Safety is a top priority in the utility industry because workers face numerous hazards on the job. A research study done by DEKRA Organizational Safety & Reliability – a consulting practice specializing in workplace safety – found that the utility sector is at higher risk for serious injuries and fatalities than other industries, such as construction, manufacturing, and mining.
Over the years, safety protocols and technologies have evolved to reduce incidents and accidents, making for a safer workplace and resulting in a more productive workforce, observes Monica Rakoczy, Owner, of EnterTRAINING Solutions. The company provides OSHA safety training and compliance assistance for the utility, construction, and industrial industries. It focuses on presenting safety in a fun and engaging manner that leads to lasting impressions.
“Technology is changing the world and is having a big impact on workplace safety,” she says. “While people typically relate technology to computer programs and cell phones, technology can be as simple as changes and upgrades to hardhats, safety glasses, and harnesses. Technology is constantly evolving and is being used to fine-tune existing safety equipment, plus makes it more user friendly, which encourages more people to use the equipment.”
As smartphones become more widespread, smartphone applications designed to assess, monitor, and improve workplace safety are increasing, notes Rakoczy. The new generation that is coming into the workforce has grown up on smartphones, video games, and anything digital.
“We have to adapt to this different learning style when it comes to making worksites safer and getting more safety training and information to workers,” she explains. “It is silly to keep preaching safety the way we always have. By utilizing new technologies, not only are we able to spread information more widely and easily, but it is also easier for the younger generation to digest the information.”
Smart wearables technologies have been gaining use in recent years, Rakoczy says. Electronic devices worn on the body, these technologies typically incorporate sensors and wireless communication capabilities to detect and alert workers to potential hazards in real time, which helps prevent accidents and injuries.
She is “a huge proponent” of using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) training to improve workplace safety. VR is a technology that creates a simulated 3D environment designed to make a person feel immersed in a virtual world. AR is an enhanced, interactive version of a real-world environment achieved through digital visual elements, sounds, and other sensory stimuli via holographic technology.
There are training systems that use AR and VR to deliver hands-on training to equipment operators without the risk of personnel injuries or equipment damage.
“If somebody is learning and they make a mistake while driving a very expensive piece of equipment, that becomes problematic,” says Rakoczy. “If you can put somebody in a virtual seat and run them through realistic scenarios where they actually get a feel of how a machine moves and responds to the different controls, it gives them courage and a sense of how that machine moves while protecting the actual asset.”
The utility industry is also starting to focus on behavior-based safety, she adds. That is where a lot of the accidents happen, she adds.
Behavior-based safety (BBS) focuses on improving workplace safety by observing and analyzing a person’s behavior while they work. BBS looks at the workplace interaction between the worker, the work environment, and the worker’s behavior.
In her sold out Safety Tech Trek education sessions featured at The Utility Expo 2023, Rakoczy will be discussing safety innovations being developed that are game changers in managing safe and productive worksites – everything from new PPE and equipment to digital platforms to add extra “eyes” onsite to assess hazards.
About the speaker
Monica Rakoczy grew up in the construction industry working with her father who was the CEO of a general contracting company based in Lancaster, PA. Over time, she says she “discovered the importance of workplace safety and I fell absolutely in love with it,” recalls Rakoczy.
EnterTRAINING Solutions’ format “is interactive and involved and the training has a lighter atmosphere,” she points out. “Attendees change from being forced attendees to willing participants and this leads to lasting impressions.”
Rakoczy has presented at previous The Utility Expo shows – the largest event for utility professionals and construction contractors. She says there is considerable value in taking advantage of the Expo’s comprehensive education programs because participants can improve their skills and productivity, learn about emerging technology, discover new strategies and techniques, and gain knowledge about improving jobsite and workers safety.
While both of Rakozy's sessions on the topic have sold out, that is just one of dozens of learning opportunities at The Utility Expo 2023. Discover new strategies and techniques while making lasting connections with your peers in the utility industry. Click here for more information on The Utility Expo's comprehensive education program.