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March 24, 2023
NSC awarding grants for ergonomics research

On March 22, the National Safety Council (NSC) announced it is awarding $285,000 in grants to research promising safety solutions to reduce the instances of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) through two newly launched grant programs: the Research to Solutions (R2S) grant and MSD Solutions Pilot Grant 1.0.

The grant programs are part of the NSC’s MSD Solutions Lab, an initiative established in 2021 with Amazon Inc. to help organizations of all sizes reduce MSDs.

In January, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited three Amazon warehouses in Florida, Illinois, and New York for exposing workers to MSD hazards. The agency pointed to the heavy weight of items and the high frequency with which workers were required to lift packages and other items, as well as awkward postures, such as twisting, bending, and long reaches while lifting.

R2S will award up to $75,000 per approved research project for a total of $225,000 in grants, and the MSD Solutions Pilot Grant 1.0 will award a total of $60,000 aimed at MSDs caused by manual material handling.

The NSC is a not-for-profit organization focused on preventing injuries and deaths in the home, in the workplace, and on the roadways.

NSC releases safety data, AI research

The NSC also released a new report evaluating findings from academic and industry journals that identified artificial intelligence (AI) best practices for preventing instances of workplace illness, injury, and fatality. The council released the white paper Using Data and AI to Gain Insights into Your Safety Program through its Work to Zero initiative. 

The white paper highlights three forms of machine learning that organizations can leverage to save time and money while enhancing performance and improving upon traditional environment, health, and safety (EHS) processes:

  • Computer vision technology, which is commonly deployed within closed-circuit television (CCTV) video management systems to monitor images and video footage and detect objects and workers’ proximity to hazards using computer vision capabilities that can be combined with additional data such as location, time, and safety guidelines to deliver automated alerts for equipment malfunctions, vehicle collisions, and more; 
  • Natural language processing to rapidly summarize written reports and extract quantitative insights that can be used to enhance productivity and streamline safety reporting and compliance; and 
  • Predictive and prescriptive analytics engines designed to enable AI to learn causes and effects from historical data using rule-based systems that can be configured to predict incidents before they occur and produce recommendations, such as the most suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) for a specific task, across a range of operating environments. 

“EHS professionals already manage large volumes of data on a daily basis, and advancements in analytics and artificial intelligence have made it easier to synthesize this information to improve existing risk mitigation activities,” Emily Whitcomb, the NSC’s director of innovation, said in a statement.

“In addition to helping employers understand the benefits of investing in safety technology, this white paper outlines new ways organizations of all sizes can leverage AI-powered analytics to advance their workplace’s unique safety culture and ultimately prevent injuries and save lives.”

Despite the potential benefits of AI-powered data analysis, Work to Zero also noted several barriers to widespread AI adoption, such as potentially high implementation costs and privacy concerns. The white paper also identified distinct challenges small organizations and large enterprises may face when selecting AI technology.

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