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How do digitalisation, AI and robotisation contribute to safe working?

The labour market in the Netherlands is in a state of flux. Digitalisation, an aging population, robotisation and the energy transition are some examples of the changes and challenges the labour market is facing. These transitions are accumulating and require robust and flexible safety control solutions for increasingly complex production environments. TNO helps companies and the government with this by using digitalisation, artificial intelligence and robotisation to predict and prevent unsafe situations at work.

SAFE WORKING

One of the consequences of the changing labour market is that safety risks in the workplace will change with the advent of ‘emerging risks’. These risks must be identified and addressed as soon as possible to ensure safety at work and process safety. This concerns not only the arrival of new, possibly hazardous substances, but also the need to modernise and update safety instruments.

The safety performance of companies depends on three factors: people, organisation and technology. Only when these factors are aligned with each other can operational processes function optimally, increasing reliability and safety. ‘Technology is booming and offers opportunities to collect increasing amounts of safety data in the work environment. We investigate the implications of digitalisation, robotisation and artificial intelligence (AI) for safety at work. This is because the optimal use of digital resources can improve safety,’ says Coen van Gulijk.

Two key questions are central to this issue:

  • What are the new and existing risks of introducing digitalisation, robotisation and AI into the workplace?
  • How can digitalisation and AI be used to predict and manage safety risks to humans and technology?

INTELLIGENT ROBOTS

The introduction of intelligent and flexible robots and cobots (collaborative robots) in the workplace has been in the spotlight for a few years now. As TNO, we are investigating the effect of AI in robots and possible safety complications. We help companies to manage digitalisation and robotisation properly and implement them safely. The focus is on working safely with intelligent robots. After all, these new mechanical workers, which act together as well as with ordinary employees, potentially bring new risks to the workplace. GRIP is a method developed by TNO, a step-by-step plan that provides guidance on what to bear in mind when working with and training a robot. In addition, we are part of Holland Robotics, a network initiative for safety when working with intelligent and flexible robots.

INTERACTIVE INCIDENT RECORDING

We try to use existing data and collect smart data with more context to predict and prevent unsafe situations. Sensors on the bodies of employees, on machines or elsewhere in the work environment play an important role here. But in addition, chatbots, through learning algorithms, can ask questions to find out more about incidents. This can provide information that may be used to improve primary processes and predict unsafe situations.

IMPLEMENTATION & SAFE BEHAVIOUR

Together with partners, TNO innovates by developing safety solutions that are practical, effective and affordable. The focus is on coordination in the organisation, practical usability and alignment with the target group. Research into safe behaviour and a culture of safety in the light of the various transitions is an important part of our work. It is precisely in the face of these challenges that insights into behavioural change play a crucial role. Making greater and better use of behavioural insights when choosing, implementing and safeguarding measures can reduce safety and health risks in practice. Read more about this in the whitepaper gedrag (in Dutch).

COLLABORATION

We not only like to collaborate with companies that want to detail and improve their safety, but also with strategic partners for implementation and parties that supply technology for our innovations. We are specifically looking for companies that want to collaborate with us on innovation projects in the field of safety at work.

If you would you like to know more about our research in the field of safety at work and/or collaborate with us, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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