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Revolutionizing Workplace Safety: Unveiling the Top Trends of 2024
Discover the latest advancements in technology and targeted safety initiatives that are revolutionizing occupational safety in 2024.
In the dynamic landscape of 2024, prioritizing awareness of workplace safety trends is absolutely essential for safety professionals. As we navigate the ever-evolving work environment, understanding and implementing the latest safety protocols is not just a choice – it's a non-negotiable responsibility.
Let's dive into the top workplace safety trends - from new technologies to an emphasis on worker total health - and why each is crucial in 2024 to guarantee a secure and thriving workplace for all.
Trend 1: New Technologies
Often the flashiest and most talked about aspect of new safety trends is new technologies that are emerging. In the space of ergonomics and safety, several new innovations have risen in prominence and could be due for major breakthroughs in 2024.
The effectiveness of exoskeletons has continually improved over the past five years. As the proliferation of this technology continues to spread across the industrial sector, a possible tipping point could be reached in 2024. While exoskeletons are not a full safety solution in and of themselves, their integration with enhanced safety standards and technologies is an exciting evolution in injury prevention and safety.
- Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders: The prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) has largely focused on reducing biomechanical strain for employees or reducing the frequency of interactions with heavy or repetitive loads. The introduction of exoskeletons to the workforce can contribute to improved ergonomics, with load reduction targeting specific areas of the body most likely to be affected by job tasks.
- Reduced Risk of Injury and Improved Wellness: Reduced strain and improved physical relief from exoskeletons can increase wellness and job satisfaction for employees currently using them. With the potential for further mechanical assistance and technological improvements with exoskeletons, they should be watched going into 2024.
- Compliance: Exoskeletons are not an inexpensive endeavor, so ensure that the use of the exoskeleton complies with workplace safety regulations and standards. Non-compliance could lead to legal and/or safety issues.
- Maintenance: There is some maintenance required to ensure an exoskeleton is working effectively. It’s important to regularly check and maintain the equipment according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Faulty components could compromise safety.
Artificial Intelligence: Sensors and Video Analysis
Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gained widespread attention across various industries in the past year, it has long been a fixture in the realm of occupational health and safety with robots and cobots being commonplace. Now, propelled by technological advancements and heightened emphasis on safety, AI's potential for groundbreaking innovations positions it as a leading trend in 2024.
- Productivity Increases: Using insights gathered from video capture and data analysis, opportunities for increased productivity can be easily identified. Reducing cases of improper handling and identifying specific areas of improvement on a one-on-one basis set the stage for incredibly fast feedback loops.
- Dataset Collection: Due to the nature of sensors and video analysis, gathered information can be spread across multiple generations of employees. A robust dataset can be extrapolated and improved over years to identify potential injuries faster and provide even better solutions.
- Analysis: Companies can end up with heaps of useless data if they do not have a team prepared to analyze and implement their findings
- Emerging Technology: As the field of Artificial Intelligence is in a time of massive growth it can be difficult to invest heavily in the right area. Work with a company and program that has established itself with proven results.
Large hirers have been all over slip/trip simulators towards the end of 2023, landing it as one of our top trends across the board in 2024. Slip/Trip simulators saw a large introduction just before 2020 but were shelved by many in place of a need to focus on COVID protocols. Now with an opportunity to refocus away from COVID protocols, these simulators are making a resurgence in 2024 having already shown to be incredibly effective in reducing cases of slips, trips, and falls in the workplace.
- Prepared Employees: Employees who have experienced and are prepared for what to do if a slip, trip, or fall occurs are more likely to suffer less severe injuries.
- One-Time Investment: These machines require a one-time investment and can easily pay off through injury prevention and training costs.
- Space Requirements: These large simulators require a full room and depending on your company set-up may not be an option.
- Overconfidence: Employees may feel overconfident after training and be more lax around potential hazards. Make sure to reinforce proper fall protection measures.
When considering new technologies, it is important to examine both specificity of use cases and effectiveness in action. New technologies that target extremely niche areas, while exciting and potential jumping off points for other innovations, can take much longer to accelerate to the mainstream and find their footing.
