The Latest Industrial Safety Landscape and Gaps
The history of industrial safety is laden with several major mishaps that have shaken up the world – while the Chernobyl and Bhopal disasters bring back agonizing memories, accidents that happened at Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and Halifax have been equally devastating.
Given the size and scale of industrial accidents and the impact they have on worker well-being, it is appalling that despite the intense global focus on industrial accidents and worker safety over the last few years, not much is being done by organizations. The International Labor Organization (ILO) presents some shocking statistics1 about industrial safety:
In this whitepaper, we aim to:
An overview of industrial safety today
It’s fair to say that the realm of industrial safety has not changed meaningfully in a long time. The truth is that for many decades now, organizations have not looked at industrial safety beyond implementing a handful of safety procedures and providing workers with basic safety gear. Anecdotal evidence suggests that organizations are concerned with the evaluation of worker safety conditions as well as the long-term effects occupational hazards can have on them. But are companies doing enough to safeguard worker safety?
Unfortunately, despite the appalling statistics on industrial safety, not much has changed on the ground. In the race to enter new markets or accelerate throughput, most industrial organizations have not traditionally been interested in solving these problems around worker safety.
One of the problems has been that the focus on industrial safety has traditionally been on protecting assets rather than people. While technology improvements have changed the productivity and capability of work, the safety equipment provided to a company’s most valuable assets, its workers, has not changed in decades. Worker behavior has not kept up with the times either.
With several accidents resulting from operating machinery, inhalation of toxins, fall and electrical shocks to name a few, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and similar workplace oversight organizations have set the ball rolling for mandatory safety and health standards. Organizations operating in industrial sectors have no option but to ensure enforcement of these standards along with maintaining records and devising reporting procedures to ensure the safety of workers working in high-risk environments.
With industrial safety garnering extensive global attention, the time has come for industries to embrace technology to precisely locate workers in three-dimensional space and enable seamless communication between workers and supervisors. They need to leverage technological advances to understand the environment workers are working in – along with the associated risks – and continuously capture, analyze and act on data to ensure the well-being of workers.
For companies wanting to make a difference, the scope of industrial safety technology is enormous. For example:
Despite all the benefits modern technology offers, many organizations still struggle to leverage it to ensure worker well-being. Statistics around industrial safety persistently paint a sad picture. According to a report2 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
The construction industry continues to be one of the most dangerous industries for workers. According to OSHA, fatalities in construction account for 20.7%3 of all worker fatalities in private industry - or one in five deaths. Some of the leading causes of deaths in construction include falls, struck by object, electrocution, and caught in between equipment.
The impact of poor industrial safety
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), transportation and material moving workers experienced 184,4704 injuries and illnesses in 2018. Over the years, fatalities due to chemical inhalations5 in the workplace are steadily increasing and 2.8 million6 non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses occurred in 2018. Although organizations have started to realize the importance of having strong industrial safety measures in place, the impact of poor industrial safety is extremely far-reaching:
Loss of life and limb:
Workplace accidents that result in fatalities are probably the worst kind of accidents that can happen. However, in addition to fatalities, the statistics around amputation are equally grim: amputation due to workplace injury affects approximately 1 in every 20,0007 workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that most workplace amputations occur because of unguarded machinery, lack of adequate training and appropriate practices and procedures to safeguard employees.
Loss of productivity:
Poor industrial safety not only affects employee health and well-being; it also has the capability to negatively impact productivity. For workers who have been victims of accidents, days spent in treatment in hospitals or recuperating at home means they cannot contribute to industrial output as long as they are away. Occupational health safety-related problems also negatively affect their productive capacity once they are back at work—resulting in reduced worker output. Because they tend to develop a negative attitude and low morale towards work, the chances of future accidents become high.
Impact on brand value:
Consumer brand loyalty is a result of trust that consumers have in the brand. While offering consumers good quality products is a great way to earn their trust, the absence of proper industrial safety measures can negatively impact brand value. If workplace accidents constantly hit the headlines, consumers will slowly start losing trust in the brand, which is bound to impact brand value in the long run.
Compliance and regulatory repercussions
Poor safety standards are also known to affect the compliance posture of organizations. For those who do not understand the significance of industrial safety or do not want to put in the effort (on money) in ensuring worker safety, the costs of non-compliance are extremely high. Such organizations not only end up spending a lot of money on compensation to be paid to injured workers, but they also end up shelling huge sums for penalties imposed by regulatory authorities. Add to it the cost of insurance, decreased productivity, and schedule over-runs.
In the construction industry, where many workers often succumb to their injuries, IoT devices can offer critical field of vision: by capturing images and videos of the entire site, they can provide risk insight not just into aspects that workers can see but also those they cannot – while displaying where the situation is happening (or may happen) and which workers are in jeopardy. Such actionable intelligence when combined with next generation data analysis can allow supervisors to quickly act on and shield workers from calamities – at all times. And these are only some of the multitude of industries where this technology has uses.
Impact on share price:
Frequent workplace safety incidents are also known to damage stock market value and bring down share price by a large margin. With CSR becoming more and more important to consumers and investors, the slew of industrial accidents has the ability to damage a firm’s reputation, impact goodwill, as well as impede financial performance.
Cost to the company (and economy):
Industrial accidents not just harm workers’ well-being, they are also known to cost organizations a lot in terms of lost work days9, compensation, insurance, and hospital bills, reduced production, and several other indirect costs. The International Labor Organization estimates that the annual cost to the global economy from accidents and work-related diseases is a staggering $3 trillion10.
