Transforming Workplace Safety: The Role of Artificial Intelligence
Recently, a conference on Occupational Safety and related areas was held in Opatija, organized by the Institute for Safety Research and Development. The participants were also interested in the development and application of various AI tools in their field. Compared to participants of the Legaltech conference organized by this magazine, a slightly smaller number of people have so far tried existing AI tools. What can be concluded from existing data is that this field is not lagging behind various applications, which can significantly accelerate and improve the quality of all processes. I will try to summarize just some of the areas of application.
AI can be used for quick identification of potential risks in the workplace. AI systems can analyze large amounts of data to identify potential hazards and recognize patterns that indicate potential risks. This allows for quick intervention and prevention of accidents. Also, AI-supported systems can continuously monitor working conditions, collect safety data and analyze them to identify potential issues or patterns. This data allows for making informed decisions to improve workplace safety. A good analysis can be found in IBM’s Worker Insights document, which summarizes all data sources, such as optical and thermal cameras, smartphones and Bluetooth devices, various types of sensors, and wearable devices, to monitor workers’ vital signs, or for example, elevated temperature. It also becomes easy to track their movement, where congestion is created or signal in which areas are forbidden to go, and a whole range of other parameters.
AI can also be used to analyze data on occupational injuries, working conditions, and other relevant factors to predict potential risks and workplace injuries. These predictive analyses allow preventive measures to be taken to prevent injuries and ensure employee safety.
Continual education is one of the main tasks of professionals in this field, and AI is already being used today for the development of interactive employee training systems. These systems can provide simulations of dangerous situations and enable employees to gain the necessary skills and knowledge for safe work. In addition, AI can be used to personalize training according to the needs and abilities of individual employees.
Robotic technology and drones are increasingly being used in the field of occupational safety to carry out dangerous tasks instead of humans. Robots equipped with AI can perform tasks in dangerous environments such as high-voltage plants or radioactive areas. Drones are used for the inspection of hard-to-reach or high areas, which reduces the risk of injuries to humans. This application of AI allows tasks to be executed more efficiently with greater safety.
Human error can be one of the main causes of workplace injuries. The application of AI in the HSE field can reduce this error with automatic systems that check and monitor work processes. These systems can alert employees to potential risks and provide them with guidelines for safe work. A good example is the company Honeywell, which has developed wearable devices that have a visual display mounted on the head that reacts to voice commands and displays live data, documents, and work procedures, as well as health and safety information. The new wearable technology can also connect field workers with remote experts in real-time and allow them to acquire skills and knowledge during work. A large part of the job is also various inspection procedures. They can be time-consuming and require a detailed examination of workplaces. AI can automate these procedures through the analysis of data and visual information. Computer systems can recognize irregularities or potential safety problems, thereby improving the efficiency of inspection oversight. NVIDIA, with its DGX Systems solutions, plans to revolutionize the field. Even today, it is possible to do various types of detection, such as corrosion, through the analysis of available video materials.
It can be presumed that AI will be the first line of defense when it comes to various aspects of occupational safety, from fire to environmental protection. Pattern recognition algorithms will be able to identify critical information not only very quickly after accidents occur, but even before the events themselves, and certainly before humans could react.
Despite numerous advantages, the use of AI in HSE is not without challenges. Some of these challenges include the lack of standardization, privacy and data security issues, as well as the need for continuous maintenance and updating of AI systems. I believe that AI will represent a revolutionary change in the HSE field as well. While we track the challenges, its potential to improve safety and health at the workplace is undeniable. Given the rapid development of technology, we can expect AI to continue to shape and enhance HSE practices. The latest data shows that 2.7 million people worldwide are injured annually, and injuries occur to about 300 million. If these numbers decrease even by a small percentage, the results will be more than welcome.