As we begin 2022, the workplace safety and manufacturing outlook is important to keep in mind to make sure that safety professionals are up to date on the latest innovation trends. In the coming months, we can expect to see advanced developments in many areas of business and workplace operations and safety, mainly in the areas of new ergonomic ideas, never seen before Internet of Things (IoT) regulations, and solutions to the ever changing supply chain crisis.
Supply Chain Initiatives: Eco & Effective
As COVID-19 and its many variants have been ravaging the workplace and equipment manufacturer’s production cycle since early 2020, long term supply chain issues and new holes in the system are being found after repeated exposure to difficulties. This is resulting in a trend to increase data collection efforts and companies looking for ways to combine shipments of materials and parts together, as well as creating new data analysis programs through machine learning and AI to forecast production needs to pre order shipments.
Reducing the miles traveled for equipment and parts not only saves money in the long run, but also is taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint in transportation in industry, which relates to goals expressed by world leaders at the most recent climate change summit in 2021. Even equipment manufacturers are being scrutinized by the public as sustainable environmental practices are being encouraged and examined at every stage of a product’s lifecycle, even from the very machine it’s assembled on that’s sold to a production company. This may require future evaluations of the design process to push for more eco-friendly engineering standards to satisfy both consumers and governments.
Within the supply chain, there’s also a push for manufacturers and warehouse manufacturers to adapt more elastic strategies into their business model. As demand is fluctuating so much, being able to scale up or down to seemingly random patterns can reduce costs, improve service, and minimize risk – which can all be achieved through more data analysis platforms. This may, in turn, lead to a push across the board for hiring more data analysts, and those with specialized degrees in supply chain management, which is quickly becoming the most in demand master’s degree program across the United States.
The First IoT Labeling Program
The ongoing supply chain crisis and needed data analysis to fix it correlates directly into the next safety and manufacturing trend for 2022, which is the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Biden Administration’s governmental push to create and enforce new regulations and safety protocols. The IoT is a host of technologies and applications that equip devices and locations to populate all kinds of information. This is where physical products, like smartphones, vehicles, home security, medical devices, and more, meet the Internet to communicate data. Many new vehicles, especially electric ones collect data from all of their users to implement needed safety system and operational updates to then send back to the vehicle to update before the next active use, much like the cell phone interface and user updates we are already used to. This is looking to be implemented across even more devices, products, and even manufacturing equipment. With over eight billion Internet-connected products currently in use, security threats to our private, personal, and corporate proprietary data is an unfortunate (and ever-increasing) likelihood
As part of its assignment under the Presidential Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity (14028) issued on May 12, 2021, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be responsible for an initiative related to cybersecurity labeling for consumers. They’ll be required to establish two IoT labeling programs, one for consumer devices, and another for software development practices. Under the Executive Order, NIST is to publish details about the IoT labeling effort by February 6, 2022.
NIST will be identifying key elements of IoT labeling programs in terms of minimum requirements and desirable attributes; rather than establishing its own program, it will specify desired outcomes, allowing providers and customers to choose best solutions for their products and environments. The agency also received several other directives to enhance the security of the software supply chain.
Part of the presidential order will take into account existing consumer product labeling programs as it considers efforts to educate the public on the cybersecurity capabilities of IoT devices and software development practices. NIST is also required to consider ways to incentivize manufacturers and developers to participate in these programs.
In this intermittent period of decision making, NIST suggests that labeling should:
- Encourage innovation in manufacturers’ consumer-oriented IoT and software security efforts, leaving room for changes in technologies and the security landscape.
- Be practical and not be burdensome to manufacturers and distributors.
- Factor in usability as a key consideration.
- Build on national and international experience.
- Allow for diversity of approaches and solutions across industries, verticals, and use cases – so long as they’re deemed useful and effective for consumers.
In the meantime, 2022 will see an uptick in companies critically reviewing everything from design processes/product testing, product warranties, data storage, supply chains, and corrective actions and recalls to minimize potential IoT threats and their aftermaths. Sweeps for tampering, code defects, vulnerabilities, malfunctions, consumer modifications, compromises and other foreseeable product uses and misuses will also be implemented this year. Even product manuals and technical data sheets will have to be reviewed to make sure a user will understand the complexities of a product. In the event of a liability suit, courts will look at all of the preventative measures a company has taken to minimize liability, even in the IoT.
Improving Your Workplace Ergonomics
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is promoted and required in many physical labor-oriented workplaces. Yet, despite training and instruction, it doesn’t prevent injury from worker technique and musculoskeletal disorders (ergonomic) in the workplace, including nerve and back injuries along repetitive stress injuries from muscle strain. 30 percent of all medical days away from work in 2018 were caused by work related ergonomic injuries. As we see a steady increase and permanence in remote work, ergonomic concerns are now a two-fold concern for both standing and physical activity workers, as well as those at computers all day.
A new development has been made and is being introduced to the physical workplace in the form of exoskeletons that work with the human body to enhance its normal functions, but without unnecessary and pricey electronic additions. Unveiled at the Consumer Technology Association’s annual convention last week, new non-powered exoskeletons are being introduced for factory and healthcare workers who are on their feet all day, giving them extra support in their lower back and legs. Another new product is an exoskeleton that helps workers carry out lifting tasks with an extra 56 pounds of assistive force, controlled by user operated compressed air, and not needing electrical capabilities. The idea is that since they’re manual, they can be adjusted to multiple body heights and types, making it a more practical factory investment. While exoskeletons as a whole are becoming very popular, adding in new and effective, yet non-electrical, devices enables a more palatable price tag for safety professional to consider.
These new exoskeletons have had major success in Asia and Europe and are being introduced to the United States markets this year. The market for exoskeletons is even predicted to grow 41.3% a year until 2025 in the construction, healthcare, and military industries.
In addition to workers on their feet, companies with a large amount of employees working from home into 2022 are starting to look at implementing new safety recommendations and best practices to be sent to their staff to improve their home office setup. This is due to a larger amount of neck, back, and torso pain complaints to many brand new remote workers who are working with bad posture and equipment positioning that has ended up resulting in more chiropractic visits and musculoskeletal disorders. Improving remote employees ergonomic health can be done by suggesting the following risk assessment:
- Encouraging workers to use a dedicated workspace, meaning that they should not be working from their bed or couch, but an office-like space with a desk and chair to increase lumbar support.
- Advising employees to use an external monitor, as most laptops require looking down and will increase neck and shoulder strain over long periods. If an external monitor isn’t feasible, encourage them to elevate their laptop on a stand.
- Using a wireless mouse will also reduce the strain on the wrist that can be caused by a computers touchpad.
These are easy adjustments that any remote employee can make, and it may just require a company to send out a quarterly reminder or offering equipment support to ensure that they are following the best ergonomic protocols.
That Evolves With You
Whether related to equipment or the overall health and safety of your workforce, Clarion Safety is dedicated to keeping up with your ever changing needs and best practice procedures. As we continue into this New Year, keep in mind that we offer comprehensive machinery risk assessments and training platforms through Clarion Safety Assessment and ClarionAccess®. You can contact our team any time for assistance in selecting the best labels, signs, or tags for your needs.