The technology-led safety revolutions

When you think of the word safety, what comes to your mind?

May 8, 2021
3 min read
The technology-led safety revolutions
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It's hard to believe a time when workers getting injured in the workplace was an almost daily occurrence, a time when young children working on heavy machinery was common practice and a time where environment health and safety EHS standards simply did not exist. We've came a long way as a civilisation when it comes to EHS - especially since the start of the industrial revolution (18th century), but we still have a long way to go to realise an injury free workplace. The unfortunate reality is that EHS innovation is lagging general industrial and technological innovation by a decade at the very least. We've seen 4 industrial revolutions (currently Industry 4.0) but yet have only seen two clear revolutions in the H&S space. Protex AI are at the fore of the 3rd generation of EHS workflows. This short piece will give you some perspective on where H&S is and where it's going.

Generation 1

Safety became a concern for companies during the Industrial Revolution. Unions formed, employee rights were established and workers demanded better and safer working conditions. The U.S Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 and Environmental Health and Safety Teams or EHS Teams were created to combat risk and keep workers safe. 

Industrial Revolution - Child labour and non-existent safety standards

Teams were challenged with protecting workers' health. Frequent audits and measures were undertaken to reduce risk and make the workplace an overall safer place. As industry began to make use of an increasing amount heavy machinery, EHS teams where challenged with increasing safety risks. EHS practice became more stringent in the 20th and now the 20th century. The introductions of signage, regulations (with a small r) and standards forced companies to take compliance and incidents more seriously. These safety practices are still fundamental to how it is approached today. 

Generation 2

In the early 2000s, The health and safety industry was digitised - document based workflows and reporting systems were moved to a digital medium. This helped to consolidate data collected as well as helping in the of distributing incident information to relevant stakeholders. With wider uses of computers and other devices like tablets and smartphones, companies like Intelex and Cority, allowed companies to log incidents over time, in order to recognise trends of accidents and risks in the workplace. EHS teams could intervene using trend analysis to reduce the propensity of further accidents. 

Digitised Safety - Audits carried out using EHS logging software

This revolution has allowed EHS teams to be organised in their approach to health and safety but it still relies on manual, intermittent audits of the facility floor. Modern factories, warehouses and ports are such dynamic environments that a facility floor walk only offers a small snapshot of the reality of safety compliance.

Generation 3

We are now seeing a shift in how we perceive safety due to the evolving capabilities of technology. We can now embrace and implement a new form of safety: proactive and predictive. A big problem with safety is that we, as humans, cannot always be ‘on’. Until now, safety has been a reactive concept, we have to wait until an accident occurs, before someone gets injured or even killed before we can say it's an issue. This means that near misses and poor safety behaviours are rarely identified and addressed. But this does not have to be the case.

Data drives the decision making process and with advancements in technologies such as artificial intelligence, we can identify risks and trends before they ever become a problem. This allows EHS teams to make more informed decisions earlier, to mitigate risks and protect our workers. 

"We will soon see a new generation of safety where we can create a near injury free workplace by identifying risks long before they become a concern or cause injuries." 

At Protex AI, we are embracing this new form of proactive safety, empowering companies and EHS teams to realise an injury free workplace with computer vision that understands risk.

If you're interested in the technologies that will be leading this 3rd generation of health and safety, have a look at a talk by Matthew Brown CEO Donesafe where he discusses the top 10 technologies leading the 3rd gen of EHS.