Health & Safety: How can AI help to improve worker safety?
It is a sad fact of life that accidents happen at work every day, many of which can have life-changing consequences. According to the Health & Safety Executive, there were 693,000 non-fatal workplace injuries reported in the UK in 2019/20 – and that is while many people were working from home or furloughed due to Covid-19. This led to 168,000 employee absences from work of over 7 days.
As more people return to their workplaces, can AI help to reduce the number of workplace accidents?
Most organisations prioritise worker safety and have training programmes in place to encourage best practice and minimise risk at their places of work. These programmes are an important way to ensure employees are aware of best practice, but does training alone go far enough? The number of accidents that still take place suggests that more could be done. At Massive Analytic we believe that AI has a role to play.
The most common cause of workplace accidents is a slip, trip or fall (29% of all accidents), These accidents can be caused by things such as spillages, objects being left in dangerous locations, or a momentary loss of concentration. This is followed by; handling lifting or carrying injuries (19%); being struck by a moving object (11%); acts of violence (9%) and falls from a height (8%).
Often, there are external factors that increase the likelihood of an accident (such as low light, bad weather or human factors such as not wearing the correct PPE).
The consequences of not ensuring worker safety can be severe, with the HSE having the power impose harsh penalties following a successful prosecution, including:
· Unlimited fines
· Up to 6 months in prison
· Disqualification as a company director for up to 15 years
These penalties are reserved for the worst examples of health and safety breaches, but this does not prevent high profile companies from being successfully prosecuted. For example Costain, Thames Water, Network Rail, Tesco and National Grid have all been prosecuted and fined in the last few years. The average fine in 2019/20 was £110,000, with several companies fined more than £1,000,000 so they can have a big impact on company finances, as well as on you reputation.
Making Workplaces Safer
In order to make workplaces safer we recommend the following simple steps:
1) Install CCTV Cameras to monitor workplace activity
Having CCTV cameras in the workplace means that it is possible to record and review worker activity and to review accidents that occur to understand the causes and try to prevent them from happening again. With some CCTV camera systems now costing as little as £200, CCTV is becoming a very cost-effective way of monitoring staff safety. However, on its own, this is still a reactive approach to workplace accidents. It is also important to make yourself aware of data protection legislation before installing a CCTV system. Guidance can be found here:
2) Keep an Electronic Record of When and Where accidents and near misses occur
By having an electronic record of when and where accidents occur, it is possible to start to identify patterns in the data. Our recommendation is to use AI to analyse the data alongside external data (including weather, lighting, time of day etc.) to build a comprehensive understanding of when, where and why accidents happen.
3) Use Video Alerting to identify when an accident has occurred
It is possible to monitor camera feeds manually, but it is easy to miss something. Using video analytics, you can calibrate a system to your place of work, enabling you to be alerted to accidents faster and respond as quickly as possible, whilst minimising false alarms. Whilst this approach is still reactive, you will now be able to accelerate your response to an accident.
4) Use a combination of steps 2) and 3) to predict accidents before they happen and take mitigating action
The true power of AI is in its ability to predict an accident before it happens. By identifying potential hazards such as spillages, items left in hazardous locations and non-wearing of PPE, employers can act before an accident occurs. Additionally, by predicting that an accident is more likely due to factors such as the weather conditions, AI makes it possible to prevent hazardous working conditions even before they occur. Achieving step 4 will mean that you can take a genuinely proactive approach to accident prevention using AI.
Whilst many organisations are committed to improving worker safety, achieving zero harm and ensuring their employees are as safe as possible whilst at work, there are still far too many accidents in the workplace every year.
It may not ever be possible to reduce this number to zero, but by following the recommendations above, employers can:
· Improve worker safety
· Reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring
· Demonstrate compliance with health and safety guideline and
· Minimise the risk of prosecution by the HSE
If you’d like to know more, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org