Manufacturing is the backbone of the national economy and a leader in innovation. 

Having a safe and secure environment is second only to food, clothing and shelter in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Fundamentally, no one wants to work for an unsafe company, and no one wants to live near an unsafe manufacturing plant. The industrial workforce and community at large depend on manufacturers having a robust workplace culture with safety as a core value.  

Achieving and sustaining safety excellence is a business imperative to protect employee lives and health and ensure excellence in environmental, health and safety (EHS). But forget about issuing top-down directives or launching disconnected safety initiatives. Making safety a full-time, overarching cultural commitment is the best way to instill confidence throughout the organization that individual lives and health matter.  

Additionally, it is not enough to aim for zero OSHA-recordable incidents. Extending the safety commitment “beyond zero” and improving the overall well-being (financial, physical, emotional and social) of the workforce further reinforces the passion and commitment applied to the safety culture. 

When employees feel their employer cares about their well-being, they can feel more valued and motivated. When their overall well-being improves, it can pay dividends in employee engagement and talent retention. Alleviating personal distractions and high employee turnover rates are some of the quickest ways to improve safety performance. 

Modern Technologies to Bolster Health and Safety  

Equipment maintenance and reliability personnel can face some of the highest health and safety risks in manufacturing. They require tools, education and personal protective equipment (PPE) that are specifically tailored to their needs. The risk of injury also increases with reactive maintenance, especially when there is a perceived sense of urgency (down critical equipment). The industrial internet of things (IIoT), which powers smart factories that are connected, data-driven and focused on efficiency and continuous improvement, is a source of massive innovation in safety protection.  

With a seamless infrastructure of connected hardware devices, smart systems and communications technologies, today’s plants are breaking new ground in safety-first best practices. Following are some of the leading technology developments in industrial safety 

  • Predictive maintenance: Equipment condition monitoring and predictive maintenance are dominant safety and reliability best practices. Now, the ability to incorporate real-time, remote machine health monitoring using IIoT sensors not only avoids the risks of periodic, hands-on inspection of equipment and components, but it also enables more timely asset repairs and maintenance to help prevent hazardous or catastrophic failures.  
  • AI and ML: Artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) can facilitate continuous improvement across maintenance and production. For example, the software learns over time to deliver earlier and more accurate predictive maintenance insights, and it can apply prescriptive analytics to automatically recommend or “prescribe” optimal corrective actions.  
  • Wearables: Hands-free wearable smart devices and sensors have numerous health and safety applications. Some protect individual safety by detecting motion, falls, shocks, vibration or biometric indicators such as heart rate, while others promote environmental safety by monitoring gas, extreme temperatures, pollutants, or similar hazards. When designated thresholds are met, the devices can automatically trigger alerts and emergency responses. Some wearables are real-time critical information resources that reinforce safety best practices at the right time and place, such as lockout/tagout procedures or Safety Data Sheets (SDS), often using heads-up displays. A novel PPE category is exoskeletons, which support a wearer’s muscles and joints to minimize fatigue and injury. 
  • Robots and drones: Having automated robots and drones conduct hazardous tasks and capture otherwise inaccessible points of view alleviates risks to the workforce. Adding onboard sensors to monitor for adverse health and safety conditions compounds the value to the organization. 
  • AR/VR/MR: Augmented, virtual and mixed reality (AR/VR/MR) solutions can promote faster training (including safety training) and enable on-demand refreshers and virtual support to ensure safe, accurate and efficient maintenance.  
  • Digital twins: Replicating physical assets in a virtual space through digital twins or similar technologies can enable technicians to simulate and practice maintenance tasks before attempting them on live equipment. 


Achieving safety excellence is not an option — it is a business imperative. All industries have a responsibility to their workforce and community to embed health, safety and well-being into the workplace culture. This can elevate safety performance (with the help of modern technologies), making it a win-win for everyone.