Workplace Safety Systems in the Digital Age

Employers are responsible for providing an environment where their employees feel comfortable and safe to work. 

Occupational health and safety practices address this by helping ensure that businesses of any size are able to identify and prevent risks. This involves monitoring their vital physical and human assets, any property damage, employee absences, and injuries. 

While the digital age ushered in new requirements in workplace safety and security, emerging technologies also became available to equip companies with the means to provide protection.

The results of a recent poll showed that nearly a third of business owners use various technologies for workplace safety. Of those owners surveyed, 71% of startups or businesses run by millennials use connected technologies for safety initiatives.

Popular Pro-Safety Connected Technologies

The same survey shared that most business owners used the following connected technologies to ensure workplace safety:

Real-time data technology

Advanced reporting or communication apps that collect real-time data and transfer information help update employers about the health and safety status of their remote employees.

Business sensors

Also called smart sensors, these devices can detect physical changes in the environment, including temperature, humidity, motion and occupancy, gas/air quality, and electrical current.

Wearable technology

Wearables include belts, watches, and other sensors attached to clothing that can detect physical strain. Another example is smart glasses that can be worn to record then send video and audio recordings from a site to headquarters and back.  

Drones

Unmanned aerial vehicles deployed to reach or inspect areas that are dangerous for workers to traverse.  

Virtual reality (VR) and 3D visualization

Construction, oil and gas, and mining industries have been supportive of VR software to help create lifelike images of their work environment. 

VR can also be used in training workers for their actual job tasks. Others use visualization to prepare staff for fire, workplace violence, and other emergencies.

Vehicle telematics solutions

This technology provides helpful data regarding vehicle operation and maintenance, driver behavior, and fuel consumption.

Benefits of Adopting Safety Initiatives

A company’s decision to invest in safety often depends on their available resources and the return on investment. 

Current environment, health, and safety (EHS) practices are veering away from the misconception that safety improvements mean trade-offs in operating performance. Instead, enterprises accept that safety management contributes to business performance and operational excellence.

Tech-driven safety management provides business benefits that include:

Identification and categorization of safety risks within the organization

A company’s management will be able prioritize the necessary steps for safety by compiling the risks that its workers likely face.

Streamlined data collection, consistency, and reporting efficiency

A customizable platform helps set up a data collection that matches your business needs. It will also support all the compliance documents you need in one place and securely save all incident details. 

Centralized information allows management access to information across sites, incident types, and root causes, enabling them to make smarter decisions.

Reduced accidents in hazardous situations

By offering training, crafting work procedures, and deploying technologies that will ensure safe practices among employees, your company can eliminate or minimize work-related injuries, accidents, and sicknesses. 

Less incidents will mean the reduction of insurance-linked medical reimbursements, associated costs, and revenue leaks due to lost employee productivity.

Better recruitment and employee retention

Employees, especially millennials, are particular about what their employees can offer in terms of wellness. Dynamic health and safety management systems are no longer options, and instead an expected standard facet of any workplace.

Regulation compliance 

Real-time data analytics and mobile devices help employers comply with safety and health laws when deploying workers to potentially physically and environmentally hazardous work sites.

“Halo effect”

A robust corporate social responsibility program can be jeopardized by employee lawsuits or regulatory breaches. 

Avoid possible reputational damage due to work accidents by tapping a health and safety program supported by the connectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Establishing an Environment, Health, and Safety System

While certain occupations are prone to danger and record a higher rate of workplace deaths more than others, the US Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that all businesses provide training for the safety of their personnel, no matter what the nature of their enterprise is.

Unfortunately, 38% of business owners don’t provide workplace safety training, according to the same poll that gathered data about common pro-safety technologies. 

Moreover, 51% of businesses don’t have a dedicated safety professional or environment, health, and safety (EHS) manager.

In response, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) came up with the “Z10 safety management standard” to implement occupational health and safety management systems in five parts:

Getting management buy-in and employee participation

As part of management accountability, employers should be the primary advocates of the company’s EHS program or initiative by:

  • Establishing a health and safety policy 
  • Providing necessary resources for a health and safety management system
  • Assigning roles and responsibilities for implementation 
  • Integrating the system with the company’s other processes

Planning a health and safety management system

Part of planning must involve:

  • Identifying risks, hazards, management system deficiencies, and areas for improvement
  • Prioritizing identified issues
  • Drawing up objectives that encourage safety improvement and risk reduction

Implementing the system

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends 10 steps to launch safety programs that emphasize hazard assessment, prevention, and control. The ASSP’s Z10 supports and expands on OSHA’s list by telling businesses to also note:

  • Operational elements (risk assessments, emergency preparedness, hierarchy and control, process verification, design review and management of change, contractors, procurement)
  • Documentation
  • Communication
  • Training

Monitoring, evaluating, and correcting the system

The usefulness of the safety management system must be audited and updated as necessary according to your workers’ needs.

Set up regular management reviews of the system.

Employers must at least annually step back and evaluate whether the system is working or not and check if it aids in achieving previously set business goals.

Maximizing Software in EHS

When employers, in agreement with the EHS manager and personnel, decide to include software as part of the EHS program, they can maximize its potential through these steps:

Create employee profiles

Profiles provide the EHS manager with a readily accessible reference for each worker’s background such as drug allergies and past medical conditions.

Moreover, all worker profiles will help the company evaluate what type of incidents may be common and how to address them.

Ensure regulatory compliance

EHS software uses up-to-date information about any changes to safety regulations. Still, companies should revise their EHS management plans to ensure they are aligned with current laws. Safety policies must then be applied across all of the company’s locations.

Prepare for incident management.

When the software is set up, all past incidents must be uploaded onto the system to generate metrics. The results will serve as guide for EHS managers, who will develop strategies to avoid future incidents. 

Perform risk analysis.

Safety managers and their teams can do a risk analysis after all of the workers’ profiles are logged in or updated. A risk analysis includes reviewing the company’s current EHS program, and which parts of it may be changed, replaced, or enhanced.

Conduct training.

The software could be used to train workers—from how to stay safe in the workplace to understanding and being updated about proper regulations and certifications.

While technology can enhance workplace safety, they can’t operate on cruise control. Guidelines from the OHSA and ASSP show that the human element will always be considered for jobs to be conducted efficiently and safely, even in a progressively digital landscape.