Maintaining safety in warehouses and factories always has to be a priority. First and foremost, company leaders have an ethical duty to protect workers operating in potentially hazardous conditions. This is particularly vital given that accidents in warehouses seem to be on the rise, with currently around 3.3 workers per 100 experiencing serious injuries. Accidents affect productivity, profitability, and company reputation.
This means factory and warehousing businesses must keep abreast of the best tools to minimize risks. The rise of our digital landscape has resulted in the frequent development of fresh technology with the potential to improve operations. Among the most important digital tools concerning workplace safety are those enabling effective factory communication. There’s a range of hardware and software solutions to keep workers connected and able to better navigate hazards.
Nevertheless, it’s not just the existence of such tools that impact worker wellbeing. The important thing is how they’re used. Let’s take a closer look at how to utilize effective communication tech for workplace safety.
As with any matter of safety in the workplace, it’s important not to improvise your use of communications tech. To make certain you’re using the right tools for specific risks and circumstances, it’s vital to plan your approach well in advance.
Start with gaining a full understanding of the safety challenges your warehouse or factory is facing now or may face in the future. While there will be some common hazards across your industry, each business has its own unique set of risks. Create a problem-solving flowchart to visualize the issues in a way more conducive to finding the most appropriate solutions. This involves utilizing a shape to define the risk, then taking a step-by-step process to explore all the potential tools and outcomes. You’ll find this not only empowers you to consider and test all possibilities but also minimizes the expense of rushing into utilizing ineffective communications tech.
As with so many aspects of business, it’s important to involve a diverse range of staff in your safety communications planning. This doesn’t just mean your department heads but also entry-level employees and everyone in between. These people all have a practical understanding of the dangers they face on a day-to-day basis and how the introduction of certain communications tools might help or hinder those issues. Introducing new communications devices that fit inside headsets may seem good on paper, but if they interfere with other safety equipment or processes, it won’t be suitable.
Once you’ve performed this analysis with your staff, create an implementation timeline. Gradually introduce the equipment alongside the protocols for their use to a small number of workers. Include periods of assessment at points along the timeline. This allows you to review what works and what doesn’t so you can arrange a safer, company-wide rollout.
When adopting communications technology to improve safety, the focus is often on individual roles and departments that will use this tech. However, this overlooks one of the most important ways technology can improve the holistic safety of the workplace. You need to establish a set of communications tools to unify departments within a site or across multiple premises.
You already know how important collaboration between different departments and workers is for safety and productivity. Technology can bolster this. While implementing a connected factory model can be challenging, it also helps ensure digital technology is used to provide vital, real-time data to machines and workers alike. This includes accessing and sharing performance information about equipment so issues can be addressed before they cause disruption. It also allows staff from multiple departments to get alerts about potential security breaches in another part of the network. This way, the entire company can respond with appropriate protective measures more swiftly.
The key to unifying departments across your operation with communication technology is consistency. The hardware, software, and even the protocols for utilizing the tools must be the same throughout the warehouse or factory. Where sensors in the internet of things (IoT) track aspects of production or data on working conditions, all departments must have access to the same software to analyze and discuss the data sets received. If all staff members aren’t utilizing the same cloud storage platforms, this represents a significant hurdle to sharing vital operational information that can impact safety. As such, when adopting new comms tools, you must ensure compatibility with both other digital equipment and cross-departmental communications protocols.
Provide effective training
Skills gaps are a hazard for factories and warehouses. This doesn’t just extend to the abilities your staff must have to utilize factory equipment safely. When you’re adopting communications technology to bolster workplace safety, effective training in these tools is essential, too.
At the most basic level, this means frequent and clear education on the correct operation of each tool and how it applies to different tasks within your company. Offering insights into how each tool functions with different roles and departments can help staff make more informed communications decisions most suitable for the circumstances. Often, the most effective and agile approach to this is through e-learning modules. These can be shared through cloud platforms — an act which, in and of itself, is using communication technology to make the workplace safer.
That said, it’s important to not simply provide training on the application of communications technology. Your training also needs to include an element of troubleshooting for when communications technology isn’t functioning correctly. Empowering workers to solve tech problems themselves can mitigate any lag in communications that could result in safety issues.
Communication technology can help to make your factory or warehouse safer. But it’s not just the presence of these tools that make a difference, you need to make certain your staff is using them effectively. Plan ahead by identifying the right comms tools for the circumstances and implementing a gradual rollout. Unifying departments with a connected factory approach ensures everyone is abreast of operational data and issues in real-time. Remember, effective training on the use and troubleshooting of communications tech ensures your tools are reducing risks at their peak potential.