As we enter a new decade, it’s time to look back at the changes to the industry and the year ahead. Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen some ground-breaking technology on the market that has changed the way employers monitor harmful air particulates, such as the AIR XD real-time dust monitor. But what does 2020 hold for health and safety trends in the workplace?
With a bigger focus than ever on occupational health and protecting workers, we look at the key areas likely to have the biggest impact in the industry this year:
1) Exposure to nanomaterials
The previous two decades have seen the introduction of nanotechnology, which some say has revolutionised the way we use commercial products, but little is known about its long-term effects. It’s use in the construction industry has seen the introduction of new and improved materials, such as self-healing and fire-resistant cement, concrete and steel. However, some of the nanoparticles that could be used for these features are nano silica (silica fume) and carbon nanofibers (CNFs). In the United States, NIOSH has taken the lead on researching the effects of nanotechnology on workers which will hopefully lead to a better understanding on the impact of nanoparticles for future use.
2) Policy changes
In late 2019, MPs called for changes to the law as a result of particulate exposure in the UK – back in September, ministers backed limits for particulate matter (PM2.5) in the Environment Bill. While this primarily related to general air pollution, the government wising up to the real dangers of dust exposure is a step towards improving working conditions for employees across the country. Actions to limit air pollution, in guidelines laid out by the World Health Organisation, are in place to help educate, inform and bring about a real change to the industry.
3) Wearable technology
Smart and interactive materials can improve occupational health and safety in the long-term. Adaptive and wearable sensors are now being developed to monitor workers’ environmental conditions and can be integrated to provide assistance in difficult working environments. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work released its findings in the paper “priorities for occupational safety and health research in Europe in 2020” . It stated the functionality of smart sensors in prevention applications should be evaluated, particularly with regards to new hazards and changes in the working environment.
4) Employee education
More of us than ever are aware of the damage that comes from particulate exposure in the workplace, thanks to countless studies, research and pioneering safety technology. Entering this new decade, there are outlets, website and reading materials dedicated to educating workers about the hazards in their workplace and how to combat them. Whilst recruitment has been high for dedicated health and safety roles in the construction and mining industries, employees themselves are also becoming increasingly more aware of their work environment and how to protect individuals. When it comes to health, it is no one person’s responsibility anymore, and a sustained team effort to raise awareness and call for action where needed is vital for the future of health and safety at work.
It’s been a promising 12 months in terms of pioneering health and safety technology, and now that the bar has been set, 2020 is a year we can expect even more product launches and workplace incentives for change. We are all aware of the dangers that come in challenging work environments, but technology and research has come on leaps and bounds this decade and we can continue to expect bigger and better commodities in the future.
With a new year ahead, can you ensure your workplace is protected? Find out more about our pioneering safety technology