Modern work environments are unquestionably safer than they have been in the past, with the rise of connected technology making it possible to detect potential problems before they arise and give early warnings to workers.
However, despite this increase in health and safety monitoring, industrial environments like mining and manufacturing inherently carry certain risks and in 2016/17, 137 people were killed in workplaces.
Perhaps not surprisingly it is industries like construction, agriculture, manufacturing and mining which remain the most hazardous industries to work in, likely because of the need for heavy machinery to be in constant use, plus workers’ proximity to that machinery, coupled with often confined spaces and hazardous environmental factors.
In this blog we look at the most common injury risks experienced by operatives in the workplace and show how technology is helping workers stay safe and avoid these types of risks and hazards.
Risks from moving vehicles
In busy environments with the need to move heavy objects from one place to another quickly, coupled with the need for feet on the floor, the risk of being hit by a moving vehicle is very real, and this is one of the most common workplace injuries in the UK.
31 workers were killed in a collision with a vehicle in 2016/17, according to the HSE.
The use of mobile monitoring and connected technology is going quite far to mitigate this particular risk, especially in the use of motion sensors and proximity warnings which can be activated when a vehicle or large piece of machinery gets within a certain distance of a worker on the floor.
These mobile monitors also provide real time updates of where workers are within an environment, so they can be monitored from a central location. If any workers accidentally wander into an area they should not be in, managers can be quickly alerted and warn them to leave an area where they could be at risk.
Risks from shifting and collapsing environments
One third of all deaths in mining are still caused by rock falls and shifts in the environment, but this risk is not limited to mining and poses a health and safety risk across a plethora of industries.
The risks within mining are particularly prevalent because of the unpredictable nature of moving earth and rocks within a confined space and how this impacts on the overall stability of an area.
However, new technology is making it much easier to monitor how grounds will react to changes in the environment.
This kind of monitoring technology is now also making it possible to map areas and predict how ground will react before any operations take place. Being able to predict problem areas means operations can be planned more effectively with safety in mind, and any particularly problematic areas can be avoided.
Exposure to harmful environmental factors
Risks from environmental exposure are only just coming into the spotlight, mostly because people affected by these factors are only just showing symptoms of deteriorating health.
A big reason for this is that, in the past, environments were only monitored every few hours so workers could have been surrounded by harmful toxins or dust particles for several hours before anyone knew about it.
Health issues caused by exposure to silica dust are now becoming much clearer, thanks in large part to the increasing use of real time environment monitoring.
Unlike in previous years, when operatives would be told they had been exposed to harmful toxins after the fact, real time monitoring means they can now be warned immediately to any changes in the atmosphere and evacuate quickly if needed.
It also means unexplored areas can be more easily monitored with the use of mobile equipment and workers can ensure they have the right level of protective equipment deployed in these areas, without being encumbered by this same equipment in areas where they don’t need it.
Repetitive strain and stress
Workplace injury caused by repetitive actions – particularly those involving moving heavy machinery or items – or through working in unhealthy environments have also been historically hard to monitor, mostly because they relied on individual workers to raise concerns when they were already showing symptoms.
New monitoring technology is now helping to reduce these problems by monitoring vital signs of workers, like heart rate and body temperature, and can act as an early warning when a worker shows significant signals of health problems.
Balancing worker safety and ensuring operations remained productive was also a historically difficult balancing act when it came to worker injury.
For instance, a worker may have been required to operate a piece of machinery for several hours without a break, but without being able to monitor the overall environment for health risks, or judge how a worker’s body and vital signs were reacting to the work, there would be no way of knowing if they were in danger until it was too late.
Real-time monitoring equipment is changing this by providing early warnings to the operative themselves and management who can closely monitor environments and health risks and take action much quicker.
Discover the other ways in which connected devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence are set to transform hazardous industries to deliver the next step forward to be able to prevent workplace injuries and ensure employee protection.