Try to picture any start-up without smartphones, or flat screen televisions. And there is one other field of industry and commerce that perhaps remains understated, despite its obvious necessity – safety.
For all our complaints about Britain and the things wrong with the country, compare its safety record to other nations that do not enforce the same measures, instead cutting corners and trampling over human rights at the same time. Qatar, for example, is building a series of stadiums to host the controversial World Cup 2022, and the grotesque number of 4,000 deaths is predicted before the tournament arrives. Compare that to the London Olympics in 2012, which had a flawless, fatality-free build-up, at least partially because of its adherence to strict laws.
Specific new safety measures have been introduced to a huge number of industrial areas following the Factories Act 1948. One might not be aware of The Borehole Sites and Operations Regulations 1995, or the Diving at Work Regulations 1997, but these are both important parts of offshore health and safety law. They demand a certain level of governance and technology for such dangerous work. Similar laws and levels of expectation exist in every sphere of industry from aeronautics to baking, and sport to motoring.
But Britain is by no means spotless in its safety record; it was only in the mid-1800s that chimney sweeping for youngsters was outlawed, after all. Gradually however, as technology has increased in its use and diversity, deaths in the workplace have fallen. There’s still some room for much improvement as the provisional Health and Safety Executive estimate of the number of workers injured in 2015/16 is 144, equating to 0.46 deaths per 100 workers. While this is still too high, it did at least continue a downward trend in the fatality rate of the past 20 years.
Motoring is an interesting case study; laws governing the creation and use of our vehicles have revolutionised our trips to work, our commercial lives, and their business application. It’s an ongoing journey; new research highlighted in the Daily Express from safety experts Thatcham Research has shown that half of the top ten best selling cars do not offer Autonomous Emergency Braking as standard – a type of sensor that monitors the road and automatically applies the brakes in certain situations when a driver is not reacting in time. The applications are obvious, the cost is low – as little as £200 – and yet 52% of new cars are not fitted.
Many high-use fleet vehicles are now being fitted with new technology to try to mitigate dangers, if not eliminate them altogether. Lorries, vans, buses and HGVs can be fitted with reverse cameras and mobile digital recording devices from companies such as Brigade Electronics, to lessen the risks of danger from other road users and record any incidents that might happen. Warning alarms can alert those around you, such as fellow workers, to any reversing vehicles.
What does the future hold? Most likely, the Internet of Things will enable truly joined up technological thinking through and around companies, so that one machine in a particular environment is aware of what another machine is doing – be it driverless car, digger, fridge, computer or security door – and acts accordingly. It might seem like the future, but it is only the close future. Until then we’ll just have to rely on present technology, concentration, and common sense.