Technological advancements have had a dramatic impact on our everyday lives and the pace of technology-driven change is accelerating. While a ship repair facility or marine cargo handling operation may not seem to be a likely place to find cutting-edge technology, there are several companies and products that are hoping to change that.
Here are some ways that maritime facilities can expect technology to change the way safety programs are implemented in the near future (note: specific companies or products are mentioned as examples only and should not be considered endorsements).
- Clean up the filing cabinet: Administrative software In the most basic sense, using software to manage a safety program’s administrative load is nothing new. From Excel spreadsheets to a rabbit hole of saved files, companies have been storing safety documents electronically for years. Now, there are companies developing software specifically to host, track, and analyze safety program administrative processes. These processes may include:
- Audit/inspection development, completion and tracking
- Job Safety Analysis or Job Hazard Analysis recording
- Near Miss and incident investigation and documentation
- Training documentation and tracking
Many of the programs being developed are either completely mobile platform-based or can be linked between a central computer system and remote mobile devices. Mobile accessibility allows users (supervisors primarily, but also employees) to enter observations, checklists, and so on in real time and attach photos using their device’s camera.
If a company is considering adopting one of these programs, it is important that they articulate their desired outcome to meet their specific needs. Some considerations are:
- What safety program elements MUST be included? Are there any connections that need to be made? (For example, some programs will allow users to link a JSA/JHA to the relevant employees’ training records as well as any near misses or incidents associated with that specific task.)
- How many users will be on the system? Will all employees be given some access, or just supervisors?
- How technologically savvy are the users? Will they need a lot of guidance and tech assistance?
How much capital is the company willing to invest? (One way to counter the argument of “these programs are too expensive” is to total the man hours used in your current administrative tasks and determine a goal of how much time can be gained by using a more efficient system. Additionally, with better analytics, your company may be able to better focus their efforts on addressing hazards that are resulting in injuries and property damage.)
Once you know the answers to these questions, you will be better prepared to weed through the many programs available on the market today. If you would like help articulating your company’s specific needs, your AEU loss control manager can help walk you through that process.
There are a whole host of “apps” for mobile devices as well as stand-alone devices that can support or improve your company’s safety practices. While many of these products may be software-based, they are unique enough to not fall under the administrative category.
One such “app” is called Decibel X PRO. As a loss control manager visiting many different maritime facilities, I use this app on almost every site visit to get a sense of what the background noise levels are. If there is a high noise area, I allow it to run to get an idea of what a worker’s time-weighted average may be. This product may not be the final word on the development of a hearing conservation program, but it can give a very good indication that a calibrated testing may be necessary.
Regarding calibrated testing, there are now many national or local industrial hygiene labs that will loan or rent calibrated devices for all sorts of occupational health testing. These programs are a great way for companies to gain access to state of the art, calibrated testing methods without the expense of acquiring and maintaining the sampling devices.
Several companies are utilizing common RFID technology in new safety products. For example, pedestrians may be assigned an RFID tag that will register on a sensing device mounted on large yard equipment. This will notify the operator that there is a pedestrian in the vicinity, even if the pedestrian is not in the operator’s line of sight.
If you are having trouble managing traffic flow, yard organization, or just visualizing the broad layout of a sprawling facility, you may want to consider using a drone to capture images or video from above. This is best done when the facility is not operating – or at least when there is no crane or other overhead activity – but the bird’s eye view can be very helpful in addressing these concerns. There are many professional services that can help with this; simply type “drone surveying services” in your search engine to find services near you.
We may not think of improved materials and devices as “technology”, but they are, and these products are dramatically changing the safety landscape. Large companies such as 3M, Honeywell, and MSA are continuously investing in research to make personal protective equipment (PPE) more effective, comfortable and convenient to use. There are also many smaller companies developing innovative versions of traditional PPE including eye protection, work gloves, fire resistant clothing, and foot protection. Industry events like the National Safety Council Expo are great opportunities to see new products.
If you are thinking of investing in updated PPE, it is always a good idea to contact your distributer or the manufacturer to request a sample to test before purchasing for your entire workforce.
There are many new and exciting technologies that are impacting the safety processes in industry today. To stay abreast of the latest innovations, it is a good idea to attend industry events like the AEU National and Regional Forums, network with others in your industry, and be vocal about your safety concerns and solutions. We are all working towards the same goal of keeping our workers safe while completing our operations and embracing new ideas and products can get us closer to that goal.