The problem of rising insurance premiums:
For organizations in manufacturing, construction, mining industries, workers are far more susceptible to accidents. Such organizations need to insure each and every worker against any injury that happens in the workplace. However, if accidents happen frequently – due to poor safety standards – organizations experience a steady rise in insurance premiums which not only add to overall operational costs, but also impact organizational morale in the long run: employee productivity gets affected, high attrition becomes difficult to handle, and attracting new employees becomes a challenge.
Why is industrial safety poor?
Despite understanding the importance of industrial safety and the repercussions of poor safety standards, many organizations still struggle to ensure the level of safety that is required to keep their employees safe. There are many reasons for this:
Taking a reactive rather than proactive and strategic approach:
Many organizations take a reactive approach to industrial safety. The traditional metrics they examine are lagging indicators. It is only when an accident occurs that they perform a causal analysis of the accident and plan for corrective measures so such an accident doesn’t happen again. Failing to proactively integrate safety measures into daily operations makes it difficult to avoid their occurrence in the first place. Without a strategic approach to industrial safety, the end result is poor workplace conditions which make employees extremely vulnerable to accidents and injuries.
Poor use of intelligent technology:
For some forward-thinking organizations, using intelligent technology for industrial safety has become a business priority. While they invest heavily in modern technologies like AI and Machine Learning, they do not seem to be implementing them to ensure worker safety. It is also true that the number of technology organizations out there that are focused on industrial safety are few. Even the organizations that do have solutions, tend to be focused on the technology. These are rarely organizations that have deep understanding of the inherent challenges and limitations of the industrial workplace.
Focusing on machines rather than individual people:
Most organizations that are serious about industrial safety also tend to focus on machine safety instead of policies or procedures that track workers in real-time and gain insight into the hazards to which workers are exposed..
For organizations in the mining or oil and gas industry, where sites are located in very remote locations, the problem of no network also comes in the way of implementing modern safety measures. In most industrial locations, it is also impossible to depend on the availability of Wi-Fi and other communication protocols. Add to that the hazards present in certain environments such as the toxic fumes, fire, noise etc. Implementing safety measures in such hazardous environments gets very difficult for organizations.
How GuardHat address the challenge of industrial safety
Given the repercussions of poor industrial safety on worker health, organizational brand value and stock price, insurance premiums and more, organizations need to drive efforts in ensuring safety of their employees and invest heavily in continuous worker safety improvement initiatives to grow their bottom line. They must constantly train workers on safety measures, educate them on how they can prevent and/or eliminate workplace hazards and accidents, and create a safety-first culture and mindset. What is required is for organizations to plan for proper health and safety training as well as leverage technology and implement procedures to avert accidents and mitigate risks in time.
At GuardHat11, we understand the need to build a top-notch industrial safety environment that empowers workers to feel safe 24 x 7 while proactively identifying the chances of accidents before it actually happens. Our industrial safety solutions can be implemented across different environments to ensure the safety of lone or mobile workers working in static or dynamic sites.
Our propriety IoT platform KYRA allows us to provide a Safety Control Center that tracks assets and employees in real-time. Using a modern data platform that has a built-in analytics engine, we can work with any 3rd party device and use case and adapt to any deployment scenario—whether the cloud, on-premise, or a hybrid. Our modular and open architecture is integrable across existing or future business needs and allows you to seamlessly connect devices and the underlying infrastructure through a unified platform.
Our industrial safety solution deploys seamlessly, even in situations where there is little or no wireless connectivity. Because it proactively monitors workers and assets in real-time, it has the capability to avert accidents before they happen, while constantly providing actionable intelligence to plant managers to further improve safety. Through worker and equipment movement animation and incident image, audio and video feeds, we can constantly monitor industrial sites and check for gas exposure, rising temperatures, worker clusters and more. Our solution has the capability to constantly provide safety compliance and non-compliance statistics, and in the event of an incident, it can also provide emergency response and evacuation time.
The Guardhat solution has been devised by a team of professionals who have experienced first-hand the challenges, heartbreaks, and professional hazards of industrial safety. Our leadership team has a deep understanding of what it takes on the ground to create a comprehensive and impactful safety solution. Our focus has been on the human problem and how to use technology to overcome that challenge. To that extent, Guardhat is not a technology company providing an industrial safety solution—it is an industrial safety solution-provider that leverages the power of technology to solve real-world problems.
As organizations across the world constantly struggle to deliver value amidst growing competition and a constantly evolving regulatory environment, industrial accidents can have a devastating impact on the bottom line. Despite all the headlines about industrial safety and the clear need for organizations to take drastic measures to improve worker safety, worker injury statistics have not changed enough over the years. Given that, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Organizations must embrace technology14 to ensure safety of the modern industrial worker.
Modern technological tools can embed safety into daily work execution, allowing workers to be in charge of their own safety – and not be limited to the measures implemented by the environmental, health and safety team. Now is the time to embrace technology to build a safe workplace, act on actionable data, enable collaborative response to incidents, and ensure compliance to safety best practices.
Guardhat8 is a worker safety and connected worker solutions company that provides situational awareness solutions using IoT platforms and product ecosystem. The company is on the way to pioneering a technological breakthrough in industrial safety monitoring and productivity assurance. Leveraging their propriety IoT platform KYRA , Guardhat’s solutions help organizations make decisions that increase productivity, improve response times and implement strategies that ultimately save lives. Guardhat has been mentioned by Forbes9 as a leading AI safety solutions provider for the manufacturing industry.
In February 2019, Guardhat collaborated with IBM10 to integrate its platform with IBM’s Maximo Worker Insights solution to provide near real-time situational awareness using smart personal protection equipment.
Guardhat has offices in Detroit and Chicago and offers solutions across North America, South America, EMEA, APAC, and Russia/EU. Their current offerings include: