Enterprises in the construction, engineering and manufacturing spaces allocated significant resources toward Environmental Health and Safety programs in 2019. This activity will carry over into the new year, as EHS directors in those industries say they’ll be increasing their budgets for fiscal 2020, according to survey data from Verdantix. Where are leaders planning to invest the majority of these new funds? Safety technology.
Here are five of the most significant developments affecting technology-based EHS improvement initiatives in 2020.
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1. Mobile Growth
An estimated 77 percent of Americans now own smartphones, according to analysts at the Pew Research Center. Organizations maintain bring-your-own-device policies and manage robust backend platforms that support data-driven, on-the-go workflows.
In 2020, EHS professionals will focus both on utilizing mobile tools for their tasks and overseeing the safety of employees who use mobile devices on the job. Expect workplace safety tools such as mobile inspection and incident applications to become more prevalent; and an increase in technological controls that turn off mobile devices when workers are completing key tasks.
EHS managers will have to provide and enforce appropriate procedures for the use of mobile technology that keep workers safe AND allow for greater efficiency from mobile apps in operations.
2. Wearable safety technology and smart PPE
With the increasing popularity of devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, safety leaders are beginning to turn to wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve workplace health and safety.
Sensors that monitor, collect, and record biometric, location, and movement data in real time are increasingly being integrated into "smart" personal protective equipment (PPE) and work site clothing.
The wearable devices on the market today can collect data such as a user's heart rate, calories burned, steps walked, and blood pressure. However, more advanced safety wearables are currently being developed to monitor the user's blood alcohol content, blood oxygen levels, sweat levels, vital signs, as well as changes in environmental conditions. There is also clear potential for wearable safety technology to help monitor workers' fatigue and alertness.
According to Verdantix's 2018 global EHS survey, 22% of EHS professionals expect to use vital signs monitoring wearables monitoring vital signs across their operations in 2020. 43% plan to use location tracking wearables, while and 44% anticipate using wearable sensors to track environmental conditions. In 2020, organizations at the forefront of safety technology will continue to research and adopt wearable safety devices.
3. Revised OSHA recordkeeping rules
OSHA announced an amended workplace injury reporting rule in May 2016. The regulation required businesses functioning in high-risk industries or employing 250 or more workers to submit injury data electronically to OSHA on an annual basis via the agency's Injury Tracking Application.
In 2020, organizations are required to submit their 2019 OSHA Form 300A data by March 2.
OSHA's electronic recordkeeping rulemaking initially required certain organizations to submit additional data annually from Forms 300 and 301. However, on July 30, 2018, OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which rescinded the agency's previous requirement for establishments to electronically submit Forms 300 and 301.
The agency published a final rule in June 2019 to officially confirm that organizations only need to submit 300A form data electronically.
Employers should be prepared to submit their 300A data by the March 2 deadline.
4. Autonomous vehicles
While fully self-driving vehicles are still a subject of research and development, autonomous vehicle (AV) technology will continue to develop at a rapid pace in 2020.
Autonomous vehicles, or "self-driving" cars, are designed with sensors and software to follow road contours; avoid other vehicles, objects, bikers and pedestrians; adjust to unsafe weather conditions; and even anticipate dangers from situations that are developing on the road ahead.
Transportation safety professionals predict that large scale AV deployment will significantly lower vehicle accident rates and fatalities. AVs could be one of the keys to preventing incidents caused by distracted driving, and their use for long distance trips also has the potential to greatly reduce fuel and labor costs.
However, before AVs can be deployed by organizations on a large scale, federal and state regulations governing the use of AV technology will need to be established further.
While congressional legislation regarding AV technology has stagnated recently, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) are continuing to lead the way in setting federal policy.
For example, in October 2018, the DOT released the third iteration of its voluntary policies and guidance for automated vehicles. In this guidance, the DOT stated its intention to modernize or eliminate outdated regulations that will unnecessarily impede the development of automated vehicles or that fail to address the critical safety needs of these vehicles.
As part of this process, proposed rulemaking will be initiated to identify regulatory gaps in the areas of inspection, repair, and maintenance for autonomous driving systems. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), will also be streamlining procedures and updating regulations to fill gaps and accommodate new connected and automated-vehicle technologies. Additionally, the DOT will begin to develop requirements on how or whether commercial driver license qualifications should apply to computerized driving systems.
In 2019, stakeholders in the transportation industry including safety professionals, fleet and supply chain managers, and drivers of commercial vehicles should plan on engaging with the DOT and lawmakers as they work to build the national regulatory framework for the integration of AV technology.
Stakeholders should look out for new proposed rulemaking in 2020 and should take advantage of all opportunities for public comment.
5. Adoption of ISO 45001
ISO 45001, the first global occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system standard, was published in March of 2018 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO 45001 replaces the widely implemented British standard BS OHSAS 18001, which is utilized by many organizations that seek an international and uniform approach to health and safety.
Organizations that comply with OHSAS 18001 will have three years to migrate to ISO 45001. By 2021, the OHSAS 18001 standard will be officially retired. To prepare, organizations should familiarize themselves with the requirements of ISO 45001, and how they differ from OHSAS 18001 in 2020.
For those with existing safety management systems in place other than OHSAS 18001, there are still clear benefits to adopting ISO 45001. Through ISO 45001's involvement of top leadership and frontline employees, its effective processes for identifying hazards, and its emphasis on continual improvement, the standard can help organizations of any size to meet its safety goals.
“OSH professionals need to understand the business impact of the integration of this standard on commercial excellence,” says Kathy Seabrook, CSP, CFIOSH, EurOSHM and vice chair of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on ISO 45001. “It is a competitive advantage, and organizations who understand how to leverage it will outperform their competitors.”
Given that this new management systems standard is poised to become part of the business norm, regardless of whether organizations choose to adopt it or not, it’s important for companies to stay informed of the latest developments.
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