in supporting and complying with safety requirements. The goal is and should always be that each worker is able to go home safe and to their families at the end of each work day. Virtual reality and connected fall protection PPE are just two examples of how digital solutions can help employers continually reinforce and enhance their safety programs.
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.