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Mitigating Workplace Hazards with Smart Facility Design

Apr 8, 2024 | Public | 0 comments

Workplaces of all shapes and sizes have potential safety hazards lurking around almost every corner. From slippery floors and poor indoor air quality to excessive noise and inadequate emergency preparedness, the number of employee safety and well-being risks is quite high.

Facilities managers everywhere have a duty of care to mitigate these dangers for the optimum productivity and safety of their workforce. Luckily, through strategic workplace design and smart technology integration, this may be easier than you realize. With smart facility solutions, you can create workplaces that proactively enhance safety and health, rather than pose imminent danger to staff who set foot on site.

This short guide breaks down various types of smart design approaches and solutions you can incorporate with the help of technology, and by making top-level adjustments.

Leveraging Workplace Design for Hazard Prevention

The fundamentals of your workplace design should primarily revolve around effective hazard mitigation. Hazards can take many forms, and while they may not all be imminent health risks, they must be treated with careful preventive action.

Promote Ergonomics

Many work environments are designed and built without proper consideration for ergonomics. Poor ergonomics can result in severe postural or musculoskeletal disorders for workers.

To mitigate these risks, managers should:

  • Place frequently used items within easy reach to minimize repetitive motions.
  • Install height-adjustable desks to accommodate different users and tasks.
  • Provide ergonomic seating with lumbar support and seat angles to encourage good posture.
  • Position monitors directly in front of users at eye level to prevent neck strain.
  • Encourage regular training and feedback from staff to ensure optimum, long-term comfort and to minimize health risks.

Control Ambient Factors

Environmental factors like noise, lighting, and facility temperature can pose an indirect risk to safety.

While facility workers may expect a substantial amount of noise from time to time, it’s wise to exercise caution to prevent it from getting out of hand. The same applies to ensuring adequate lighting and suitable working temperature control, particularly during fluctuating seasons.

Recommendations include:

  • Use acoustic paneling and soundproof drywall insulation to absorb excessive noise.
  • Install adjustable smart LED lighting that can be controlled remotely and provide sufficient illumination for concealed corners of facilities.
  • Regulate airflow and temperature with smart HVAC systems.

Design for Accessibility

Your facilities should be constructed to accommodate employees and visitors of all abilities.

To ensure that anybody regardless of physical condition can safely access and move around the facility, make sure that you:

  • Install ramps with minimal sloping and with sturdy, robust handrails for stability.
  • Widen doorways and aisles for wheelchair clearance.
  • Place accessible workstations near building entrances.
  • Provide Braille signage and slip-free flooring.

Prioritize Visibility and Space

Open, clutter-free workplace design can contribute greatly to greater hazard awareness and avoidance.

Some suggestions include the following:

  • Use glass walls, windows, or transparent partitioning to prevent blind corners.
  • Eliminate obstructed views with mirrors at intersections and to see around corners.
  • Establish wider corridors and work areas for easier directional foot traffic.
  • Install warning signs and floor markings indicating hazards.

Utilizing Technology for Risk Identification and Mitigation

Many innovative hardware and software solutions allow organizations to harness real-time data and effective automation.

With the help of technologies ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) to Internet of Things (IoT), facilities managers can integrate various solutions together to create a safety-enhancing workplace and maintain complete, consistent visibility of all activity within the estate.

Sensors for Preventive Monitoring

Integrating sensor networks within a facility can allow facilities managers to continuously monitor for risks at various touchpoints. Alerts can be configured as needed to alert management of any developing or imminent risks.

For example:

  • Air quality sensors can detect gas buildup, chemical leaks, or VOC (volatile organic compounds) in the atmosphere, thus posing a risk to staff without protective equipment.
  • Noise sensors can identify areas that are exceeding safe decibel limits and could pose risks to employees without sufficient ear protection.
  • Motion sensors can check real-time visibility of assets and occupants and provide historical movement data.
  • Temperature and humidity sensors can identify HVAC issues.

Video Analytics for Incident Tracking

Video camera systems paired with smart analytics software can also be invaluable at identifying hazards and preventing accidents.

When using real-time smart video systems, management can:

  • Identify accidental spills, smoke, or faulty equipment before any employee encounters physical danger.
  • Detect overcrowding or improper PPE use in designated areas or when using specific chemicals or solutions.
  • Pinpoint signs of worker fatigue or injury.
  • Monitor adherence to safety protocols for certain machinery and devices.

Incorporating Green Design for Sustainable Safety

Eco-friendliness and sustainability also factor heavily in workplace safety design, particularly in recent years with global net zero targets and ESG objectives in full swing.

Facilities managers must take environmental initiatives and solutions seriously, integrating technology and products to actively reduce energy usage and carbon footprints, while also not posing a safety risk to employees. Green tactics include installing commercial solar panels to gain better control over energy consumption, along with installing electricity batteries for more controlled and regulated usage and preservation, among many others.

With smart integration of this eco-friendly tech, employees are still able to work comfortably and without posing imminent risks to their safety.

Other green tactics include:

  • Source sustainable construction materials like recycled steel, iron and timber.
  • Install LED lights and smart automation systems, so lights are turned on when employees are in certain areas, and off when the vicinity is empty.
  • Utilize low-VOC paints and furnishings for better air control and lower levels of discomfort and dizziness.

Waste reduction features also minimize safety risks:

  • Centralized trash and recycling units reduce the buildup of debris and overflowing garbage.
  • Dust-reducing flooring such as poured epoxy reduces the amount of slips, trips and falls in the facility.
  • Electronic, cloud-based filing and storage solutions prevent excessive paperwork usage buildup and thus reduce emissions from printing. These also create more structured and ordered filing systems, meaning workers are not required to always carry paper on them.

Achieving both sustainability and safety makes workplaces healthier, more efficient and environmentally responsible.

With strategic planning and technology integration, facilities managers can ensure that their workplaces are designed to accommodate employees with full peace of mind that their safety is not at risk.

While it’s hard to eliminate threats and hazards entirely, by strategically addressing each one with the right solution, whether powered by smart technology or by simply switching to a less risky alternative, facilities managers can promote more active well-being across their estates.

Leveraging cutting-edge solutions like the above may require a slightly higher upfront investment, but the long-term advantages will make this well worth it.

Chester Avey has over a decade of experience in business growth management and cybersecurity. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with other like-minded professionals through his writing. You can connect with Chester by following him on Twitter @ChesterAvey.

The post Mitigating Workplace Hazards with Smart Facility Design appeared first on Facilities Management Advisor.

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