Aligning Emerging Technologies to the Top Workplace Fatality Risks

Construction worker with VR headset
September 24, 2020

Earlier this year, the National Safety Council (NSC) released a white paper on the impact of emerging technology on reducing serious injuries and fatalities (SIF). Using data from the BLS and surveys and interviews with EHS professionals, NSC identified the top hazardous situations that account for the greatest percentage of non-roadway workplace fatalities, as well as their associated situational and systemic risks. NSC also identified the most relevant emerging technology solutions that could mitigate some of the risks connected to these top hazardous situations.

The top three hazardous situations that accounted for nearly 50% of all non-roadway workplace fatalities in 2017 were working at height, workplace violence, and repair and maintenance tasks.

Work at Height

Some of the top risks for working at height are falling to a lower level and worker behavioral failure. One emerging technology to mitigate fall risks is unmanned aerial vehicles (e.g., drones), which can substitute the need for a human to work at height at all, particularly in the case of inspections. Virtual reality and augmented reality training are technologies that can mitigate behavioral failure risks by immersing workers in a virtual experience to conduct dangerous work at height tasks without risk of injury.

Workplace Violence

Some of the top risks for workplace violence are intentional physical violence to a colleague and lack of workplace awareness. One helpful emerging technology relevant for these risks is real–time response management mobile apps, which can help protect workers by utilizing the mobile phones’ 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. Another emerging technology to address workplace violence risks is computer vision technology, which utilizes machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect patterns of physical behavior and movement that could indicate physical violence without the need for workers to identify potentially aggressive behaviors themselves.

Repair and Maintenance

Some of the top risks for repair and maintenance tasks are machine energization and lack of training or supervision. One technology helpful for mitigating machine energization risks is cutoff light curtains, which safeguard workers 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. Finally, augmented reality displays are useful for reducing lack of training risks by using glasses or a headset to project schematics and safety information into the worker’s field of vision in real time.

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Joy Inouye

Marketing Campaign Manager at Wolters Kluwer Enablon