Plenty has been written lately on automation—how it will increase efficiency and productivity, offering new, unprecedented opportunities for business growth in industries that employ skilled trades.
But what about the benefits for skilled workers? One of the lesser-known advantages from the automation revolution is the technology’s capacity to protect employees, making their jobs safer and more enjoyable.
Here’s a primer on the rise of automation in the skilled trades and its potential to improve health and safety for workers.
Is automation taking skilled jobs from workers?
For many skilled workers, the prospect of losing jobs to new technologies might be keeping them up at night. However, automation is a long way away from replacing humans in most skilled jobs. Much of the everyday work in the skilled trades is still too complex to be replaced by machines, and the work that machines can do consists mainly of only the most repetitive or dangerous tasks. For this reason, automation is predicted to be beneficial for workers, reducing workplace injuries and replacing only the jobs that are the riskiest.
Skilled workers continue to be in high demand across a range of industries, including construction, mining, energy, and manufacturing. As automation becomes more common, tradespeople can expect to see this technology integrated alongside their existing roles to make their work easier and safer.
How is automation improving health and safety in skilled jobs?
Because automation encompasses a broad range of technologies, it is being implemented in a variety of ways throughout many industries to protect skilled workers. Here is an overview of the major uses of automation to enhance health and safety in the skilled trades.
Drones and robots are taking on the most dangerous jobs
Robotics and drones have countless applications in skilled work. In manufacturing, robotics are being integrated to handle tasks that pose dangers to workers, as well as jobs that are physically intensive. In construction, companies are increasingly using drones to inspect dangerous areas when necessary, generating updates for stakeholders without risks to workers. Early evidence—such as this study from OSHA showing that the adoption of automation reduces injuries—suggests that these innovations are meaningfully improving safety.
While there are concerns that robotics are changing the nature of some jobs, they also offer new opportunities for workers. With the use of such technologies growing, new jobs managing the operation and management of drones and robotics are beginning to emerge as well.
Computers are reducing human error
Automation can also support better health and safety by taking over repetitive tasks that are typically performed by workers. Because they can conduct these jobs for long hours without mistakes, computers are uniquely suited for dull, repetitive roles that can be frustrating and exhausting for workers.
Implementing automation to handle such jobs not only frees up employees for more engaging roles, but it also prevents human error that could lead to worker accidents and injuries.
Reducing stress and workloads
Skilled workers face another risk to their health and safety that is not often discussed: stress. The intense mental and physical demand of the work, combined with issues caused by the skilled labour shortage, often result in significant demands on tradespeople.
Through the integration of new software designed especially for the skilled trades, automation is helping to reduce stress and employee workloads. Task management software can help to delegate responsibilities when workers are feeling overwhelmed, predict and execute common activities, prevent important tasks from falling through the cracks, and ensure jobs get completed on time.
By freeing up time and attention, automation can help workers prevent the very real health costs of stress and overwork, allowing them to maintain their long-term well-being on the job.
Preventing equipment failure through predictive maintenance
To keep workers safe, all equipment requires regular monitoring and maintenance. This is an area in which automation can play a key role in every industry. By using software to schedule maintenance automatically, companies can ensure that equipment is always in working order.
Predictive maintenance is a new technology that utilizes past data to predict equipment failure before it happens. This unprecedented advancement not only ensures that maintenance happens efficiently, but it can be pivotal for preventing accidents and injuries before they happen by catching problems early. It’s one of many significant technological innovations that are protecting workers real, tangible ways, making skilled work safer for everyone.
The bottom line
The rise of automation marks a turning point in industries that employ skilled workers, not only because of the leaps in productivity, but also because of the improvements in health and safety. By taking over dangerous jobs, preventing human error in key tasks, lowering stress, and preventing equipment failure, among other key advancements, the automation revolution is transforming the skilled trades for the better.