Safety Innovations in the Workplace
Safety has always been an important aspect in the workplace. However, over the last 10 to 15 years, the focus on safety has drastically increased in importance, bringing about impressive health and safety technology innovations. These safety innovations in the workplace are pivotal in prioritising worker wellbeing to ensure that risks to workers is minimised and they can get home safely every day.
Technology’s Impact on the Workforce
Some examples of technology’s impact on the workforce are:
- Use of drones by Building Inspectors/Property Developers/Site Project Managers which can be used to minimize the risk of falls whilst still providing access to the work area to provide accurate assessments.
- Remotely Controlled and Automated Mining Trucks/Systems in the mining industry which has minimized the risk of musculoskeletal injuries of drivers of the machinery, as well as minimizing overheads as multiple trucks can be monitored and maintained by one individual from the office.
- Programmable machinery with internal safety measures, with woodworking machinery used for the cutting of MDF board. This machinery has the capacity to cut pieces of board perfectly and within minimal risk to the operators. They also have internal safety measures which highlight when oil levels are low, when calibration is required, when inputs from the operator don’t match up, and when the equipment is in need of servicing.
- Accident prevention technology within certain Panel Saws which will retract the blade into the machine when it encounters moisture.
- Introduction of Apps and Receivers for lone workers to maintain which will alert management or the nearest staff member of when they either don’t respond to the app, or when they become horizontal for one reason or another.
- The use of IT and Virtual Meeting rooms for millions of people around the world to remain in contact with staff and continue to run their businesses whilst working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These safety innovations have changed the way that businesses operate and has improved the safety of those within their relative industry. These are only a few examples of what innovation can look like across varying industries which just goes to show innovation can be shown in many different ways.
Why Consider Innovation in Your Business?
The importance that innovation has on any business can be broken down to three key aspects.
It allows adaptability:
Innovation is often necessary for companies to adapt and overcome the challenges of change. A perfect example of this is the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had. The pandemic had rendered routine tasks obsolete over the course of a few months, and some businesses were not able to adapt to a new world and have stuck with the status quo, essentially leaving them behind.
It fosters growth:
If a business is not open to and actively trying to achieve organizational and economic growth this can lead to stagnation which can end up being extremely detrimental. Innovation has the capability to foster this growth and is key to keeping up with, or even one-step ahead of the competition in a highly competitive market.
It separates businesses from their competition:
Most industries are populated with multiple competitors offering similar products or services. Innovation can distinguish your business from others.
Phases of Innovation
Now that we have identified some recent examples of innovation in the last few years that have had a significant impact on their relevant industry, and we have also addressed the importance of businesses continuously considering safety innovation. What can now highlight how businesses can identify areas where innovation is required. When considering innovation there is four phases: Clarify, Ideate, Develop, Implement.
The first phase of innovation, clarify, is to clarify the problem. The best way for businesses to do this is by conducting research and engaging with their target audience, or staff. Conducting this research and engagement will help to identify the key pain points they are experiencing and clarify the problem in a way that allows for it to be addressed.
The second phase, ideate, is creating ideas that have the potential to solve the identified problem. It is important to remember this phase is designed to challenge assumptions and overcome biases in an effect to produce innovative ideas.
The third phase, develop, requires exploring the solutions that came out of the ideation phase. This phase emphasizes the need to create prototypes to answer the questions raised and identify their practicality and effectiveness.
The final phase, implement, requires communication of the developed ideas and encouraging buy-in from all levels.
To find evidence of recent safety innovations in Queensland alone go no further than the Annual Queensland Safe Work and Return to Work Awards. All persons/businesses nominated for awards have used innovation to better their workplaces and create safer environments, whilst also leading from the front and separating themselves from their competitions. Some notable mentions from the nominees and winners however are:
Simon Kirkpatrick from Brisbane Motorway Services:
Introduced a ‘creativity time’ where everyone was encouraged to brainstorm safety innovations that can be implemented within 12 months.
This led to the development of Project Aardvark. Project Aardvark is an autonomous recovery device for vehicles which have been left abandoned or broken down on the side of the freeway/motorway.
Mark Smith from SET Maritime & Electrical:
Designed and developed a compact ‘Plug and Play’ shore connection system called ESHORE. Mark identified that shore connections were not compliant with the Australian Standards. If non-compliant, shore connections are a serious electrical hazard which can cause electrocution. This innovation process took 4 years, from identification, to design and development, to the successful implementation of the solution.
Black Hops Brewing Pty Ltd:
On top of standard implementation of safety processes and training of staff in the policies and procedures required to effectively complete their work, they have also implemented a Safety Culture Survey that is completed 6 monthly to gauge the workplaces perception of safety and what needs to be improved.
JBS Australia (Northern Division):
Developed and implemented a double deck livestock trailer fitted with a pneumatically operated handrail system, like other operation systems on tanker trailers.
Introduced a traffic light system, among other COVID-19 Risk Management Protocols. This Traffic Light System had been implemented to provide staff with the earliest communication and clarification of intentions – Green (New normal, Yellow (localized cluster or outbreak), Amber (impacts on Sunwater people and services)
Swickers Kingaroy Bacon Factory:
To manage the risk of COVID-19, a number of risk management tools were used, including:
- Introducing snoods and face masks so all staff could perform their roles while being on the production line
- Redesigning the employee access point to include a fob entry system (a short-range key that sends signals to a reader within short distances) to record the physical movement of individuals
- Employing dedicated COVID-19 temperature checkers to welcome employees on a gradual return to work plan
- Securing vaccinations for Swickers staff
- Developing a COVID-19 Reactive and Preventative Action plan, ensuring they were protecting their livelihood as a business and upholding legislative requirements of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Enhancing deep cleaning with the hygiene team and a dedicated hygiene manager
- Communication via toolbox talks to all employees, contractors, and visitors
- Monthly safety meetings to ensure COVID-19 protocols were being adhered to and any concerns raised by workers were addressed.
Innovation can look different across a variety of businesses, from the size to the industry (as evident from those nominated in the recent Safe Work Awards). Health and safety technology innovations should always start with identifying the issue, or clarifying, as Mark Smith did when he identified a compliance issue regarding shore connections, or when Simon Kirkpatrick introduced creativity time to brainstorm safety innovations. Despite being in two different industries, and having drastically different business size, both businesses had the ability for innovation to provide a solution to address their identified concerns. From there, businesses have the capability to address these issues in a way that is both practical, and effective.
How Can Bramwell Partners Assist with Innovation?
Bramwell Partners are your Safety, Quality and Human Resources Experts that are here to assist you to identify opportunities for safety innovations in the workplace. As we work with businesses across a variety of industries, we witness innovation in practice and are able to provide guidance on the opportunities available.
The GAP Analysis that we conduct at the beginning of the client engagement can help to identify the present concerns and begin the process to help your business grow and provide innovation opportunities to lead from the front.
To get in touch with a talented HR business consultant or WHS consultant to see how we can help inspire innovation in your business, contact us at email@example.com or call our office on 3630 5695.