How technology and computer science can benefit workplace safety.
Author: MirAli Mobasheri
Every organization needs to take workplace safety seriously. Working in a safe environment results in improved work quality and is what every employee desires. Higher health and safety quality results in productivity improvements since healthy employees are more productive and will cause a positive impact on the company’s core process. On the other hand, if employees feel insecure at work, productivity is minimized.
After reading all of this, a question might occur to the reader: While every industry is quickly developing and technology is becoming the main subject in specialized work, how can we use it to improve the quality of workplace safety?
In fact, what solutions does technology offer to extend the quality and usability of work safety?
Technology in the industrial context.
Reading the above headline, probably the first thing you think of is the fully robotic process lines of the factories or the industrial design and assembly applications. Or you might think of the automated vehicles or Elon Musk's SpaceX rockets, pursuing the dream of inhabiting Mars. Yes! All of these are examples of the technology’s industrial usages.
But have you ever wondered how a company ensures a worker’s safety among their factory’s giant machines? How could this benefit from technology?
Basing several astronauts on a space station, how is their safety provided and secured? How is it that NASA measures Mars’ surrounding for its robotic probe from thousands of miles away and ensures its safety? Or how does the company utilize its drones to study the safety of the future of human life on Mars?
Many questions exist. Industrial safety is a broad topic. And maybe someday we will need to take care of our robots’ safety in addition to that of the human. In this article, we will learn about some technology examples that can be helpful in the workplace safety field.
High-speed communication and networking tools can have an essential effect in improving workplace safety. Too many risks surround the workers who need to work in remote environments.
One of the technology examples I mentioned was about how NASA ensured its probe’s safety on Mars. To communicate with its probe on the surface of the red planet, the organization has set up an extensive communication chain called the Relay Network. It includes two satellites in orbit around Mars that receive commands from Earth and send them to the probe. Images and scientific data received from the probe will be sent back to Earth by the Relay Network( Learn more on NASA’s website: https://b2n.ir/j79135 ).
This way, NASA can receive the instantaneous conditions of the rover and safely steer and control it by sending scheduled commands.
Currently, the Internet is the most widespread real-time communication tool on Earth, allowing people to connect regardless of their location. Industrial organizations can easily use this powerful tool and the communication platform it builds to communicate with their employees.
Communication apps and tools can collect real-world data, enabling employers to be aware of their employees' safety status. Employers must be able to receive up-to-date information about the workplace’s safety and health status. They can achieve this by using connection technologies.
Web applications can be an effective tool in this field. The web is a platform that can run on any host, enabling responsive and effective user interfaces.
For example, NASA has announced they intend to launch their central control system, which is an open-source application for various platforms such as desktop and mobile. They have based it on web technologies using the VueJs web programming framework ( More information: https://nasa.github.io/openmct/ ).
This shows how the web and its programming languages’ flexibility can facilitate the development of communication tools.
The intention behind the development of safety apps is to simplify the access to information needed about the risks involved in a process. These apps receive the information related to your projects, create a database of it, and by examining various cases, allow you to predict possible risks or accidents.
They organize safety checklists, store photos of work phases, measure the project’s progress, and convey the state of the risky steps.
These tools are very helpful in managing occupational safety and health and facilitate the process of taking care of operations.
Mobile apps development has become much simple than in the past, and its users are expanding rapidly.
And in the development community, new technologies and solutions have been introduced that can help to develop a comprehensive application suitable for several target platforms using one programming language and developing under one platform.
This is exactly why an organization like NASA uses a web framework for its central control system application.
Three-dimensional modeling can help employees in a work environment to learn more about the workplace and to be aware of the possible dangers.
For example, if the SpaceX company decides to test its space rockets, a visualization of the launch environment can demonstrate the rocket launch process to personnel. Then they can obtain a safe radius by examining the likelihood of a problem or an explosion and use this visualization to prepare the test environment to prevent any casualties or side effects.
Employers can also use this technology to train employee safety. In three dimensions in a reality-like environment, It is possible to convey the steps required to get the job done securely and identify the hazards and accidents that are likely to occur.
In other cases, we can use simulation to design an industrial process and pre-test safety in a specific environment. We can also benefit from it to maintain inherently safe workplaces and chemical processes, which depend on the structure and the building of the workplace ( to design an inherently safe process, we should get rid of every predictable risk factor in its prototype stage).
Designers have been using 3D design software for a long time. But what has recently made 3D models more widely used than before is their use in the context of the web. This way, advanced modeling can be performed and reviewed in any environment without the need for advanced devices.
As in the case of a worker who wants to review a particular operating method in his work environment and remember how to do it safely, watching such models through smartphones can accelerate his work.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Safety training and learning is the first fundamental step in developing a safety culture, but as the saying goes, experience is the best teacher. Yet, in the matter of safety, one cannot rely on experience alone. An unsafe experience can be too painful and lead to horrific events such as amputation or chronic illness.
Virtual reality can help people observe and experience various situations, including dangerous events, and acknowledge appropriate reactions in a 100% safe environment by placing them in a virtual simulation.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
We may argue that artificial intelligence and machine learning are not directly acceptable as safety technologies. But, predictably, these topics of computer science will have a role in improving safety technologies.
We use safety as a science to prevent the occurrence of risky probabilities. And when it comes to probability and statistics, computers come in handy.
For example, one of the difficulties of safety in the workplace is monitoring all available situations. On the other hand, many accidents occur due to inattention or distraction of human operators.
As a solution, we can use drones equipped with cameras that can monitor various processes in a workplace. Then by using computer image processing, artificial intelligence analysis, and machine learning, the system can check whether a potential risk or danger exists or not.
In more detail, with the help of artificial intelligence, this drone can detect whether a worker is wearing gloves in a situation where it is essential to wear them or whether they have dangerously left work waste in the process’s route.
We learned how modern technologies help facilitate the process of assessing and identifying the hazards in a workplace.
The above is just a glimpse of examples of these technologies. In future articles, readers can expect a deeper and more comprehensive explanation of each of these technologies and the new ways of their utilization.
At an applied level, these technologies can attract Industrial Safety and HSE activists. And at a basic level, most of them require programming, computer, and network knowledge. I will try to cover both of them in future articles.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning subjects are among the important ones that lead every technology’s future. The world is moving towards automated and error-prone work routines, and certainly, in the near future, these subjects will change the way we implement Industrial Safety. That is why I will continue to write about them, as they are in my interests too.