In 2016, around 621,000 non-fatal illnesses and injuries were reported by industries in the United Kingdom. However, that figure is down from previous years, and it marks a steady decline over a period of several years. Though many factors have a role in the declining numbers, technology is, no doubt, an integral player in improving health and safety in manufacturing and other industries.
Why the focus on improved health and safety in manufacturing?
The need for improved conditions and more precautions to protect health and safety in manufacturing is heavily driven by worker concerns. However, owners and financial partners also have vested interests in reducing sick days, worker’s compensation claims, as well as raising employee morale in the workplace. Essentially, all involved persons have the same goal of improved health and safety in manufacturing.
The exciting thing is that engineers and other third parties that develop technologies have come up with ways that make the manufacturing industry safer and, thus, more profitable by bettering the conditions under which it takes place.
What are some examples of these technologies?
Flexible safety barriers
The coexistence of man and machinery in manufacturing facilities carries inherent risks. The risk of accidental injury is heightened when productivity is high. Flexible safety barriers enable impact protection wherever it is most needed. If it wasn’t for technology, the proximity of man and machinery would be prohibitive. Since these safety barriers are flexible and can be swiftly moved from location to location, they can provide human safety against hazards like forklifts, hazardous spills, and other moving machinery. In addition, flexible safety barriers are ideal for creating impromptu safety walking areas for assembly floor visitors.
Digital signage is a technological advancement that is highly useful in manufacturing facilities, where noise and other factors can inhibit effective communication. The practical uses of digital signage include quickly notifying workers of immediate dangers, communicating back ups on the assembly line, displaying pertinent information for specific employees and easy to read communication between the assembly floor and the administrative offices.
Drones in the workplace are more than just radio-controlled novelty flying devices. With complex cameras in place, drones are being used to access dangerous manufacturing areas where humans would be at risk. For instance, drones can go places where conditions are too cold or too hot. In the case of chemical spills or radiation, a drone can infiltrate the area and bring back data that is critical to correcting the problem.
In some cases, drones can deliver messages from one are of a manufacturing facility to another. This not only helps workers who are already in hazardous situations; but also can act as a warning system so that humans are not exposed to danger.
3D imaging software technology allows manufacturing employees to be more engaged with their surroundings by generating 3D visualisations. This enables employees to see, not only what they’re doing, but what is happening above, behind and around them. With this extra sensory information, workers are less likely to fall victim to surprise incidents, like falling items, mobile machinery and other moving items. In addition, the 3D imaging can be recorded. These recordings can then be used forensically to research movements on the floor, and designing safer work modalities.
The use of technology to improve health and safety in the workplace is effective and important. Arguably, there are few better uses of technology than the improved safety of the workers who help build our world. Whenever man and machinery are working in tandem, safety must always be a top priority.