Every year when new vehicles are released from the car companies, it seems that they always have a new lineup of great safety technologies. One of the biggest trends in auto safety technology is that they are focusing more on accident prevention. A decade or more ago, in contrast, most of the safety features were made to try to keep people safe when an accident occurred, which is also important. Things like air bags, advanced seat belts, crumple zones and other features helped to ensure people had the best possible chance at escaping injury when they were in a crash.
Today, however, the automakers are boasting about all their accident prevention technologies. Some cars will automatically hit the breaks for you to avoid a collision, many cars have back up cameras to ensure you can see behind you, and some even use radar to identify potential hazards around your vehicle. All of these technologies are put in place to stop accidents before they occur. While this trend may seem new to vehicles, it is actually something that many organizations have been doing for years.
Preventing accidents before they happen is a key strategy for all safety oriented workplaces. Of course, all facilities will also perform passive safety standards, which would include providing employees with safety equipment and protective gear. This, however, is only going to minimize the impact of an accident, not actually prevent it.
Looking at the auto industry again, the passive technologies such as air bags will improve safety in a very significant way. Every year thousands of lives are saved because of these technologies which weren’t around generations ago.
“Clearly, this passive technology is a good thing. However, we also know from the hierarchy of controls that personal protective equipment is the least effective means of controlling hazards—and that a safety system that relies on them is asking for trouble. We want to detect and manage exposures far upstream of an accident.” – Vira Vielmann
In addition, it is still important to invest in further passive strategies, both for the auto industry and all workplace environments. It is impossible to prevent every accident, so minimizing their impact is a good place to start. Using active technologies that detect the risk of an accident, and then take action to avoid it, however, is also essential for all real safety improvements.
Combining Active & Passive Technologies
If a new technology such as using radar in vehicles can reduce the chances of drivers getting in accidents by even a few percent, it will save many lives. The same can be said of risks in the workplace. If, for example, a facility has a machine that cuts materials for a product, it is good to provide the operator with safety gloves to minimize injury if they accidently have their hands or arms in the wrong place. It is much better, however, to have sensors on the machine which will detect the presence of the operator’s arms and disable the cutting blade.
Of course, adding the sensors and any other active technologies does not mean that the operator should stop wearing the protective gloves or other safety gear. It simply reduces the risk of the accident from occurring. When a workplace combines active and passive safety technologies, they are able to reduce the total number of accidents, while also reducing the impact of those accidents that still do occur.
The auto industry is doing an excellent job at rapidly advancing the active safety technologies they are using. While they may have gotten the concepts from other safety conscious workplaces, they are really making it a priority for their industry. Companies around the world could learn from their example.
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