2021 Freight and Shipping Employee Safety Trends

2020 highlighted how much health and safety oversight there was in the industry, emphasizing the need for better insights.

Every industry has encountered hardships amid the pandemic, but freight and shipping has faced more than most. As the novel coronavirus continues to spread in 2021, most shippers have recuperated to some degree, but challenges remain. The sector has found it needs to adjust its approach to many areas, including employee safety.

In 2021, the freight and shipping sector faces many of the same health hazards it did in 2020. However, it is now coming at these hazards with experience, leading to new trends in employee safety.

Wearable Proximity Sensors

Social distancing in a warehouse isn’t always easy, but some have found a way to enable it. Companies like Amazon implemented wearable proximity sensors that alert workers when they get close to one another. As the pandemic’s spread persists this year, this trend will likely continue, but it won’t end when COVID-19 does.

These wearables can help workers avoid collisions with other employees or machinery. As forklifts and automated pallet jacks become quieter, these devices will be more crucial. Wearable proximity sensors keep employees alert, which is essential for preventing many accidents.

AI Safety Data Analytics

Many freight and shipping companies already use AI analytics to be more efficient. In 2021, more companies will start applying the same strategy to workplace safety. 2020 highlighted how much health and safety oversight there was in the industry, emphasizing the need for better insights.

Data analytics can reveal safety weaknesses that companies may not have realized before. With more advanced AI, these programs could even suggest novel ways to improve. Now that employee health and safety issues are more prominent, it’s hard for companies to ignore the AI advantage.

Increased Automation

One of the most significant challenges facing the sector in 2021 is balancing efficiency with safety. In many areas, demand has outpaced capacity as companies adapt to new safety measures. Automation could provide an answer to both problems.

Collaborative robots can operate in stations between workers to enable social distancing. Automating some tasks would also free employees to work in other areas, maximizing productivity without requiring more workers. Since these systems also save money, they’re an ideal safety measure for companies struggling with pandemic-related losses.

Heightened Attention on Workers’ Mental Health

Lockdown measures have affected many people’s mental health. The shipping and freight sector faces some unique challenges as far as mental health is concerned. Shipping volume has skyrocketed, putting more stress on warehouse workers, which could lead to burnout. Similarly, the Department of Transportation loosened service limit hours, so some truckers may have to drive more.

In light of these changes, more companies may pay attention to their employees’ mental health in 2021. Approaches could include enabling more vacation days, longer breaks or expanding overtime payments. Specific strategies will vary between companies, but the renewed emphasis on emotional well-being will be all but universal.

Flexible Scheduling

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for flexibility, which many companies will apply to scheduling. Avoiding rigid schedules will help warehouses and drivers adjust as needed if a worker gets sick. Though these measures arise out of fear of COVID-19, they’ll also prove effective at avoiding other contagious illnesses like the flu.

Being flexible with worker schedules will also help improve overall mental health. Shipping companies could allow more flexible breaks or days off to raise morale and prevent burnout. As people get vaccinated and businesses can have more workers in a building at once, enabling flexible hours will be more viable.

The Freight and Shipping Industry Is Taking Safety More Seriously in 2021

COVID-19 isn’t the only health and safety hazard the freight and shipping sector faces, but it is a catalyst. The lessons businesses learned through the early days of the pandemic will inform new safety standards in 2021. Even after the virus threat fades, the industry will take a renewed stance on worker safety and employ new strategies to protect it.

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    October 2022

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