Traditionally, Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) has been seen as a reactive exercise due to meeting legislation/standards rather than a proactive business approach. This is mainly because business owners determined that it’s something that they have to do, rather than something that they want to do.
As a result, the development and investment of WHS technology have been slower than in certain other areas of business. However, as technological advancements continue to accelerate as Web 4.0 knocks on our doorstep, technological capabilities continuously increase leading to a decrease in cost and accessibility.
As a result, WHS technologies are likely to enter the work environment in greater numbers and in a wider variety of roles. Here are 5 WHS trends occurring, emerging and predicted.
5 technology trends driving the future of WHS technology
Trend #1: Smart wearables/PPE
When we think about technology in WHS we generally think about computers, tablets and phones. However, over the last few years, there has been significant growth in the wearable technology market. The global wearables market is projected to exceed US$ 2.78bn by 2024, expanding at a CAGR of 9.2%.
In WHS, wearables and Smart PPE vary depending on the type of work and environment – but they could include watches, smart glasses, hard hat sensors, protective glasses, monitoring devices, IoT devices and much more.
The goal of wearable technology is to mitigate and reduce risk/injuries before they can occur. Some wearables can already analyse and utilise data to measure and monitor trends such as posture, heat, risk, etc and use this for future risk mitigation. In the future, wearables should be able to predict when an event will occur by analysing factors such as heart rate, fatigue, etc. and alert a site manager so they can stop the person or task before it occurs.
Trend #2: Mental/Emotional well-being
Traditionally, WHS has focused on physical injuries and illnesses rather than mental/psychological injuries.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health claims have skyrocketed, with some providers seeing a rise of over 35% in mental health claims in 2021. More than 55% of employees who go on leave because of psychological injuries are still away from their jobs after six months, compared with just 23% with physical injuries.
More than ever before businesses are investing in employee mental health and wellbeing. Management systems and employee monitoring technology are currently being developed to help manage the massive requirement for employee wellbeing.
Trend #3: Integrated Management Systems
WHS management software has been around for a long time, but there are now more providers than ever. According to Capterra, over 460 HSEQ (EHS) solutions are available to the market. This is a great thing for everyday consumers as competition leads to innovation, affordability and new solutions on the market.
Now that these solutions are readily available to businesses of all sizes, we are seeing their WHS management migrate from pen and paper, spreadsheets and non-integrated stand-alone systems to a complete integrated single source of truth.
Integrated WHS management systems are playing a significant part in providing businesses with a single source of information for the management of risks, contractors, inductions, incidents and more, that your employees/contractors face on a day to day.
Often, businesses are reduced to utilising non-WHS development management software such as spreadsheets or standalone systems implemented by the business.
Trend #4: Smarter data (Business Intelligence/Predictive Analytics/A.I)
We’ve all heard the expression that ‘Data is the new Oil in the digital world’. The investment into intelligent integrated management systems unlocks the ability to create, measure and analyse data for better decision-making. Good data beats opinion.
However, with advancements in Business Intelligence, Predictive Analytics and future forecasted Artificial Intelligence, WHS data can be taken to a step beyond being used simply for compliance and can become a business’s competitive advantage.
It is predicted that data in collaboration with Artificial Intelligence and predictive analytics will be able to predict an incident or unwanted event before it occurs, and will allow the management team to interfere before it happens.
Trend #5: Virtual training and onboarding
Virtual training and onboarding is the use of Virtual and Augmented Reality technology to create digital experiences for training or onboarding in high-risk and high-pressure environments.
For example, the ability to present an employee in a high-risk/pressure environment, such as working at heights or in a mine site before they have the ability to impact the environment around them can subsequently mitigate risk.
While some businesses are already investing in virtual training by using Virtual Reality and/or Augmented Reality, the technology is still not overly affordable for all businesses.
Virtual training is predicted to be one of the biggest shifts in recruitment and onboarding for high-risk/pressure environments. The virtual training and simulation market is projected to reach $628.62m by 2028, growing at a CAGR of over 13%.