Exploring Health and Safety Technologies to Prevent Worker Fatalities
As OEHS professionals, we spend much of our time protecting workers from hazardous and potentially fatal workplace conditions. These obligations are often supported by professional organizations, like AIHA, which provide the OEHS professional with the most up-to-date tools, continuing education, and technical knowledge. One program providing this type of support is the National Safety Council’s Work-to-Zero program. NSC presented this program recently at AIHce EXP 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. The ambitious goal of the Work-to-Zero program is to eliminate workplace fatalities through the use of technology, with approaches that include:
- researching the most effective technologies, including ways to incorporate them into the workplace
- providing education and resources on ways to increase the adoption of technology
- fostering partnership with appropriate OEHS collaborators, colleagues, and partners
NSC conducted an analysis and identified the top hazardous workplace situations by percentage of non-roadway workplace fatalities. Identified hazardous situations include working at height (23 percent), workplace violence (13 percent), repair and maintenance (12 percent), construction and installation (12 percent), and logging equipment operations (6 percent). With each hazardous situation, NSC identified both the situational risks (that is, those inherent to the situation or proximate cause of injury) and the systemic risks (those that contribute to the injury but are not direct causes, such as leadership failure, lack of training, fatigue, or adverse weather). As part of the Work-to-Zero program, NSC identified relevant environmental, health, and safety technologies that could be incorporated into work sites that address both the situational and systemic risks that lead to worker fatalities.
Four technologies that have increased in popularity and availability with abilities to reduce the top risks for the hazards are drones, fatigue monitoring and wearables, proximity sensors, and virtual or augmented reality. For example, virtual reality training uses a head-mounted display to immerse a worker in a lifelike scenario. Such technology can allow for more effective and repeatable learning scenarios without the inherent hazards associated with real-life activities.
While these technologies have become more available, the challenges to implementation are still widespread. These include identifying relevant safety technologies as well as ensuring companies in general, and management specifically, will embrace and implement them as part of their OEHS strategies. To address these challenges for OEHS professionals, NSC has developed a white paper, “Making the Business Case for Safety Innovation” (PDF), as well as a Work-to-Zero investment calculator. This calculator, focused on eliminating the risk of fatalities in the workplace through technology, can help OEHS professionals compare the business costs of the status quo with costs associated with using safety technologies. Additionally, NSC has created resources that help organizations assess their readiness to implement safety technologies and understand the barriers to such change. These resources include a Work-to-Zero tool to help locate technology solutions for an organization’s top hazardous situations.
As anyone who walked the floor of the AIHce exhibit hall in Nashville would notice, technological advancements in the health and safety realm were well represented by the many exhibitors and vendors present. Using the resources provided by programs such as NSC’s Work-to-Zero is just one way that OEHS professionals can incorporate technologies into their company’s health and safety practices, with the benefit of risk mitigation and decreased worker injury and fatalities.
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