Our world is ever-changing due to advances in technology. The more aware we are of new trends in technology, the better we are able to integrate them into our daily lives and workplaces, and better able to keep our workers safe. Today’s advancing technologies have made safety manuals and classroom safety training all but obsolete. Just how will these advances affect our workplace in terms of managing safety and the role of the safety professional? Read on. Occupational Illness – Due to the cumulative nature of occupational illness, it is harder for companies to track and mitigate exposure to potentially harmful toxins in the workplace than it is to prevent injuries due to hazards. Personal wearable technology could change that. Biometric technology is being used to monitor exposure to hazards that cause respiratory illness, hearing loss, skin diseases, and other known occupational diseases. Preventing occupational disease could be as easy as wearing a device on your arm, similar to fitness trackers many of us are already wearing.
Training – Learning doesn’t have to take place in a classroom anymore with the advent of webcams to support video conferencing; training can take place virtually all across the world. Training courses can be accessed online, on demand. No need to wait for a classroom and a trainer to be available. Training is available whenever and wherever the learner requires. Augmented reality technology such as Google Glass and simulation training brings training to a whole new level, allowing the trainee to connect with information by putting them in the driver’s seat – literally. Augmented reality is showing potential for reduced errors in the workplace after its use in training. Because it allows for a variety of real-world scenarios, the trainee can experience workplace situations and apply skills mastered in training directly to their jobs.
Mobile Technology – In industries such as construction, having technology that goes with you is indispensable. Companies are using Bluetooth to track where workers are located in case of structural collapse to enhance safety. Cloud technology allows workers to access data in real-time from the field and share information with the office and other locations. This technology has reduced the time that managers and foremen have to spend at their desks by making their safety reporting tools portable. They can track and manage safety from their phones and tablets, even taking pictures and video of hazards and uploading them to cloud-based software.
Psychological Workforce Management – Companies are pressured to do more with less staff, meaning the health and safety professional must know more about the company and its workers than ever before. Stress and mental health are becoming common workplace issues, with mental illness being the largest cause of absenteeism. Because of the effects mental health has on workplace efficiency and safety, it is important to track and manage these. Other psychological management issues of increasing importance in the workplace include workplace violence, bullying and harassment. These are increasingly managed by safety departments.
Drug and Alcohol Prevention – Zero tolerance policies regarding drug and alcohol use are prevalent in many workplaces and drug testing is mandatory in many industries. New court decisions may shape the future of policy, but tracking and testing in compliance with current regulations will continue to be the key to effective enforcement as this issue will likely only get larger as time passes.
Security – QR codes enable badge scanning at security gates to verify employee identity and confirm that necessary training has been completed prior to site entry. This is increasingly critical as workplace violence escalates to verify identities so only individuals with appropriate clearance gain access to work locations. Look for this area to grow in importance.
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By Stacey Wagner