Technology and Safety Within Manufacturing

Technology and Safety Within Manufacturing

Technology and Safety Within Manufacturing and Heavy Industry


Safety within the the heavy industry and manufacturing sector is something that must be taken seriously, risks managed and problems solved quickly and effectively. Technology is now playing a bigger role in this than ever, and in the last year or two, we’ve seen the rise of AI as something that could play an increasing part in how everything is managed.

We’ve got some experts to give us their opinions on technology, safety, and AI in the sector. Here are their thoughts.

What are the main types of accidents associated with manufacturing facilities?

“Slips, trips, and falls, electrical exposure, falling objects, stress injuries, chemical burns or reactions, overexertion, unsafe lifting, fatigue or dehydration, machine-related injuries, and vehicle accidents.

Many of these hazards often result in production disruption, extended periods off, illness, serious long-term injuries, or even death for employees.

With that in mind, it’s crucial to understand some of the most common safety hazards that exist in manufacturing plants so that you can take steps to prevent them from occurring.” Dakota Murphey writing for SHPonline.

What improvements can introducing technology make in the manufacturing and heavy industry sectors?

“Safety is critical in manufacturing facilities: it protects workers from harm, ensures compliance with legal regulations, lowers costs, safeguards equipment and products, and builds trust with employees.

Technological innovations - such as wearable technology, drones and robots, safety apps, and virtual reality - play a significant role in improving facility safety. By leveraging them, manufacturing facilities reduce the risk of human error and improve overall efficiency and quality. However, technology is not a panacea and should be used in conjunction with other quality control measures and best practices” Bryan Christiansen writing for The Safety Mag.

How has technology like AI improved safety in heavy industry?

Some processes are naturally more unsafe than others, and the best way to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries is to remove the human element and refocus on how to execute these operations better. Enter automation and robotics.

“Technology has assisted certain machines in their ability to run independently of human interaction, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) that is programmable by engineers or purpose-built robots that operate these dangerous practices themselves,” said Cilliers.

“A survey conducted by Guidance Automation found that 73% of businesses in manufacturing believed that automation is one of the key factors to the progression of the industry. This isn’t solely isolated to health and safety, but for the wider streamlining of processes to make things more efficient.” Johann Cilliers Group Marketing Director at Welding Alloys speaking to Manufacturing Digital.

Could you give a couple of examples as to how your members are striving to make their workplaces injury-free?

“Our members engage in several strategies to mitigate workplace injuries. Our members are committed to ensuring their employees receive or have OSHA 10 certifications, providing them with baseline health and safety tools to avoid the most common workplace injuries. Automation has also become more prevalent as technology has improved. This includes automated palletizers, and overhead lifts the employee can use to take filled boxes off the line. In the past, the employee would be expected to move these boxes from line to pallet. There is a greater recognition that over time, these repetitive tasks can cause injuries to these folks.” Peter Ahrens, Executive Director, Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance

How have safety practices become more interwoven with technology in the last 5 years?

“There are many practices that have become more interwoven with technology. For example, technology like QR codes and personal electronic devices have dramatically changed the way teams can collect and interpret data. AI technology is now being used to identify trends within safety programs to determine efficient mitigation techniques that save lives and money. AI is also used in collaborative robotics for active safety to help robots reason and determine if what they are grabbing is the product and not a worker’s hand. These are examples of how technology has advanced safety, but safety is interwoven in these technologies as well.

Many applications have been advanced due to safety. Contactless menus at restaurants became useful during COVID. Now, many restaurants only have these forms of menus which have helped to prevent routes of exposure to communicable diseases. In manufacturing, safety initiatives have led to technologies like RFID chips and other wearables which will shut down equipment when a worker walks into a particular danger spot.” Bill Pollock PE General Manager and Jonathan Shaffer CSP, optimation.us

What are some of the safety issues experienced by workers in your industry?

“Like most shipping warehouses, forklift traffic is always of the highest concern. California Air Tools has 3 shipping warehouses that tend to get very busy during the week. We have taken numerous steps to ensure employee safety including periodic training, forklift review mirrors, improved lighting, aisle corner mirrors throughout all warehouses and clearly marked personnel safety work zones. We are happy to say it has been over 3 years without having an incident.” Roderick Eslinger, Director of Sales & Marketing, California Air Tools

What safety considerations are needed when dealing with machinery like yours - and does technology play any part in it?

“Safety is our number one priority so we do everything we possibly can to keep top of it to protect our customers and employees. First, all equipment manufacturers are great at providing equipment with the necessary safety components to keep the operators safe. Technology like rollover protection, backup cameras, and swing collision technology on certain models have made our equipment very safe. In addition, we have installed remote shut-off devices to shut down the machines should there be any immediate safety issues.

Dig This also works closely with OSHA to ensure all safety practices are up to date. We are now a SCATS-certified business where we are recognized as a role model for safety. Dig This has been injury-free to both customers and employees since the business opened in 2007.” Ed Mumm, Owner, Dig This Las Vegas, LLC

The integration of technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), into the heavy industry and manufacturing sector represents a pivotal advancement in ensuring safety and efficiency. It complements existing safety measures and best practices, empowering manufacturing facilities to mitigate risks, safeguard employees, and uphold regulatory compliance.

As a result, the sector is poised for greater productivity, improved safety records, and heightened operational efficiency, marking a crucial step forward in the pursuit of safer workplaces and more resilient manufacturing processes. Embracing these technological advancements with a commitment to continuous improvement will be the cornerstone of progress in the years to come.