Warehouses are hazardous workplaces, with employees at risk from some of the most common causes of fatal and serious injury, notably falls from high places and collisions with moving vehicles. Across the world, safety guidelines aim to remove and mitigate hazards, but warehouses remain some of the most dangerous places to work – particularly when it comes to forklifts and lifting platforms. Let’s consider how Edge AI and computer vision systems are providing solutions that can reduce accidents rates, and save lives.
Safety standards vary globally, but workers everywhere are at risk from the same types of accidents. Along with high-risk sectors like construction and agriculture, warehousing and transportation stand out as relatively dangerous occupations. In 2015, the sector accounted for 16.5% of all workplace fatalities across the European Union.
Within the warehouse, one of the key risks comes from the operation of forklifts, or lift trucks as they’re known in some territories. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that forklifts alone cause 101 deaths and nearly 95,000 workplace injuries each year. In Britain, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)3, reports that forklifts are involved in about a quarter of all the country’s workplace accidents.
Forklift accidents represent a significant percentage of these incidents, despite strict regulations around maintenance, driver training and pedestrian segregation in most parts of the word. Operators are at risk from crushing in overturning accidents, with other staff of the workshop floor being at risk from being struck by the vehicles themselves or by falling loads.
How Can Technology Make Warehouses Safer?
Significant technological advancements in the recent decades means that having a computer system installed in a vehicle is more feasible than ever. Low power computer systems that use no moving parts can be housed in rugged enclosures, creating a robust solution that can be used in forklifts and other warehouse vehicles. Add industrial grade cameras to the system, and it’s possible to create a safety solution that integrates computer vision software and sophisticated AI algorithms that can genuinely help operators to avoid collisions and accidents.
In layman’s terms it’s all about giving drivers an extra set of eyes. For example, with the appropriate sensors and cameras, an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) can help warn drivers of colleagues or obstructions in their blind spots. The same system can also provide a Surround View System that offers a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the vehicle that vastly improve situational awareness. Drivers no longer have to look over their shoulder; at a glance they have a comprehensive view of their surroundings.
Unfortunately drivers and operators in warehouse environments don’t always follow regulations when it comes to wearing seat belts, operating phones and even smoking on the job. Edge AI algorithms can be used to protect the business and staff from drivers who put themselves and others at risk. Driver monitoring systems (DMS) use a dedicated camera to instantly detect dangerous driver behaviour, sounding an alert or disabling the vehicle when necessary.
It’s also possible to include driver identification in the system, adding facial recognition algorithms so that vehicles on the shop floor can only be operated by trained, qualified personnel.
No company wants to see its employees hurt, but the direct and indirect costs of an accident make it even more important to strive for the highest safety standards. In the warehouse, computer vision and Edge AI systems can help enforce existing rules, and offer additional protection from the human factors like tiredness, illness or distraction that are often a major cause of a disaster.
In the long term, even as more warehouses become fully automated, preventing injuries and fatalities remains a concern. Investing in advanced safety system that integrate Edge AI will help protect the business from the severe consequences of accidents, injuries and even deaths. It’s an investment in employee safety that is simply has to pay off.
To learn more about how the VIA Mobile360 Forklift Safety System harnesses leading-edge AI technology to enhance warehouse safety by preventing pedestrian accidents and boosting driver attentiveness, please click here.