Top 3 Workplace Hazards: Existing Technologies Can Save Lives

With workplace deaths in the U.S. on the rise, a new report from the National Safety Council indicates employers may not be doing enough to protect their workforce. The Work to Zero research report, Safety Technology 2020: Mapping Technology Solutions for Reducing Serious Injuries and Fatalities in the Workplace, looks at 18 different non-roadway, hazardous situations in which workers are most likely to die and provides anywhere from five to eight potential technology solutions for each situation.

workplace hazards“The data says it all – while workplace injuries are trending down, workplace fatalities are rising,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Hundreds of technologies exist today that have enormous potential to eliminate these preventable deaths. This report is an excellent starting point for employers to understand how new technology can ensure a safer workforce.”

The top three hazardous situations and corresponding technologies identified in the Work to Zero report include:

Work at height: This includes deaths resulting from falling to a lower level, falling objects, and injury from the sudden arrest of a lifeline. Contributing to these risks are worker behavioral failures, leadership failure, and scaffolding/platform failure. Top technology solutions include:

  • Mobile anchor points, which can reduce falls to lower levels by allowing workers to attach fall arrest systems to a roof with weighted anchors that do not require penetration of the structure
  • Aerial lifts and platforms, which can reduce falls to lower levels by giving workers more stability and flexibility in their movement without having to traverse a structure
  • Self-retracting lines, which can be connected to anchors and automatically stop a fall to reduce injuries caused by dangerous amounts of slack in a lifeline from abrupt falls

Workplace violence: This includes deaths resulting from intentional physical violence to a colleague, weapon violence, and violence due to robbery. Contributing to these risks are lack of workplace awareness, lack of training or supervision, and lack of security measures. Top technology solutions include:

  • Real–time response management mobile apps, which utilize a phone’s location tracking and communication functionality to give responders better visibility of who is at risk and where they are located without relying on the worker to report their status
  • Video cameras, both body-worn and fixed mount, which can monitor and detect patterns of physical behavior and movement that could indicate physical violence without workers needing to identify aggressive behaviors directly
  • Wearable or mobile app-based panic buttons, which allow workers to immediately alert emergency personnel when a dangerous or life-threatening situation arises

Repair and maintenance: This includes deaths resulting from machine energization, being struck by machinery, or being entangled in machinery. Contributing to these risks are lack of training or supervision, fatigue, and machinery malfunction. Top technology solutions include:

  • Machinery cutoff light curtains, which safeguard personnel near moving machinery at the point of operation and in the perimeter of the machine through automatic stoppage of machinery when the light field is interrupted
  • Power management systems, which control electrical functions and manage capacity and load shedding to ensure electrical and arc flash safety
  • Permit to work technologies, which can centralize authorization and clearance of tasks to be carried out by front line workers

The National Safety Council launched the Work to Zero initiative with support from the McElhattan Foundation. Its purpose is to eliminate workplace fatalities through the use of technology. Future research plans include recruiting organizations to implement specific new technologies and measuring the effectiveness of those new technologies over time in reducing serious injuries and fatalities.

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