How AI Is Enhancing the Workplace Safety and Closing Blind Spots
Continuous monitoring systems that operate 24/7 can detect & alert workers to potential dangers before they happen, saving manufacturers much money.
Almost every profession saw a significant decrease in fatal accidents and major injuries during the 20th century. According to the Economic History Association (EHA), a portion of it can be attributed to fewer dangerous jobs and technological advancements that made employees’ daily tasks less risky.
Before the 20th century, industrial accidents were much more common yet relatively inexpensive for employers because it was harder for an injured employee to claim a company for damages. For example, the EHA reported in 1900 that around half of all severely injured employees received compensation averaging only about half of their annual wage.
According to The National Safety Council, in 2020, the average workplace-related injury compensation was roughly $44,000, while fatal injuries cost over $1.3 billion. The entire cost of work injuries that year was $163.9 billion. This figure included lost earnings, production, hospital bills, administrative fees, recovery period, and firm property damage costs.
Evolution in the priorities
Increasing employee safety has become a deep concern in the workplace and, as a result, a significant economic incentive for employers, potentially saving them thousands of dollars every time an incident occurs due to the rapid increase in cost. As a result, investing in safer equipment had become a key concern for businesses over a half-century ago and remains so today.
Nearly every profession has adopted this principle of promoting safety, particularly in industries with higher employee dangers, such as manufacturing and construction. As a result, workplace accidents have decreased significantly. In 1928, about 20,000 workplace accidents were reported across the country. Even though the country’s population had tripled by 2020, workplace deaths were 4,113, including 340 in industry.
Reactive to Proactive
Manufacturing includes physical labor & repetitive activity, making it easier for companies to identify potential safety risks for their employees. With the advancement of information about workplace dangers and best – practices in manufacturing, businesses have been able to design programs and instruments to reduce the number of work-related injuries. Most of these programs are reactive and designed to provide safety in risky situations. However, to avoid these unpleasant events in the first place, a proactive approach is necessary.
However, innovations in industrial technology have enabled artificial intelligence to closely monitor work activities to detect potential disasters before they occur. AI can now analyze videos captured by cameras placed throughout the factory floor to see possible employee safety violations & alert workers to the hazard. Assume the camera detects an employee who is not wearing the proper safety equipment or is too close to a dangerous vehicle. In that situation, it will contextualize the data and notify the company of the safety hazard.
Although implementing AI monitoring systems seems to be a simple solution that can significantly decrease workplace safety risks, a company action plan is required before implementing these technologies. Manufacturing managers must ensure that they select a system integrator aligned with their company’s goals & understand how to integrate it throughout the company to provide necessary data effectively.
Although manufacturing floor procedures share many similarities, each operation will have its own set of flaws to address. According to McKinsey, around 75% of supply chain managers underestimate both time and expense of integrating these technologies. Successful floor managers should avoid finding blind spots and devise a solution to enhance worker productivity and safety.
Organizations must carefully pick and constantly upgrade their AI system integrator if AI is implemented. Employees must be well-trained in new operational processes and best practices to manage the AI transition. According to the report, this is the most critical barrier to company adoption.
Over the past century, evolving the knowledge of best practices in the manufacturing sector and technological advances such as AI have proven to be viable answers for increasing workplace safety and will continue for many years.