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Is it time to trade safety manuals for newer technology?

Technology hasn’t always played a significant role in communicating workplace health and safety. 40 years ago businesses relied on distributing bland safety manuals and lengthy written procedures, which did little to engage the workforce. Early safety videos often featured slapstick style humour and failed to communicate the seriousness of safety. And “death by PowerPoint” was considered standard practice for safety training.
 
Thankfully digital technology and our approach to safety have come a long way since then, along with our ability to communicate and engage our workforce more effectively. 
 
The role of technology in safety training
 
Today, growing evidence supports the effectiveness of technology as a safety communication tool. According to EY it is “both a promoter and an enabler of positive WHS performance”.
 
From mobile devices like iPads and smart phones through to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), technology has the power to transform how we share safety messages, engage and educate our workforce and keep our people safe.
 
In recognising the impact that technology can have on safety communication, Coates Hire is increasingly bringing visual and interactive technologies into its OHS training. One example is our transport safety e-learning modules, which now incorporate interactive 3D imagery and make it easier for people to visualise and identify workplace hazards.
 
Adam Welch, Group Manager for Transport Logistics at Coates Hire believes innovative applications like VR and AR also present exciting opportunities for engaging safety training. “We haven’t invested in anything like this just yet, but we do keep a close eye on technologies that can add value to this vital area of our business.”
 
Digital technology brings safety communication to life for the construction industry, in a variety of ways:
 
Enhancing risk assessments 
VR, AR and 3D visualisation technologies can deliver powerful learning and communication opportunities:

  • Using these technologies businesses can safely embed employees in hazard assessment scenarios, and allow people to experience worksites from different perspectives.
  • New and existing workplaces can be recreated for training and risk familiarisation.
  • VR technology can safely expose people to working at height, in confined spaces and in other high risk environments where hazard assessment is vital. 
  • Communicating the dangers of a worksite well in advance allows early risk assessments to take place; adequate safety equipment to be provided; and the right safety procedures to be put in place.
 
Highly customisable: 
Digital technology can help businesses to understand the unique safety needs and communication preferences of employee groups and individuals, prioritising the areas of safety that relate to the jobs that they perform. E-learning technologies also allow safety comprehension to be monitored, flagging areas for concern.
 
Convenience and reach: 
Web-based training removes many of the restrictions of face-to-face training on time and place. It is also highly accessible; relatively low cost; allows more people to trained; and facilitates learning beyond traditional office environments.
 
Adaptive and interactive: 
Gaming technology is increasingly finding its way into safety. By engaging more of the senses and making training more fun and interactive, gaming technology improves our understanding and helps us to retain more of the information that we acquire. 
 
Connecting with a construction audience
 
Construction presents unique communication challenges around health and safety:
  • A clear understanding of safety requirements and processes is vital to workplace safety. Low literacy rates in Australia’s construction workforce therefore increases safety risk and presents a challenge for safety communication this industry
  • A lack of experience and reduced awareness and exposure to WHS risks and responsibilities can make young construction workers more susceptible to injury. 
  • Australia’s growing culturally and linguistically diverse construction workforce presents further barriers to traditional safety communication. 

 
Digital technologies are proving to be a valuable tool for reaching these and other important segments of the construction workforce. By taking the emphasis away from “written and verbal” and placing it on “experience”, technology can remove these barriers and help to deliver safety information in more interactive and engaging ways. 
 
Have you embraced technology for workplace safety communication? How is technology improving safety outcomes for your business? Please share your thoughts and feedback via LinkedIn.
 
 

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