Trend 2: Improving Situational Awareness
An often-overlooked skillset in the modern workplace, constant situational awareness emerges as a pivotal safety trend in 2024. Achieving this awareness becomes challenging due to the constant distractions prevalent in modern life. The overstimulation present in many aspects of life can lead to deficits when singular focus is needed, underscoring the urgency of prioritizing situational awareness. Understanding and identifying potential distractions in the workplace, while actively working to address them, is another crucial step on the path to creating a safer work environment—a proactive approach that aligns seamlessly with the evolving safety trends of 2024.
Introducing initiatives to increase situational awareness can be difficult, as identifying concrete testing methods can be very abstract. Rather than setting metrics or goals, start with action first. In areas where singular tasks can be the cause of injury when losing focus, remove distractions and double check safety measures. Prevention combined with increased focuses on situational awareness can jumpstart a decrease in injuries.
Remember the three core points of situational awareness:
- You observe what is happening around you and take in all the elements of your environment.
- You comprehend the situation you are experiencing.
- You anticipate what is likely to occur next based on what you understand to be happening now.
Stress, distractions, rushing through tasks, and mental fatigue can all be contributors to a reduction in situational awareness, so be sure to address these during trainings.
Trend 3: Reduced Cell Phone Usage
In 2022, although the philosophy had existed for decades, Total Worker Health (TWH) emerged as a prominent safety trend, placing the concept of holistic worker well-being at the forefront of many safety initiatives. In the context of TWH, addressing and mitigating the increasing prevalence of excessive cell phone usage emerges as a strategic imperative in 2024.
Research by Daniyal, Javaid, Hassan, and Khan (IJERPH 2022) underscores the profound impact of nighttime cell phone use on sleep quality, leading to physical and mental fatigue along with disrupting lifestyle factors such as dietary habits and daily routines. Implementing initiatives to reduce overall screen time aligns seamlessly with the TWH approach to become a top safety trend in 2024.
Encouraging a balanced relationship with technology not only supports mental health but also promotes healthier lifestyle habits. By prioritizing reduced cell phone usage, organizations embrace a Total Worker Health philosophy, fostering a work environment that not only protects employees from traditional occupational hazards but actively contributes to their overall well-being.
Trend 4: Mental Health Awareness
In 2024, mental health takes center stage as a top safety trend, transcending mere discussion to become a pivotal focus for workplace well-being.
Beyond acknowledging the prevalence of mental health issues, the emphasis shifts towards creating and sustaining a work environment conducive to flourishing mental well-being. It is imperative that awareness transforms into actionable policies, effectively implemented to address the evolving landscape of mental health care.
According to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, workplaces have made strides in improving mental health initiatives with 77% of workers indicated they are satisfied with the support for mental health and well-being they receive from their employers. However, improvements are still needed with 55% of respondents indicated their employer thinks their workplace environment is a lot mentally healthier than it actually is and 43% worrying that if they told their employer about a mental health condition, it would have a negative impact on them in the workplace.
Recognizing the intricate connection between mental health and overall wellness, a workplace that prioritizes a healthy work-life balance and demonstrates a commitment to adaptability can significantly enhance employee well-being. As we collectively enter 2024, mental health must no longer be relegated to the sidelines—it demands primary attention and proactive initiatives.
Starting 2024 Off Right
The impending arrival of the New Year offers a prime opportunity to reflect on the trajectory of your organization. As you finalize ongoing projects and strategize for the upcoming four quarters, it's not just about tying up loose ends – it's about setting the tone for a safer future.
Take a closer look at your company's approach to safety and consider ways to enhance your existing injury prevention model. Assess whether there are avenues to improve the overall quality of life and work experience for your team. Taking a proactive stance by learning more about these trends allows you to make informed decisions, positioning your workplace on the cutting edge of worker safety and health.
As we head into 2024, it's important to kickstart this planning with a clear goal, making sure your organization begins the year well-prepared for what's coming. By doing this, you set your workplace on the right path for the new year, ready to face whatever comes your way.