EHS Management, Personnel Safety, Technology and Innovation

Harnessing AI to Revolutionize Workplace Safety

In an era dominated by technological advancements, artificial intelligence (AI) is set to transform how workplace safety is managed. Currently, a workplace injury occurs every six seconds and every 1.8 hours, a life is tragically lost due to workplace accidents. Despite these alarming statistics, the procedures for monitoring and reporting on workplace safety remain archaic, often reliant on manual, “pen and paper” processes.

This outdated approach relies on human intervention to review, analyze, and recommend actions and can delay the response time for addressing critical safety issues. However, with the integration of AI, there is a powerful opportunity to not only streamline these processes but significantly enhance the safety and well-being of workers.

For organizations that might be a bit hesitant around the use of AI, integrating it into safety initiatives is a low-stakes, high pay-off opportunity to get started with the technology. Safety is, after all, table stakes—and its principles are universal and non-proprietary. All companies share the belief that employees should return home from work in the same condition that they started. They don’t view safety as a competitive advantage, but rather as an opportunity to share learnings across industries and organizations—a process that AI can turbocharge. As companies, trade associations, industry groups, governmental agencies share information, the AI will remember and consider these every time it analyzes a condition or scenario.

Moving from manual process to lightning-fast analysis

The traditional methods of handling workplace safety data are cumbersome and inefficient. Safety professionals spend substantial amounts of time manually processing information, which can lead to delays in addressing potential hazards. AI technology offers a compelling solution by dramatically reducing the time required to process safety data. As an example, a global energy customer receives more than 35,000 concern reports annually. Each concern report is reviewed, analyzed, and categorized by a safety professional, averaging 30 to 45 minutes per report. AI can do the same assessment and correctly categorize in a matter of seconds. Even better, since the AI is trained on the company processes and procedures, it delivers a consistent evaluation, whereas a human assessment may vary due to the experience and knowledge of the reviewer.

One of the most significant advantages of AI in workplace safety is its ability to analyze vast amounts of data quickly and accurately. AI systems can monitor and process data from various sources, including sensors on machinery, wearables on employees, environmental monitoring equipment, timekeeping systems, learning management systems, etc. By using machine learning algorithms, AI can identify patterns and predict potential risks before they lead to accidents.

For example, a worker may be assigned to perform a specific task. The AI can evaluate the hazards associated with that task while at the same time analyzing potential human factors that could impact the potential risk of the task such as training level of the employee (learning management system) or potential fatigue issues (timekeeping systems) and can alert supervisors to take preemptive action.

AI can help in the real-time analysis of workplace environments by detecting anomalies that might go unnoticed by human observers. One of the methods for training the AI is allowing it to conduct assessment of historical organization information. The AI can associate conditions and factors that led to historical incidents and alert workers if those factors and conditions exist today, allowing for immediate corrective measures and reducing the risk of injuries and fatalities.

AI can automate the reporting processes, ensuring that incidents are documented promptly and accurately. This automation not only saves time but also enhances the quality of the reports by minimizing human errors. Additionally, AI can keep track of regulatory changes and ensure compliance by automatically updating safety protocols and training programs. This not only helps in maintaining a safe work environment but also safeguards organizations against potential legal issues.

AI as a ‘people maximizer’ that keeps safety pros in the field

AI’s role as a “people maximizer” is pivotal in transforming how safety professionals perform their roles. By automating routine tasks and providing safety professionals with better data, AI frees up safety professionals to focus on more critical aspects of their job.

With AI handling the initial data processing, safety professionals can dedicate more time to on-the-ground activities, such as engaging with the workforce, evaluating site conditions, and being present as work is performed. This hands-on approach not only helps immediately address any discrepancies in safety practices but also helps foster a culture of safety among employees.

AI systems can be trained to think like a safety professional by using an organization’s existing safety materials and case studies. These AI systems can then tailor training programs that meet the specific needs of the workforce and the peculiarities of the work environment. This personalized approach helps in addressing unique risks associated with different job roles, enhancing the overall effectiveness of safety training.

The integration of AI into workplace safety management promises a revolution in how safety is perceived and implemented. With its ability to process information rapidly, predict potential risks, and free up human resources to perform more impactful work, AI is not just a technological upgrade; it is a significant step towards creating safer workplaces. It is imperative for organizations to embrace these technologies, not just to enhance operational efficiency but to safeguard the very lives of their employees. By doing so, AI will not just be viewed as a tool, but as a guardian of workplace safety.

Michael Sixsmith is Director of Safety for Safety Radar, a workplace safety tech company managing operational risks through AI. Prior to Safety Radar, Michael spent six years as an Army officer leading soldiers in combat operations, followed by a career in the energy industry where he had roles in Engineering, Project Management, Operational Leadership, and Safety and Environmental Leadership with Fortune 500 companies.

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