Most savvy business owners are acutely aware of the benefits of building a safe work environment for their employees. In addition to keeping their workforce healthy enough to perform well, it also makes employees more loyal and less likely to quit. Additionally, a safe work environment prevents accidents that might have otherwise become a financial strain on the company.
Suffice it to say, workplace safety is something most companies will need to address sooner rather than later. Luckily, doing so is only going to get easier as more tech startups come out with their own ways of improving working conditions for people everywhere.
Of course, improving and reinforcing workplace safety protocols isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Different industries have different ways of addressing the unique issues that come up during a typical workday. Still, some of those solutions are useful enough to cross industry divides.
But that brings us to the question of the day. Which technological solutions are going to make your workdays easier in the future? And how did we start using technology to improve workplace safety in the first place?
A Brief History of Technology and Workplace Safety
Technological advancements have been making our jobs easier since the first industrial revolution. Yet by now, it’s safe to say that we have moved beyond steam power. The second industrial revolution brought us assembly lines and other tools of mass production. Then, in the 20th century, our workplaces went through another shift, as digital computing entered the stage.
Naturally, these advancements influenced more than just a company’s ability to have a bigger output. As each industrial revolution changed the way we do business, it also made workplaces more dangerous.
For example, when the second industrial revolution prompted cotton fabric manufacturers to seek a larger output, factory owners weren’t too concerned about the safety of their workers. Because of that, moving the business of processing cotton indoors had two particularly dire consequences.
For one, the cotton particles that hovered in the air had a habit of getting into the weavers’ lungs, often causing a respiratory illness that was commonly referred to as mill fever. Of course, factory owners could easily find new labor once their current workforce got too sick to perform. Typically, their primary concern was that cotton was insanely flammable and that the smallest spark could, and often would, set the whole factory on fire.
So while the mechanization of labor has prevented many injuries over the years, it has also created new problems. So what are some of the solutions we’ve introduced since the third industrial revolution?
How Can Technology Affect the Future of Workplace Safety?
When project managers try to take the safety of workers into account, they usually do so in four stages. They try to:
- Minimize hazards during the early stages of project planning (e.g., taking PPE into account when establishing the budget)
- Reduce the risk factors on-site or around the office (planning emergency exit routes and setting up security cameras)
- Familiarize the workforce with the safety protocols (educational courses and training)
- Plan for any eventual workplace injuries and accidents (determining a budget for sick leaves and medical costs)
Today, all of these practices are influenced by the latest industrial revolution to hit the scene. Commonly referred to as Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution has been forcing business owners to look at workplace safety in a new light, too. Robotics, software and even wearable devices that ensure workers’ safety are now commonplace. So let’s meet the tech startups that are making it all possible.
Meet the Tech Startups That Are Working to Ensure Workplace Safety Everywhere
According to the principles of Industry 4.0, the goal of technological advancements is to make our lives and businesses more productive. As we now know, improving workplace safety standards also improves productivity. Therefore, some of that creativity and computing power need to go toward ensuring the safety of workers across industry lines. Luckily, plenty of startups are investing their time, money and brainpower toward that goal.
Some of the most interesting advancements in the field come from companies working tirelessly to create wearable safety devices like panic buttons for hotel workers and other people who work alone. Of course, there are varying degrees of invasiveness in that particular field.
For example, several startups are also working on wearable devices that monitor blood oxygen levels and alert the wearer when they need to take a break. The goal of these kinds of devices is to reduce the number of workplace accidents that are the result of fatigue. So they’ll certainly be a useful addition for workers who have to stay alert while operating heavy machinery.
On the other hand, there are also plenty of advancements in software design that might make our businesses safer. Several startup companies are simultaneously designing security cameras that use hyperspectral imaging technology to detect gas leaks.
Other software solutions include risk management platforms that can use the current rate of workplace-related injuries to suggest optimization techniques. There are also VR training simulations that can improve workers’ confidence around certain machinery before giving them hands-on experience. And of course, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Making Workplace Safety an Industry In Its Own Right
Knowing the way technology has affected workplace safety in the past has given us a new perspective on safety tech. As we have seen, each industrial revolution has brought new challenges to the daily lives of employees everywhere. Now that Industry 4.0 is here, being able to predict trends and potential hazards that might emerge in our ever-shifting work environments should help us prevent future workplace disasters.
With a little help from some very creative individuals and their inventions, we may just be able to transition to the new technological age unscathed. After all, improving the workers’ lives also improves the productivity and financial success of the business at large.