Transformative power of AI
18 October 2023
HandsHQ explores the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), its practical applications, and how its AI-powered Toolbox Talk Generator can revolutionise safety communication for EHS professionals.
THE LANDSCAPE of health and safety is ever-evolving, and at the heart of much debate is AI. A topic of equal fascination and concern, AI has made its presence felt across many fields, and the realm of health and safety is no exception.
EHS professionals are effectively now dealing with a 'digital colleague', capable of mimicking human cognitive functions, interpreting data, and drawing meaningful insights. While AI may be a threat to jobs in some fields, EHS professionals bring a unique set of skills and experience that allow them to assess risks and make critical decisions that AI cannot.
The future of AI
Just a few decades ago, artificial intelligence was a high-tech concept that represented a far-off futuristic world. Now, though, it’s our reality. AI will change the world as we know it, but it's crucial that we avoid succumbing to the usual panic associated with technological advancements. History has shown that every technological leap, whether this be from chalkboards to paper or radios to phones, has created varying levels of hysteria. AI, as the most advanced technology to date, is no exception. Will our processes change? Undoubtedly. Yet, the intrinsic 'human touch' that underpins our work will remain irreplaceable.
In this era of rapid AI evolution, the concept of a 'supermind' has been introduced - a synergy between human intellect and AI, forming a collective intelligence that surpasses both in isolation. Humans, by nature, are unpredictable and diverse, driven by emotions that can often influence our perception of reality. AI, on the other hand, operates solely on logic and predictability. Together, they are inherently complementary.
Practical applications of AI in health and safety
Consider the likes of Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, face ID, or the AI-driven algorithms utilised by social media platforms - and this is just the AI we come into contact with numerous times a day! AI is already actively being utilised in health and safety in industries across the globe, and here are a couple of examples;
Creating interactive training materials
AI is a game-changer when it comes to crafting safety training materials. With the advent of AI, professionals in the field can harness the power of AI to create safety messages, newsletters, and other communications in minutes. It allows EHS professionals to create content which is tailored to the specific needs and concerns of the team. Taking out the excessively manual element of creating such training materials frees up time for health and safety professionals to invest it elsewhere, such as building out a proactive health and safety strategy.
A practical solution
Take toolbox talks, for example. Keeping workforces informed, engaged, and consulted about on-site challenges is paramount for safe operations. However, traditional toolbox talks can often fall short of achieving these goals. The amount of time it takes to create a toolbox talk using traditional methods often results in the same old talk, being repeated time after time. Employees can quickly become disengaged with this approach, which can have a negative impact on the overall approach to safety.
This is where HandsHQ's free AI-powered Toolbox Talk Generator steps in - a tool designed to simplify safety communication. It's not just another software; it's a modern solution that harnesses the power of generative AI to craft tailored, interactive toolbox talks in just minutes. The generator unlocks a faster, more efficient way of working, enabling EHS professionals to deliver high-quality, innovative, and engaging toolbox talks to their teams - without repeating old talks or spending hours crafting them. Simply input key site and industry information, and let the AI do the work, transforming it into a personalised toolbox talks in minutes.
While content creation is perhaps the area with the most obvious immediate efficiency gains for EHS professionals, the potential of AI in health and safety doesn’t end here.
Pattern and image recognition
AI isn’t biased in the same way that humans are. It’s not worrying about budgets, thinking about how certain changes may create more work for itself, or even worrying that technological advancements will negate the need for their role. Instead, it’s purely focused on doing what humans ask it to do - such as data analysis.
AI can analyse vast amounts of data to identify trends, or potential safety issues before they escalate. Predictive AI can foresee potential risks based on historical data, enabling organisations to take proactive measures to prevent incidents. AI can even be used to assist in real-time monitoring of workplace conditions. By monitoring images, it can be programmed to spot areas of potential risk, or staff not following PPE or safety procedures correctly, enabling health and safety or line managers to step in and give corrective advice, or hold a toolbox talk if it is seen to be a common problem. AI simply works from the data - it does not take into consideration anecdotal evidence or underlying biases, as long as the data it is fed is not biased.
We can see the potential of AI image recognition on UK roads, in several ways. Though not ‘the norm’ yet, AI has been used sporadically to visually monitor traffic and the trajectory of cars on the road. It can then predict issues, such as a build-up of traffic on a road further up or a car driving dangerously, and be utilised to prevent collisions. It’s also been used to predict maintenance, find incidences of missing road signs, and identify drivers committing traffic offences, such as not wearing a seatbelt. AI in the workplace could eventually be used similarly.
As we delve deeper into the transformative world of AI, it's crucial to acknowledge the ethical considerations that must accompany this technological leap. In our pursuit of innovation and efficiency, we must remain mindful of privacy concerns, biases, accountability, and complacency.
AI systems can sometimes produce unexpected outcomes or interpretations, and as we have briefly touched on, they can only work with the data it is given. EHS professionals must be vigilant in identifying and addressing any unintended consequences of AI use. To this end, determining accountability when AI makes mistakes presents ever more complex dilemmas; who is responsible if AI fails to prevent an accident?
AI algorithms can be complex and difficult to interpret. This lack of transparency can make it challenging to explain the reasoning behind AI-generated insights or decisions, which is a critical ethical concern. The opacity of AI algorithms raises transparency concerns, while uninformed consent about AI monitoring can raise ethical questions. Balancing data security with sharing for safety improvements adds to the ethical complexity.
Then there’s the ever-present risk of privacy breaches, demanding stringent safeguards to avoid data breaches (in addition to the already stringent safeguards that businesses are likely to have in place). Biases inherited from historical data could perpetuate discrimination; as an example, if historical incident data is biased against certain demographics, AI could perpetuate these biases. Ensuring fairness and equity in AI algorithms is crucial, to avoid challenging the principles of fairness and equity. Over-reliance on AI could begin to inadvertently diminish a human-centric approach to risk management and critical thinking skills, which are vital in health and safety.
To address these ethical dilemmas, EHS specialists should adopt a measured approach. Balancing the benefits of AI with ethical considerations is essential for harnessing its potential effectively while upholding safety and well-being standards; we must harness the potential of AI while safeguarding the wellbeing and ethical principles which remain at the heart of health and safety practices.
Will AI replace humans? For some more mundane, repetitive or time-consuming tasks - probably, yes. But, while generative AI may be tasked with handling mundane or repetitive tasks, it's the synergy which can be created between human expertise and AI that holds incredible potential. AI should not be considered a replacement for EHS professionals, but should absolutely be viewed as a powerful ally that can enhance our work, and allow us to focus on more strategic, creative, ‘human’ tasks; which AI is currently not able to successfully replicate.
By harnessing the power of AI, we can create safer and more efficient environments, all while preserving the distinctive qualities that make us human.
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