An extraordinary rise in work related injuries to warehouse and delivery staff, as a result of the UK’s biggest spike in online retailing, poses a threat to economic recovery unless there’s an evolution in materials handling practices. That’s the prediction of Luton-based Stanley, which is advocating the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to protect workers.
Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for 2018/19 showed that around 581,000 individuals sustained non-fatal injuries at work, of which two thirds were musculoskeletal. As a result, over 28 million working days were lost, at a cost to the UK economy of more than £5billion.
Having rebranded during lockdown to represent the company’s innovative focus, Stanley had raised concerns for the wellbeing of frontline personnel before the pandemic took hold. According to Graham Sharp, Stanley’s Managing Director, the need to ensure social distancing, reduce labour costs and mitigate injuries associated with home delivery are major challenges now being tackled by the nation’s biggest grocers and retailers:
“With some supermarkets recording a doubling of online sales over the past four months and one of the largest delivery firms recently announcing the recruitment of 3,500 new drivers and an investment of £100m on vehicles, there can be no doubt as to the scalability of online shopping.
“Whilst it goes without saying that employers have a duty of care towards their employees, the trend in work related injuries does not reflect the advances being made in new technology to make manual handling more cost-efficient and far less hazardous,” continued Sharp.
In addition to being an innovator in lightweight commercial manual handling equipment that enables single person delivery of goods weighing up to 425kgs, Stanley is the exclusive distributor of a wearable device which employs AI to identify hazardous actions, by continuously measuring movement, frequency and forces on the body. When linked to an app on the wearer’s smartphone, data collected encourages employees to manage their own wellbeing through a series of tutorials, whilst management can remove the need for classroom training and use it to implement wider business improvements and a culture of safety.
Sharp claims that firms harnessing this technology have improved staff productivity by up to 25 percent, which doesn’t include the added value from reduced sickness absence and improved staff retention.
“For a workplace to be a rewarding and happy place to spend so much of our lives, we encourage businesses to take a proactive stance on employee wellbeing. Above all, an individual’s happiness and performance is linked to their physical and mental health, so we are pleased to be working with a number of leading players in the market which are trialing these applications.”