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Executive comment - March 23

17 February 2023

Dr Helen Balmforth explains the benefits of building the world’s first Industrial Safetytech regulatory sandbox for the construction industry.

TECHNOLOGY IS changing rapidly and we need to embrace its potential to keep the modern workplace a safer and healthier place for all. 

‘Industrial Safetytech (IS)’ such as artificial Intelligence, visual analytics, augmented reality, virtual reality, internet of things (IoT), sensors, wearables, drones and robotics, can redefine approaches to health and safety management, but there are barriers to industry adoption which need to be better understood so that they can be overcome. 

There are great gains to be made in health and safety from using innovative technologies, products and services that can help to protect our workforces. That’s why Discovering Safety (a programme of work delivered by the Health and Safety Executive), in partnership with Safetytech Accelerator and others such as Balfour Beatty, is creating the world’s first regulatory sandbox for Industrial Safetytech. 

Prof Andrew Curran CBE, HSE director of science and chief scientific adviser has stated, "We hope that by working closely with industry and technology companies we can start building an evidence base for the application of Industrial Safetytech which will help to foster the application of innovation to maintain Great Britain as one of the safest places to work."

A sandbox of this kind will allow evaluation and testing of innovations in a simulated environment. In this way regulators, industry and innovators can come together to develop successful solutions and break down barriers to IS adoption.

Steven Naylor, technical lead on the project tells us, "We will seek to generate and harness new thinking, methods and technological approaches to improve regulatory delivery and performance in the construction industry. This, in turn, will enable innovative new products and services to come to market for the benefit of all."

Discovering Safety is inviting key construction industry organisations from across the UK to contribute to the sandbox and share their experiences of working with IS. Contributors will work together to identify specific health and safety challenges that will give real-world focus to the project. Then, together with technology specialists and subject matter experts, we will consider ways in which adoption of technology might be increased. The fully-developed sandbox will enable the testing of solutions to safety and compliance challenges in construction.

As the project progresses we will make reports, articles and case studies available to anyone with an interest in IS. The first step is to define the challenges to be built-in to the sandbox. These will be developed by the technology providers, industry and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the regulator and presented in a report.

The design and build of the sandbox is already underway with a launch planned for April. The outputs will be a set of feasibility studies delivered by the technology providers and shaped with the construction industry and HSE. By listening to lessons-learned from project partners the world’s first regulatory sandbox will be a viable and useful tool in real-world scenarios.

The project is set to conclude in Autumn 2023 with a final event that will bring together contributors and key stakeholders to review conclusions and outputs.

Dr Helen Balmforth is head of data analytics at Health and Safety Executive and lead on Discovering Safety. For more information, follow The HSE's LinkedIn page, get in touch by emailing discoveringsafety@hse.gov.uk or visit, www.hse.gov.uk.