futureSan Diego CA -- One emerging fact coming out of the annual National Safety Congress and Expo held here in San Diego – as a safety and health professional, technology will give you more information about your workers than the profession has ever had access to before.

In many respects, the future is now. eLearning enables you to know the knowledge level of every worker on any number of safety and health topics. If you use the appropriate software, you know who your star students are and who needs more attention or coaching. This can help you when selecting safety committee members and safety team leaders.

There is an app on exhibit at the show which can time how long it takes workers to go through lockout/tagout procedures – maybe one minute for one individual, and 20 minutes for another. Again, you can target employees who need more training, and employees so efficient at LOTO they can serve as coaches, mentors and trainers.

A hand-held scanner on exhibit here reads individual security/ID cards to tell you who has entered confined spaces, how long they’ve been there, and when all employees have exited the space. The same technology can track the whereabouts of workers – potentially telling you who is goofing off or taking more than enough smoke breaks outside, and who is on task at their work station being productive.

Wireless technical and RFID tags attached to PPE and tools and equipment take you to a new level of situational awareness – knowing where your people are, who’s wearing appropriate PPE and who’s not, any emergency man-down crises, and what tools are being used at home on weekends.

Think of Apple’s recently introduced wrist watch. Similar wearable technology will give you biometric and physiological data on workers, especially first responders, lone and/or remote workers, and workers laboring in high heat, frigid cold, and other harsh, risky conditions.

GPS technology is being used in fleet maintenance to track truckers and local delivery drivers, giving you their precise locations at any moment in time. Again, this technology is an efficiency tool as well as a safety tool. When combined with other vehicle sensors, you’ll know who your speed demons are, your slow pokes, who’s working the brakes hard and cutting tight corners.

Drones are coming to safety. Imagine drones that will give you visuals of emergency response scenes, responders who might be in risky situations or predicaments, where more resources are needed, etc. Drone could also be used as surveillance above far-flung oil fields, corporate campuses, and large chemical and petrochem processing facilities.