Workplace health & safety programs are set to be transformed by artificial intelligence (AI) in the future as Microsoft moves to introduce unsafe systems and conditions identification in their Azure Stack. In the May 2017 Microsoft developer conference, the software maker previewed developing software that can track people, tools, and activities in real-time to prevent workplace accidents.
The software has been able to demonstrate the ability to monitor employees, their locations and their adherence to safe working procedures. Systems can be programmed with a range of protocols around workplace health and safety standards. When the system identifies a breach or non conformance, it can automatically alert a supervisor or colleague to the condition and/or initiate emergency response actions including calling rescue personnel, notifying police, ambulance services or fire services according the the emergency scenario.
it will impact the workplace health & safety profession says John Ninness of Safetysure.
Safetysure’s Principal Consultant, John Ninness said that he believed it was inevitable that AI will impact of workplace health & safety programs. “We know clearly that AI is already transforming a range of industries, it is clear that there will be impacts on the safety profession and how we do business.” Ninness added that “Effective identification of workplace hazards can take a lifetime of learning and experience…imagine being able to condense that into a piece of software that can objectively evaluate hazard conditions in real time.”
“We know that there is significant application of AI in security industries already. Theres no doubt it will influence the way safety is managed in workplaces.” Ninness said that he believed that industry hazard identification data sets would take time to create and test to ensure their effectiveness. “It may take a few years before workplace health & safety programs are run by AI, but it will impact the workplace health & safety profession.”
Hazard identification a unique human skill set
Hazard identification and risk assessment are currently unique human skill sets. Our ability to read, comprehend and synthesise complex hazard data is unmatched by software but, as industries progress to more automated workforces, it appears clear that artificial intelligence will be incorporated into our workplaces to increase our awareness of unsafe conditions. Business should never under estimate the human element and be aware that with progressive systems other risks may also evolve.
While systems may gain support by management in organisations, support for AI workplace health & programs is likely to be seen by worker representative organisations as intrusive, an invasion of privacy and micro managing. Key issues for Governments will be how to validate system effectiveness and what to do if the system fails to identify a hazard. It’s finding the balance and benefits in AI will likely be most important.