An Engaged and Digitally Enabled Workforce Saves Lives

An Engaged and Digitally Enabled Workforce Saves Lives

To truly “work to zero,” businesses must focus on creating and nurturing a culture of safety, and thankfully, advanced next-generation technologies can help.

Despite the business community’s best efforts, preventable workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities are not a thing of the past. Rather, lawmakers worldwide are passing new occupational safety and health and safety (OSH) laws to reduce harmful and tragic events. In the U.S., OSHA updated its Hazard Communications Standard and issued its final rule to improve the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. However, regulatory compliance does not equal workplace safety.

The majority of business leaders and industry groups understand the need to go beyond compliance and advocate for strong safety cultures. In 2023, the National Safety Council (NSC) launched its “Work to Zero” initiative, a campaign to eliminate workplace fatalities by 2050 with effective technologies and stronger stakeholder partnerships.

To truly “work to zero,” businesses must focus on creating and nurturing a culture of safety, and thankfully, advanced next-generation technologies can help.

Driving Workplace Safety — an Uphill Climb for Leaders

It’s a difficult undertaking to ensure the safety of dozens, hundreds or thousands of workers in one location, and it’s nearly impossible at scale, across multiple regions or among a diverse workforce. In 2021 alone, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 2,607,900 non-fatal injuries and illnesses in the private sector and 5,190 fatal work-related injuries. One workplace death is too much, let alone several thousand.

Private-sector business leaders in particular have several key tasks and objectives to tackle to achieve effective workplace safety protocols and drive these numbers down.

Leaders must align their companies on OSH policies and procedures especially if they have a diverse workforce of full-time, part-time and contingent workers, contractors and service providers spread across geographic locations. This can be challenging, given labor and workplace safety laws can vary by industry and geography. Businesses must comply with their home country OSH laws and regulations, plus local laws and regulations for each labor category.

Business leaders also must overcome worker resistance to follow OSH policies and best practices. While necessary,safety compliance can be tiresome and create more work for everyone involved. Likewise, policing staff can also be time-consuming, intrusive and awkward. But ignoring rules, cutting corners and failing to provide oversight can lead to tragedy.

Another headache for leaders: companies in higher-risk industries (e.g., bio/life sciences, construction and manufacturing) are subject to OSH audits. The larger the company’s global footprint and the thinner the auditing team, the greater the chance that safety, regulatory and compliance policies are ignored or overlooked, potentially resulting in serious incidents.

To comply with OSH laws and regulations and gain visibility into their own safety trends, business leaders need to collect safety and workplace incident data. But many continue to use manual or paper-based data-collection processes, which can impact data accuracy and efficiency. Moreover, assuming companies do collect useful data in this manner, the data can remain siloed within disparate business units and systems.

Persistent Problems Require Holistic Solutions

Working with siloed data in disparate systems is already difficult for employees, but this is especially the case when it’s meant to foster a safety-minded culture. Therefore, to expedite workplace safety processes and reap actionable insights, leaders can introduce advanced, technology-based solutions such as AI and related applications to fill process and visibility gaps. A digitally enabled workforce will be more efficient, engaged and proactive in reducing or eliminating fatalities.

Foster a culture of workplace safety.

Business leaders ought to start by connecting employees and including them in the conversation. Give them a voice, ask for their input and listen to the conditions on the ground, the effectiveness of current safety protocols and what additional practices or technologies could improve workplace safety.

Then give them ownership in the process and make workers feel like they’re part of the solution. One doesn’t necessarily achieve a safer workplace by telling people what to do but by asking them what they’d like to contribute to a safer work environment. Rather than collect and report data for data’s sake—or follow inconvenient or misunderstood safety protocols—workers need to feel part of the solution to workplace hazards. They need to feel that what they’re doing serves a greater purpose than checking a box.

Digitally enable the workforce.

New technologies such as AI-enabled applications, help companies foster a culture of workplace safety and drive injuries and deaths down to zero. Front-line workers can use mobile applications to capture workplace incidents, accidents, injuries or near-misses in real-time and share their data instantly, rather than having to fill out an incident report. These applications can also enable front-line workers to share feedback on the effectiveness of safety protocols and provide an exciting opportunity to shape the culture of safety in the workforce. Consider the following:

  • Intelligent video analytics that autonomously and remotely identify workplace accidents or near-accidents for further analysis and record keeping.
  • Machine learning algorithms that scan large datasets to identify potentially unsafe conditions or behaviors and surface insights to business leaders.
  • Predictive analytics that scour large datasets to identify trends and anticipate and prevent accidents before they happen.
  • Natural language processing that provides a conversational interface between front-line workers and managers and facilitates reporting safety incidents.

Unified environmental health and safety (EHS) platforms drive process efficiencies and visibility. They provide end users with a common user interface and experience to efficiently manage data and processes across the spectrum. And they enable teams to collect, store, reference and provide safety data and insights internally and to regulatory bodies to drive safety and compliance efforts in an efficient and holistic manner.

Creating A Safety-Minded Culture Is Hard Work — But It’s Necessary And Virtuous Work

It’s surprisingly hard to create the emotional impetus for people at all levels to engage with workplace safety. After all, no one wants to work in a risky manner; they want to reduce their occupational hazards and risks.

Business leaders can foster employee engagement by giving them agency in the development and execution of workplace safety programs and democratizing the use of digital solutions to drive workplace safety. Although most workers are not safety professionals, they become passionate about workplace safety when they’re given systems that work for them, processes and solutions that foster a safer, more engaging work environment without increasing their work.

Product Showcase

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