The year 2023 has seen huge leaps in artificial intelligence (AI). With a new AI tool launching every week, it’s no surprise that ways of working are drastically evolving. Well-known companies such as Amazon and Microsoft have already started to implement AI in the workplace and are enjoying benefits such as improved efficiency, increased productivity, and lesser costs.
Despite the benefits AI provides, it’s no easy task trying to implement it in the workplace. But, with the right approach, companies can improve workplace safety and promote an overall better work culture within the organization.
In this article, we’ll explore how AI can improve workplace safety and how to navigate the challenges posed by AI.
Image by ArtPhoto_studio on Freepik
How Artificial Intelligence Can Improve Workplace Safety
Reducing Human Errors
Making mistakes is part of being human. But, oftentimes, human errors pose a risk to productivity and cause significant losses to a business. These errors can range from adding an extra zero to your financial account to putting a worker’s life in a potentially dangerous situation.
According to multiple reports, fatigue can be the main reason for workplace accidents. A tired worker has a 62% higher risk of accidents.
However, since AI doesn’t get tired, it can get work done without a decline in performance – thus creating a safer workplace. It can also reduce human errors such as typos by automating data entry work.
Automating Risky Tasks
No matter how passionate a person is about his work, there are some situations they won’t risk their lives for. Some industries, such as roofing or mining, pose a danger to workers as they are typically situated in hazardous areas.
According to a 2020 report, the leading cause of nonfatal work-related injuries or illnesses involving days away from work is exposure to harmful substances or environments, accounting for 36% of injuries or illnesses.
With AI robots, people can explore dangerous environments by sending robots to such environments and having them report back to the organization. Such examples can already be found in roofing, where workers deploy a drone to evaluate the area before starting the work.
Monitoring Workplace Security
Unfortunately, workplace harassment remains a serious concern worldwide. According to Zippia, around 67% of women face some kind of harassment in the workplace. The study also found that despite the number of reports, around 65% of victims don’t report these instances.
By using integrations and AI workplace safety tools like ProtexAI, companies can keep a check on such situations either through the use of cameras – integrated with machine learning to detect such things before they happen. Also, sending threats or sexually-suggestive material can and is also done via email. So, AI algorithms can be implemented to detect and filter such emails.
Detecting Crimes & Fraud
Some employees might try to steal from the workplace or commit fraud within the system. However, AI can trump all these efforts as machine learning equips it with understanding patterns of behaviors. This enables the AI to detect anomalies and abnormal behaviors captured on cameras and instantly alert HR.
Certain AI software could also be configured to automatically trigger sounds or lights to shock a suspect.
There are many benefits of AI being implemented for the betterment of workplace safety, but it’s worth noting that it also poses a lot of challenges, including:
- Job insecurity
- Privacy concerns
- Increased complexity
- Unmanageable expectations
- Mismanagement of tasks
Challenges Posed by AI in the Workplace and Their Solutions
With AI now being able to automate manual tasks, many industries may be disrupted and thus displace employees.
You must balance between improving efficiency and improving the well-being of your employees through these AI systems. Some ways to navigate through this challenge are:
- Have an open dialogue – It’s important to address these concerns head-on and have an open, honest discussion of the changes that may take place, as well as advising employees of any role changes.
- Career counseling – Employees may fear getting replaced by AI and not being able to find any other work to support their families. Offer career advice and resources to help them transition to another career through mentoring or internal job boards.
- Financial support – Offer financial support such as unemployment benefits to your employees to help them support themselves before finding another job if newer AI systems manage to replace them.
Although employee monitoring and tracking can contribute positively to workplace safety, it can pose privacy concerns. It also leads to a sense of unease from employees as most people won’t like the idea of having an AI tracking most of their actions.
To address this, you can:
- Develop guidelines – Clear guidelines that state what can and cannot be tracked are important so your employees know their privacy is being protected, and their data won’t be misused.
- Enforce privacy policies – Create proper privacy laws and policies that protect your employees from privacy breaches.
- Ensure transparent reporting – Clearly explain to your employees why you’re tracking what you’re tracking and how you plan on using that information about them to improve workplace safety.
Since AI works faster than humans, it can lead them with more types of data to manage/analyze, adding complexity to existing tasks.
Some workarounds could include:
- Set guidelines – Clearly outline what your workers are expected to do and what kind of work they can leave for the AI to solve.
- Offering training and support – Offer your employees additional training resources to manage the added layer of complexity and remain efficient.
- Creating a feedback platform – Enable employees to provide feedback on the AI systems and report any issues to improve the AI for better human-AI collaboration.
As AI can manage more tasks at once, it would overburden employees with the need to keep up.
Rather than reducing production, you can:
- Address skill gaps – AI might expose some skill gaps in your current employees. You can use these insights to identify and address skill gaps by hiring effective workers or training existing ones.
- Offer training and support – To manage the workload produced by AI, companies should offer training and support to their employees.
- Provide educational resources – Additional educational resources can encourage employees to keep attaining newer knowledge to be more productive at work and increase their efficiency.
Mismanagement of Tasks
Since most of the algorithms that run AI are hidden from the average user, it can instill some doubt about the information/data it provides. Lack of transparency within AI can lead to distrust and uncertainty. One such example is the applicant tracking system (ATS) used in organizations today to automatically check resumes.
Although AI may make the HR department’s lives easier by instantly checking submitted resumes, it can also make the mistake of rejecting applicants with great potential.
To navigate through this challenge, you can:
- Educate employees on AI – Explain to employees how AI systems work, how they collect data, and what they base their output on. This will lead to increased transparency among employees.
- Get team members involved – Making decisions should be a team activity, so letting the AI make decisions alone can lead to distrust and a mismanagement of tasks.
- Establish guidelines – Enforce ethical guidelines for AI-driven decisions and ensure that team members abide by these guidelines.
Implementing AI across an organization can bring numerous benefits to workplace safety, such as reducing errors, automating dangerous tasks, monitoring employees and safety, and detecting crimes and frauds.
However, since AI poses some challenges within the organization, businesses should have an action plan to address these situations for the well-being of their employees.