The ever-evolving world of business and the advancement in Artificial Intelligence is probably one of the biggest risks to employees in today’s world of work. Machines are getting smaller, faster and even smarter, and workplaces are evolving at a rapid pace. And for the past 100 years, the safety profession has been stuck on a treadmill running to keep up.
A few large names pops up as victims of advancement, such as Rolex, Betamax and Kodak. It is said that their treadmill-thinking led to their downfall.
The first digital wristwatch was introduced in 1967. The story in the matchmaking industry tells that Rolex was the first swiss manufacturer to say no to the new concept stating that no Rolex watch will ever run on batteries. It was only in the late 1970’s when Rolex realised the short-sighted decision, when the market already bought Seiko, Boluva and other analog quartz watches.
Sony’s Betamax VCR’s also lost the market to VHS due to a lawsuit between them and the Motion Picture Association of America on illegal copying of movies. Sony’s decision to hold back on Betamax sales, pending the outcome of the lawsuit, gave Japan Victor Company, (JVC) a window of opportunity and released the VHS format. By the time the lawsuit was settled, Betamax found the entire US market already flooded with VHS format VCR’s and had very little hope to enter at that late stage.
Kodak also fell prey to digital advancement, with the advent of digital cameras. Instead of embracing the new technology, Kodak made some side-stepping manoeuvres, which included the acquisition of Sterling Drugs for $5,1 Billion in the 1980’s. Later it introduced the “Photo CD” as a storage medium for images, without considering the possibility of data storage as a whole. Realising its errors too late, Kodak was forced to recruit from companies like Lexmark to re-label some of their products under the Kodak name in order to save face as a leader in digital technology. Eventually, they owned nothing of note in the market and their shares dropped from $2,38 to just 78c in just one week after rumours emerged of their bankruptcy.
The fall of the company that George Eastman built is perhaps the most salient commentary on the new economy in recent memory, and tells an unfortunate story about much of America’s industrial base. Monolithic, inflexible and unable to keep up with the shifts and turns of disruptive technology, once great companies like Kodak can’t survive without exhaustive restructuring.
For many decades the safety industry has been doing exactly what these big companies have done by clinging to their comfort zone and following the pre-historic thoughts and research of Bird, Frank and other pioneers in the field. Frankly, in the absence of new leaders, who can blame them?
But while on the Safety treadmill, the world is driving past in autonomous cars followed by flying cameras capable of recording the view without a VCR. And by 2025 they will realise that they are no longer needed in the global economy.
Machines will be able to inspect themselves. ISO systems will become wristwatch apps that will prompt the wearer to attend a safety video meeting, and biometrics will record physical health and alert HR when you are not feeling well.
I think it was Einstein who once in jist said that the future of business will comprise three elements; a computer, a person and a dog. The computer does all the work, the dog keeps the person away to prevent sabotage, and the person is there purely to water and feed the dog. The sad part is that the person is still the weakest link.
Incidentally, he also said that humans will in future communicate with their thumbs.
We are in the wrong age to cling to the safety profession. Its format is outdated as Betamax and it has the same thinking as the management of Kodak.
In a recent Promotional article published by NOSA, with the title “Are you ready for a new dawn in safety?” it is already hinted that the future of safety practice is shifting. And while this may be good news for some, the reality is that this new dawn is just another rotation of planet earth.
The “new dawn”
According to NOSA, they “are definitely seeing it in the safety industry. With the emergence of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupation (QCTO), and the publication of the ISO 45001 standard, it is clear that the safety status quo is shifting. There is a greater call for accountability – the Institute for Work at Height (IWH) will soon insist on every facilitator (conducting working at height training) to themselves hold certain qualifications. For all intents and purposes, the noose is tightening, not just on wrongdoers, but on those apathetic on safety also.
This makes it the optimal time to apply a greater influence to developments within the industry, especially with regards to current safety challenges. Take, for instance, the topics of our two latest NOSHCON speakers. Myandren Pillay and Andrew Hay will be discussing security and driver safety respectively. The recent spate of cash-in-transit heists alone emphasise the relevance of these subject areas. Not a single citizen can afford to be a passive observer when it comes to our safety – it’s time to join the debate.”
When safety started as a profession back in the early 1900’s it was safety. Then there was a new dawn introducing “health” so it became Health & Safety. And it was evening and it was morning, the second day.
Then came the environment so it became SHE. And it was evening and it was morning, the third day.
Then came Quality and so it became SHEQ. And it was evening and it was morning, the fourth day.
Then came Risk Management and it became SHERQ, SHREQ or QSHER. And it was evening and it was morning, the fifth day.
Then came Sustainability and it added another S. And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day.
And on the seventh day, …well…You know how that story goes. In the end, you will be chased out of the garden because you did not obey.
And that is exactly what is happening with the new registration regime driven by the DOL and the SACPCMP. You are being chased out of the garden because you are incompetent!
The reality of the profession is that it focuses on an administrative system that can be replaced by artificial intelligence and an integrated software package within the next 5 to 7 years. And the new OHS Act will play an active part in this transformation.
That little SHEQ policy statement hanging at reception which is only read by the cleaner when removing the dust from the frame, is going to be replaced with a “management system” when the new Section 7 is released and the R25000 fine you will get for not having a system is going to force you to seek alternative solutions. You will seek out the best “software” to manage your safety efforts as it will be more reliable than having a fulltime administrator and spending thousands on printing and paper and its subsequent waste removal.
Yes, there is a new dawn and it is coming soon! The question is, will your treadmill keep up?