Technology has always changed the world.
Motor travel and aero technology revolutionized the way we get from place to place. The internet changed how we gain information and communicate. Smartphones allowed us to keep in touch with friends and family around the world from the palms of our hands.
The same is true in the environmental health and safety (EHS) landscape: technological advances are helping to improve processes and procedures. Here’s how.
Emerging Technologies That Are Revolutionizing EHS
The connected world is a force for change no matter what the industry. EHS is no different; there is a multitude of growing and emerging technologies that are revolutionizing the world.
The Internet of Things
The connected world has simplified how information and data are collected, stored and shared. Thanks to the internet of things (IOT), connected devices and systems mean health and safety inspections or issues can now be logged remotely, with images and videos shared via secure portals between teams often in different time zones.
IOT-connected devices, equipment and machinery can streamline EHS environments by self-detecting and reporting defects, issues or maintenance requirements.
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can also be used to inspect accident sites or hazardous areas, providing live feeds and intelligence back to a central location quickly, without the need for human ground support.
Mobile applications are progressing at a rapid rate. As well as helping EHS professionals and business leaders to communicate more smoothly, apps can support safer environments.
There are dozens of apps for EHS professionals, including some created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) - such as their ladder safety app, which helps workers find the correct ladder angle using visual and audio signals.
There are also apps for those in contact with chemicals to understand symbols and signs, as well as first aid and CPR guidance apps for administering emergency help to stricken workers.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
It feels as though now really is the time that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will take off, and the EHS industry can benefit.
Perhaps it’s time for the eye-rolling and sighs of despair at the prospect of health and safety training to give way to excitement and engagement. Services like Mojo Apps can offer an intriguing and modern take on training, through virtual reality content that provides an immersive and interactive experience for staff.
Meanwhile, AR technology brings overlaps virtual content to a real-life setting. This may change the EHS world by allowing instruction manuals or safety warnings on machinery and equipment when used.
Wearables are not a new thing in the EHS landscape. For example, Geiger counters have been used for decades to help alert wearers to potential radiation exposure.
But technological advances are allowing for more seamless and rapid information sharing. Smartwatches can be used to send and receive communications, and can also help businesses track their staff - particularly useful in high risk or dangerous areas.
One example of a company providing wearable tech is RealWear, which offers hands-free wearables for the EHS industry. These can be worn on site and clipped onto PPE equipment such as helmets and hard hats. Crucially, this allows speed of data entry and collection during EHS jobs.
Can Technology Replace the Need for Humans in the EHS Landscape?
It’s suggested that technology has already replaced 90% of the jobs humans have ever done. So where do the technological advances above leave the EHS industry looking forward?
Certainly, in environments of high danger or extreme hazard, technology could be welcomed to reduce the risk of accidents. Increased connectivity can also improve communication between locations, allowing for easier sharing of data and information across different locations and geographies.
Of course, technological advances will always lead to concerns around the need for human input, but the technology usually can’t be used in isolation. The key is for EHS professionals and industries to move with the technology, embrace it, and put it into practice to improve health and safety.