When it comes to occupational safety and health (HSE/OSH), the preventive standards available nowadays are very important. In fact, compared to 1974, the number of fatal injuries at work has decreased by around 90% and that has a lot to do with the successful implementation of HSE equipment and processes.
However, the world has changed, and so have the HSE challenges faced by most organizations with heavy-duty or hazardous operations. Nowadays, the manual workforce is increasingly smaller and older while workload demands remain high due to a challenging global competitive landscape.
Consequently, 94% of workers report experiencing excessive workload, which could lead to additional safety and health risks as well as major productivity losses. In fact, in recent years, the rate of work-related ill-health has remained broadly flat and mental health disorders such as stress, depression and anxiety are on the rise, leading to an increase in absenteeism and worker turnover.
Will doing more of what worked in the past take us to where we want to go in the future? Or should we consider a different angle to reach a Vision Zero where all accidents, diseases and harm at work are prevented?
At its core, HSE prevention is all about empowering humans with the right tools and information. That support can take different shapes and forms, from state-of-the-art safety equipment and validated HSE protocols to training programs. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, actions are only effective if they are successfully implemented by workers, and that has a lot do with human factors.
For example, a well-trained heavy-duty worker could have the right protective equipment available, and yet, make an operational mistake leading to a major safety risk. Why exactly does this happen? It depends, humans factors are complex. Nonetheless, we do know that under certain conditions such situations are much more likely to happen. What if the worker is continuously under excessive physical load? Or high mental stress to finish the operations as soon as possible? Or does not feel empowered to report at-risk situations to management?
Current survey-based tools and 1-on-1 discussions help to gather qualitative data to identify human risks and guide preventive interventions. However, it is extremely difficult to proactively prevent workload-related human risks before they lead to accidents or absenteeism relying solely on subjective data collected on a yearly or quarterly basis. That is why artificial intelligence (AI) and wearable technology can augment current HSE efforts and empower people from in-field operations to top management to make more transparent decisions.
With AI and wearables, it is possible to obtain objective metrics in real time about the status of individual workers and empower them to self-prevent at-risk situations with automatic biofeedback alerts tailored to the operational context. Besides empowering workers with actionable insights, HSE and operations managers can rely on anonymized group-level reports to reflect on how their workers are really doing during different operational activities. They can also proactively implement effective data-driven interventions workers trust and keep the workforce fit for work now and in the future.
Overall, an HSE Intelligence platform can facilitate the transition to a Caring HSE Culture that fosters trust in preventive interventions across the board and creates a workplace where everyone can thrive without compromising but promoting their safety and health.