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Researchers propose computer vision solution to job injuries

Pennsylvania workers may soon enjoy safer work environments thanks to smartphones. Industrial systems engineering teams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison believe that these devices can be used to improve measurements of job site risk and potentially make it easier to promote safe behaviors. The researchers have created computer vision algorithms that analyze different types of activities depicted in workplace videos to examine how repetitive motions and other behaviors might contribute to harm on the job.

According to the professor leading the project, the goal is to discover what kinds of workplace activities might cause injuries so that engineers can more accurately determine what constitutes risk. From there, employers might be able to redesign their workplaces accordingly. The researchers early efforts won them three years' worth of additional funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although technologies already exist for measuring the disadvantages of certain work behaviors, using devices like phones could be more accurate and reliable in the long run. Unlike current options, phones don't have to be attached to workers bodies, and they can be programmed to gather data automatically. The low cost of such platforms might also make advanced safety measurement methodologies more accessible to different types of companies.

Modern technology stands to improve safety outcomes for workers in a range of fields, but some of these solutions may depend on employers following through. Companies may resist investing in safety apps or technologies for cost reasons, or they could do so in order to avoid drawing attention to their subpar practices. Victims of workplace injuries may have to take it upon themselves to use tools like smartphones to document their employment conditions. Talking to an attorney might help them determine the best way to leverage the information they gather.

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