The cleaning industry has one of the highest injury rates in Australia, but the good news is technology may be part of the solution.
As we move towards a more autonomous world, Winc Australia’s Andy Lewis* and Kathryn Groening* look at how the use of new technology can benefit the cleaning industry and what lessons we can learn.
Over the last few years, many businesses have been looking at automation and robotics. These innovations will potentially have a wider impact on the cleaning industry than most.
Robotics, including the use of exoskeletons, is already improving safe practices around manual labour. The use of an exoskeleton allows an external frame to be fitted to the user, helping them to move heavier and extended loads more easily and safely – reducing the risk of short-term injuries and longer term muscular skeletal disorders.
Automated schedules and sensors are also changing the industry. A business may have a policy to clean their facilities at certain times during the day or week. Employing sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology, cleaning schedules could be timed on number of uses.
Some might see the introduction of technology as a way of reducing workforce, yet more progressive businesses identify the opportunity to use it to replace dangerous or repetitive tasks and retraining their workers to conduct more quality focused and preventative maintenance positions.
Having the correct training from the get-go, is the first step in reducing the risk of injuries, especially in the cleaning industry where a lot of the work is still rather manual. Technology could assist in this regard too, using virtual reality and augmented reality inductions. This means employees can be given a real time glance into the workplace without walking through high risk sites or environments.
Another piece of the puzzle could be the use of QR codes. Hazard and risk registers could be loaded up on a secure server, then when a worker attends the site, they would have the ability to scan the QR code to quickly access and understand what to look out for.
But it’s not all about robotics and automation. When we consider technology in the facilities management space, there are also many product enhancements with ergonomics and fit for purpose, which improve worker wellbeing and safety.
What we are seeing in the industry is new improved products, for instance tools that are more silent, more ergonomic and more efficient (therefore requiring less manual effort which reduces stress fatigue). It even comes down to changes in formulas or materials. A great example is microfibre, which is extremely absorbent and gets the job done fast, it’s proven to remove 99.9 per cent of microbes with just water.
Investment is the key to reducing the injury rates within the industry and where some will argue that the cost is high for new technology, others see this as a long-term benefit and a more progressive step to looking after a business’s most valuable asset – its workers.
*Andy Lewis is the risk and compliance director at Winc Australia
*Kathryn Groening is the category manager in safety and industrial at Winc Australia
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