Could Smartphones Make Workplaces Safer?

Could Smartphones Make Workplaces Safer?

Being hurt on the job is a risk many people take every day. Actual workplace injury is a nightmare for the person injured as well as for the employer. Often, a relatively small change in process or procedure can make a significant difference in preventing injury — and have the added benefit of increasing workplace productivity. Storing hazardous chemicals in a locked closet, for example, instead of out in the open significantly decreases the risk of accidental injury. However, figuring out which issue needs to change isn’t always that obvious. Let’s consider a factory worker who stands at a conveyer belt all day. There’s a daily production quota, which motivates him or her to move quickly. It’s not uncommon for a worker to struggle to keep up. What if minor modifications could be made to the set-up that would allow the worker to be more efficient rather than having to move at an unsafe pace?

It’s difficult to accurately calculate risk, however, especially when we’re talking about the hand and arm motions of a factory worker. It’s common knowledge that repetitive motion can cause problems in a person’s joints, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist, arm, or shoulder tendonitis. Relying on human observation alone leaves enough room for error to cast a significant shadow on any reasonable predictions. Besides, most people aren’t experts in ergonomics, nor are they likely to take the time to conduct a proper study of each employee’s nuances. However, the key to standardizing this process might already be in your pocket.

A team of professors and students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed computer vision algorithms that calculate the levels of activity of a person’s hands. The researchers can use a variety of videos to help them develop an entirely new way of measuring workplace risk. The footage helps them train computers to recognize patterns of hand movement required to perform common motions. This, combined with the algorithms, creates an objective basis for risk measurement that not only makes for more accurate risk predictions, but could allow businesses of all sizes to produce their own assessments to customize the operation. Using ergonomics to reduce costs would no longer be limited to big corporations.

If a computer can do something, a smartphone app is sure to follow. After all, smartphones are pocket computers with cameras. Manufacturing employers could potentially assess employee injury risk by taking a video on their phone, and the app would measure motion and quantify it. Having access to this kind of precise measurement could be a cost-effective way to prevent workplace injury and could open doors to more ways for improving workplace efficiency. By breaking tasks down into components, it may be possible to “engineer out hazards before individuals are even involved.”

Going to work should not be a dangerous experience. If you are trying to put your life back together after a work-related injury, if you have lost a loved one in a fatal workplace accident, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. To review your circumstances and discuss available legal options, call us at (478) 742-3381 or fill out our online form. In addition to cases in Macon, we are prepared to handle claims on behalf of clients in Dublin, Warner Robins, Milledgeville and other Georgia communities. We would like to meet with you to talk about your case, and we are proud to offer free initial consultations.