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New business reality: how to provide a safe working environment during and after the pandemic?

COVID-19 has been the hot topic for us all over the last few months, but now it looks like we are returning to something like the new reality. The whole world  is searching for ways to prepare for this. And of course, employers need help to enable their employees to return to work as safely as possible.

Nowadays not only healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others. People have to use PPE in such places and conditions as they could not even imagine before. Public places and transport, big corporations and banks, shopping malls and small stores, restaurants, gyms, barber shops, the police and military facilities - there is a short list of areas to use PPE at this time.

Super special rules? Not really. Wearing more PPE everyday? Makes sense!

WHO calls on industry and governments to increase manufacturing of PPE by 40% to meet rising global demand.

Safety is important to any business and different types of PPE are provided by employers across the world in many industries to protect employees from occupational health hazards. 

In the last US Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Personal Protective Equipment we can see that in most cases when workers were injured they were not using PPE. According to this statistics, 84% of workers with head injuries were not wearing hard hats, and 99% of workers who suffered facial injuries were not using face protection.  

 Many industries like manufacturing, construction, energy etc. are using machine learning models to engage their workforce and keep them safe. Organizations today are doing a lot to improve the safety performances in the workplace.  

Personal protective equipment: let's explore the theoretical base

PPE is equipment worn by a worker to minimize exposure to specific hazards. Examples of PPE include respirators, gloves, aprons, fall protection, and full body suits, as well as head, eye and foot protection. Using PPE is only one element in a complete hazard control program that uses a variety of strategies to maintain a safe and healthy environment. PPE does not reduce the hazard and does not guarantee total protection.

Hazards exist in every workplace so technologies to protect workers are important. The priority is to follow the hierarchy of control including elimination, substitution, or engineering control of hazards at their source or along the path between the source and the worker.  

Control has to be used:

  • At the source where the hazard “comes from”

  • Along the path, where the hazard “travels”

  • At the workplace.

The method to control a hazard at its source eliminates it from the workplace or isolates the worker from it. This approach may require replacement of a material with safety ones, isolation of hazards, ventilation, addition of safety features to existing equipment, redesign of the work processes, or purchase of new equipment. Administrative controls such as work practices, education/training are also ways to control hazards.

Employees from all industries should be protected

PPE helps to reduce or minimize the exposure or contact to injurious physical, chemical, ergonomic, or biological agents. Remember, a hazard is not gone when PPE is used, but the risk of injury will be reduced. For example, wearing hearing protection reduces the likelihood of hearing damage when the ear plugs or headphones are appropriate for the kind of noise exposure and when the PPE is used properly. However, using hearing protection does not eliminate the noise.

PPE should only be used:

  • as a temporary measure before controls are implemented;

  • where other controls are not available or adequate;

  • during activities such as maintenance, clean up, and repair where pre-contact controls are not feasible or effective;

  • during emergency situations.

The main elements that must be considered are:

  • protection of workers

  • compliance with applicable laws / regulations / standards / guidelines

  • compliance with internal company requirements

  • technical feasibility

 

A good comprehensive strategy considers the hazards, conducts a risk assessment, evaluates all possible control methods, integrates various approaches, and reexamines the controls frequently to make sure that the hazard continues to be controlled.

How does it concern machine learning? Machine learning for environment, health and safety

Now organizations and governments pay close attention to Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) issues, putting a lot of efforts into the improvement of the sustainability of health and safety performances in the workplace.

EHS is a set of processes, rules, standards, and regulations developed to protect the environment, company employees and society from any damage.

 

ML models are used in EHS for:

  • Beter data monitoring and efforts detection - such systems can alert if thresholds are exceeded or some anomaly is detected. This allows engineers, compliance managers or chemists to focus on problems rather than waste time on checking the areas which the ML -system indicates as non-problematic.

  • More effective predictive protection -  ML systems can provide recommendations and forecast any failures or accidents. It’s impossible to overestimate this opportunity in a risky environment. AI-based technology can improve emissions monitoring, water quality management, waste management, and incident management, enhancing efficiency, reducing costs and managing time and resources more efficiently.

 

The area of using ML to protect people is such industries as healthcare, sales, and marketing,agriculture, manufacturing, logistics, automotive etc.

Technological approaches to worker safety

AI and ML Computer Vision for Workplace Safety Solutions - how does it work?

  • Process and Production Safety –  If  the workplace has a CCTV system installed, computer vision algorithm will use the live feed from CCTV to detect abnormalities. Machine vision can control different or multiple devices, automating production processes. This increases efficiency and makes the workplace safer as it removes the need for people to be in dangerous areas.

  • Vision-Based Detection and Tracking – The deep learning-based object detection models use vision as the main sensor for the machine to work in real-time. Vision-based object detection and tracking use features like shape, color, motion etc. of the object for the detection purpose. 

For example, by using real-time video analysis and machine learning, such solutions can provide monitoring of employee safety gear. By tracking entry and exit to the working environment, the systems are able to assess the suitability of workers’ personal protective equipment (PPE). If an employee doesn’t comply with the requirements (forgets to put on headwear, glassware, and footwear), the system will signal and the access to the workplace will be denied till the person is properly equipped. So, it allows to avoid human errors and enhances higher employee safety in comparison with manual PPE checks.

The automation of PPE detection helps companies to reduce the risk of accidents to the employee, reduce employer liability, improve operational efficiency and provide analytics on the safety of the workplace.

Machine learning automation can collect and analyze data for the safety of the company employees or hospital staff. This allows them to focus on new strategic and innovative ways to improve workplace safety, instead of wasting time for monitoring work sites manually. AI and Machine Learning change our lives in many good ways. Using cloud software, companies and healthcare organizations will be able to reduce injury and incident rates by over 50%.

​​It's not just theory: you already can try PPE Detector and see it in action

Now the responsible employers understand the importance of a safety culture and have a vision  about what  it has to look like. It means that  employees have to be on high alert of their surroundings, evaluating risks for the task all the time and taking precautions appropriately. Algorithms can identify objects, edges, and velocity because of the advancements of Machine Vision. And it can do it faster and much more accurately than humans.

 VITech Lab Healthcare offers a Medical PPE detector that can check and verify if employees are wearing any required personal protective equipment (PPE) in real-time and helps to protect medical, and other institutions from spreading COVID-19. 

Automate PPE compliance control in your organization with ML-based PPE Detector

The application analyzes the video stream from surveillance cameras, verifies that employees are wearing any required protective equipment like masks/respirators, gloves, glasses, medical gown with 95% of accuracy, recognizes them, and reports to the controller. As well, the system  can control the body temperature of a person. In case it is higher than normal the Medical PPE detector will alarm the controlling person. Beside of it the detector can track keeping a safe distance in the company’s or healthcare organization’s building and territory.

The application not only controls the ones not ready to keep the rules, it also can track all contacts and persons in the risk group which significantly decrease cases of infected  staff of a clinic or a company. 

The Medical PPE detector can be used for controlling in healthcare or any company or institutions (including schools and universities, industry, government, military facilities, and laboratories) to improve safety in the workplace. 

Thank you for reading! 

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