bridget leathley

How will Artificial Intelligence impact Safety Culture and how can you introduce it into your business successfully? Tribe Lead Consultant, Bridget Leathley, shares her thoughts…

Technology within the health and safety industry has come a long way since the days of VHS’ inductions and Excel spreadsheets. And now with the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI), safety culture is gaining processes that are more efficient, cost-effective and minimise risk.

However, as with all change, there are questions about how AI will change the workplace – and how workers will respond.

“Robots and AI are steps along the road of using technology to reduce uncertainty, to manage safety in a less labour-intensive way and to engage the workforce in the process,” says Bridget Leathley, Lead Consultant at Tribe Culture Change.

“The best use of technology will bring workers into the process, rather than isolating them.”

AI is not the enemy

A great example of how AI can help workers is Computer Vision (CV) – a form of AI that can derive information from digital images and videos and go on to identify potential hazards.

But might workers feel spied upon?

“If you use CV and discover workers are taking a shortcut across a vehicle route and you discipline them, you will lose trust,” says Bridget. “The CV becomes the enemy. People will learn to behave in front of the cameras – but it won’t improve their attitude to safety.

She continues, “Instead, if you ask those people why they need to behave in a certain way, you might learn they aren’t given enough time, or that the alternative route is longer, darker, noisy or wet. If you find out the reason behind the behaviours detected by CV you can implement the changes. Discipline shouldn’t be the first call.”

Trust first, AI second

Trust is an important quality that not only must be nurtured but be maintained within a company. It is therefore wise to implement AI gradually to retain your workforce’s trust.

Bridget says, “If the technology makes workers’ lives easier, they will generally be happy about it. When introducing CV, consult with your team, explain its usage and add one camera.  Firstly, show that you can be trusted and provide some visible benefit, once this is achieved then introduce another. Take it slowly.”

Humans are still required

Bridget explains how people will always be needed: “A key concern is that if people assume AI will always be right, people could get hurt, or treated unfairly. The information captured by the CV must be checked so there always needs to be a human in the loop.

“But thanks to its algorithms, many more useful observations can be made by the CV suggesting what to watch and when .”

What the future holds

Many industries are embracing AI and paving the way when it comes to introducing the use of evolving technology. Research undertaken by the OECD* also confirms that the use of AI is improving safety conditions within work environments and reducing accidents, and with the right implementation strategy, workers will learn that new procedures make their jobs easier.

About Bridget Leathley

Bridget is a chartered safety and health professional with a human factors background. She is passionate about getting organisations to adopt technology that keeps people safe and healthy.  This work involves combining new technologies, established techniques, and face-to-face approaches to minimise risk in the workplace.

She helps to drive culture change programmes with Tribe, writes for industry-recognised titles and holds a degree in IT and psychology, as well as an MSc in Occupational Safety.

Specialisms: Human Factors, health and safety training, management system support and risk assessments

Industry experience: IT, Human Factors, Construction, Technology