It may be hard for some to imagine, but there was once a day before OSHA. Safety did not really exist in the workplace before then. In fact, before OSHA’s creation in 1971 by President Richard Nixon, there were an average of 14,000 worker deaths a day. Today, there are 12 deaths a day.
OSHA has essentially forced employers to come up with innovative ways that protect their employees and reduce the rate of injury and death. Today, those innovations are mostly technology based and still forthcoming but very rapidly. Here are three amazing ways technology is currently improving safety in the workplace.
1. Digital Safety Training
There are many advantages for using technology based tools when dealing with health and safety. For one, OSHA requires that you keep records of training and accidents and injuries. There are many technology based tools that make that process simple and incredibly easy. For instance, digital training platforms, like Ving, keep those records for employers and it allows them to very easily download the data when needed. Digital training ensures data accuracy incase OSHA ever comes knocking.
Digital training platforms also allow safety trainers to chose the frequency in which they provide training. Because digital training is accessible on any mobile device, employers can also reach their workers in the field just as easily as other employees. These tools also allow you to see who is doing their training and who is not, which allows employers to find their “problem” employees.
Digital training also helps increase organization. Safety trainers can easily keep track of which training needs to be delivered, who has done which training, and how well employees understand their training. The old school paper or video training days are over! Rejoice, because digital safety training has shown them the door.
Let’s face it, no one liked sitting in a room and reading printed off safety manuals like they were back in school. Digital safety training allows the employer to come up with materials that actually engage their employees, like videos, pictures, or infographics.
2. Virtual Reality
Virtual reality has really come out as a popular new way to administer safety training. Imagine being able to put your workers into hazardous work environments or dangerous situations without actually putting them in any danger at all. That is exactly what virtual reality allows safety trainers to do. Employees can wear their VR headsets and be exposed to things like, electrical hazards, chemical spills, or even forklift hazards. This allows for employees to get more “hands on” training, which is far more effective than just reading from a training manual. VR therapy can also be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for employees who faced traumatic events or occupational hazards.
Research has suggested that experience based training is superior to classroom based learning, because adults learn differently than children (source). Things like virtual reality give employees added support for retaining their safety lessons.
Virtual reality also helps employers save time and money. One sector who is really getting the best use of VR is the construction industry. Most construction companies deal with workers in the field. Taking these employees off their sites to report for safety training costs time and money. Employees working on a job site can stay at the job site while using their VR headsets to complete their training.
Many people are hesitant to adopt technologies like VR, just like many other technologies. This appears to be a highly generational issue. The baby boomer generation doesn’t take to the idea of added technology in the workplace, but millennial do. By 2020, nearly half, or 46%, of the workforce will be millennial (source), that’s less than two years away. Employers would be wise to adopt new technologies, like VR, as soon as possible.
3. Wearable Technology
Many employers are opting for wearable technology to help monitor their employees physiology and movements. Wearable technologies can be worn under or on top of clothing and are somehow attached to the body. These kind of wearable technologies allow employees to be alerted to potential hazards, like heat stroke for outdoor workers, or heart rates for those doing very strenuous work. Monitoring the movements of employees, like bending, twisting, or repetitive motions makes it easier to gather data about ways to modify the work process to prevent injuries.
A 2014 online survey found that 24% of Americans stated increasing safety would be the number one major factor in their willingness to use wearable technology (source). These technologies don’t just stop at Fitbit like wrist monitors. There are hard hats with clear visors that can display 3D overlays and also contain a 360 degree camera to monitor their surroundings. Also, safety vests use technologies that reduce struck by hazards or protect road construction workers from being injured or killed by passing drivers. The possibilities for wearable technologies are becoming endless.
The future of safety training is now. The ways technology is impacting how companies train their employees is incredibly awesome. It seems the only limitations for technology in the workplace are people’s attitudes towards adopting new methods and tools. This weariness of new technology is as old as time, but can only serve to hurt the future of workplace safety. There are tech companies who are working tirelessly to provide the best safety training and practices for employees, it’s only right that employers and employees join them in that effort by employing the methods and devices they have to offer.