The world has reached a tipping point when it comes to new technologies. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things now work together to revolutionize industries everywhere. Industry 4.0 is here and it's bringing drastic improvements into all business processes. It is transforming production, marketing, security, and job safety.
Many industries include handling dangerous chemicals, gasses, and machines. That's where AI can help a lot. The right AI solution can help improve job safety, reduce the number of accidents, and prevent injuries. Learn more about how AI helps build a safe workplace in this article.
AI and its Effect on Workplace Safety
Before we get into the details, let's explain how AI fits in the manufacturing industry first. Well, AI is a combination of multiple powerful technologies. Every AI model is only as good as the machine learning capabilities it rests on. ML is a process of using advanced software to analyze massive amounts of data to find weak spots, identify trends, and get a better idea of the entire production process.
Once the ML system identifies issues, AI can propose solutions for the best outcome. It mimics human behavior, but it's far more capable of handling multiple inputs and finding solutions to seemingly impossible challenges. When it comes to workplace safety, AI can reduce risks tenfold and help create a safer working environment by using the Internet of Things or IoT.
IoT and Workplace Safety
IoT is a unique smart system that uses tiny sensors to monitor everything from individual machines to entire production lines, employees, and everything. Once the sensors are in place, the ML model monitors each individual element, identifies potential risks, and AI proposes solutions. Since AI has an impressive ability to predict future trends, it's able to pinpoint health risks and notify you before anything goes wrong.
You can set up predictive alerts and notifications through the entire system to minimize potential risks. Depending on the industry in question, such a system can save lives and prevent serious injuries.
Industries such as mining, heavy metal manufacturing, and similar risky manufacturing practices can become much safer. For example, workers who spend a lot of time in extreme heat can use wearable sensors that monitor their heart rates, temperatures, etc. Whenever the sensor detects a hazard, it will alert the wearer to prevent injuries.
IoT offers incredible benefits across multiple industries, allowing full customization to specific industry needs. Apart from hazard detection, the system is also used for contact tracing to minimize disease spread among the employees. Now that you know how AI helps create a safe workplace, it's time to look at the benefits it provides.
Benefits of Using AI to Improve Workplace Safety
AI is quickly finding its way into many different industries. It is already in use in manufacturing, mining, and other risky industries as it proved to be a powerful injury prevention tool. Here are some benefits it provides in practice.
1. Human Error Reduction
It turns out that human errors are the main reason why workers experience injuries at the workplace. Moreover, one tiny mistake can not only put others at risk, but it can also lead to downtimes that can cost millions of dollars.
Most workplace injuries happen due to worker fatigue or stress. Around 40% of all workers in the US struggle to keep up with their work, which undoubtedly leads to dangerous mistakes. However, AI doesn't make mistakes as it never gets tired. The right ML model coupled with IoT can detect worker fatigue, identify hazardous areas, and alert individuals about potential dangers before anything happens.
It's simply a means that can help you create a safe workplace. Doing that will not only make your workers feel safer, it will also help you optimize the entire manufacturing line and ensure that you don't experience downtimes due to human error.
2. Automation of Dangerous Tasks
AI and ML can take over production robots and make them more efficient. AI can take over all robotic production and use automation to complete the most dangerous tasks in hazardous environments otherwise lethal to humans. Robots have been used to inspect dangerous situations for decades now.
They can enter hazardous environments and send reports back to a human located in a safe place. For example, the use of drones in the construction industry has skyrocketed in the past few years as it makes all reporting and site evaluation much safer.
Moreover, drones offer a different perspective, allowing humans to find issues they would otherwise not be able to see. In reality, drones make all inspection jobs safer. Roof inspectors don't have to climb up to the roof to make evaluations anymore. Drones help improve safety, but also boost overall efficiency.
3. Employee Monitoring
With the use of IoT sensors, AI can now track every individual worker on multiple levels. It turned out that employee tracking showed exceptional results when it comes to preventing viruses from spreading. For example, if one of the employees tests positive for COVID-19, managers can look at historical tracking data to find every person they came close to while they were infectious. That way, companies can quickly identify the spread of the virus to prevent an outbreak.
However, worker tracking can help create a safe workplace in many other ways including:
- Track worker location
- Monitor vital signs of every individual
- Alert workers about environmental hazards
- Issue accurate information to remote workers
- Reduce chances of physical injuries
- Improve staff training
As you can see, AI can also improve efficiency and allow you to keep a close eye on every worker at all times.
4. Harassment Monitoring
Workplace harassment has always been a serious issue among companies everywhere. 4 out of 5 women reported experiencing some kind of sexual harassment at the workplace, and AI can help there too. It can examine workplace harassment and identify individuals responsible.
AI also uses natural language processing or NLP to scan emails and other files for inappropriate phrases. Whenever it finds one, it can send an alert directly to the manager's office. It can also use data to identify unfair promotions and other potential issues. AI with voice recognition can also recognize spoken phrases during a meeting and create detailed reports.
5. Equipment Control
Faulty machines and tools are one of the main reasons for personal injuries at the workplace. Thousands of people lose their lives or experience horrific injuries across multiple industries every year, and AI can help reduce those numbers. Again, IoT can help identify machines and production elements that are not working properly and propose the best solutions before a disaster happens.
6. Crime Detection and Prevention
Even if your production lines have active security cameras, you won't know if a crime took place until you review the recorded videos. Passive monitoring doesn't stop crime, but with AI-enabled cameras, you'll get alerts the moment something suspicious happens.
AI can quickly identify suspicious behavior and send alerts in real-time, allowing you to catch the criminal red-handed. You can create automatic triggers that will activate lights and sirens to scare the criminal away. Moreover, AI can also use audio-enabled cameras to identify sounds such as glass breaking, loud thuds, etc.
Workplace safety is and should be your primary concern at all times. However, traditional methods make it impossible to track every employee and production line in real-time. AI, IoT, and other available technologies can help you create a safe workplace, boost overall efficiency, and reduce downtimes by a large margin.
It can also help you monitor worker fatigue, detect potential hazards, and keep your workers safe at all times. Workplace safety is changing in front of our eyes, and soon AI solutions will be able to reduce injury rates to almost zero. It's simply a win-win situation for the management as well as the workforce.