World Mental Health Day: How AI is a gamechanger for the psychological health of field workers

By Karl Simons OBE, Executive Director for Health, Safety & Wellbeing at FYLD

Research shows that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some point during their life. Around 14% of people experience mental health problems in the workplace. Mental health affects the quality of life of workers as well as the morale and productivity of the workplace. As such, tools that help identify sources of stress and improve work processes – particularly for distributed workforces such as those out in the field – can make a significant difference to employees and employers.

The driving factors 

Many factors can affect the mental health of employees working in field teams, including:

  • Workers often experience frustration related to the burden of paperwork and compliance requirements that place an excessive administrative load on field teams. Instead of being enablers for work safety, workers often feel that these systems exist to protect their employer from liability and consequently feel unprotected at work.
  • Field teams frequently face unexpected hazards. They must perform risk assessments and put adequate control measures in place, but they may feel they lack the knowledge or experience to make significant decisions about risk. This uncertainty leads to anxiety and stress.
  • Explaining to supervisors the task complexities and challenges faced ‘in the moment’ without having risk visualisation tolls at their disposal, can lead to frustrations manifesting.

Contributors to mental health problems are not limited to field workers. Supervisors also face challenges that cause stress or anxiety. During COVID-19, the movement of personnel has been more limited than usual. Disruption to normal services, caused by factors such as resource depletion, have left supervisors having to adapt to new challenges. They have been unable to get to sites in-person as often as they would like, leading to a sense of disconnect with their field worker teams.

In normal circumstances, supervisors would typically oversee between four-six gangs and site visits were common.  However, the demands of increased paperwork and lack of oversight to prioritise sites with the highest risk can prevent supervisors being as mobile and visible as they, and their management, would like. This uncertainty and added frustration contributes to the stress of the supervisory role and keeps supervisors in a reactive mode, often overwhelmed.

A transformative new solution

FYLD is an artificial intelligence platform that enables safer, more productive, field force operations. It includes a risk assessment module that has an immediate psychological effect on workers that, in turn, immediately and positively impacts their behaviour on site.

With FYLD, the risk assessment is transformed from being a frustrating and routine task.  No longer are workers sitting in huts or vans, repetitively completing generic tick box questions or cutting and pasting into forms. Instead, they work with a live and interactive system that visualises risks to make their work safer. FYLD requires teams to be out on site looking at and describing the hazards in front of them in real-time.

Teams take a video of their job site while talking through the hazards they see. The FYLD solution, powered by AI, uses natural language processing and machine learning to codify hazards from the verbal messages and images received, and then provides control measures to the field team that are pre-agreed with the organisation’s safety team. Team leaders can therefore be confident that a dynamic and robust assessment of the site is in place and will be complied with. They can have this confidence 100% of the time – regardless of whether they can get to site.

A significant advantage of FYLD over paper-based systems and tick box questions on electronic forms of tablets is cloud connectivity. Managers and safety professionals can see the risk assessments in real-time and make proactive contributions to assessing hazards and control measures. This interaction brings a level of expertise to the field that is not available presently in companies normal risk assessment or operating systems. It transforms the risk assessment from a routine task that frustrates workers to a live visualisation of risks that makes their work safer. It also allows supervisors to visualise the work site, helping bridge the communication gap to the field and overcome the sense of isolation that comes from working at home.

An open API with the ability to connect and integrate with other company systems is available. This means that external information can be combined with FYLD data.  This can include simple but powerful information that meets the essential needs of workers while in the field and ease worker anxiety, for example, the location of the nearest open public toilet or hospital. Alerts for changing weather patterns that will impact site safety can be delivered to field workers, too. FYLD can also make the job site location available to emergency responders in the case of an incident. With job locations often in remote, hard to find areas, this can dramatically improve the ability to secure treatment for an injured work mate. All these features contribute to the well-being of workers both psychologically and physically.

Supervisors also have real-time access to dynamic risk assessments and work progress updates. They can prioritise site visits based on safety risk or job progress and, therefore, add value to the site where their presence is most needed.

The impact

Access to risk assessments and workflows at the touch of a button on a smart-phone or tablet enables supervisors to be far more proactive in removing job blockers and, therefore, field worker frustrations. FYLD works to support field workers and relieve their frustrations. For this reason, it is being adopted easily by field workers. FYLD is removing sources of negative mental health at the frontline.

At FYLD we frequently hear stories about how our solution has positively affected the health and wellbeing of field workers. One recent example occurred when a supervisor picked up a change in tone of voice from a field worker while he was undertaking a real time review of a site risk assessment. The supervisor immediately contacted the field worker out of concern for their state of mind and provided input to resolve the source of anxiety. FYLD provided the catalyst for positive engagement, enabling a supervisor to impact the worker’s mental health in the moment. Gone are the days where these situations should be dealt with reactively once they have already escalated into a health or safety incident.

FYLD is the first AI-powered risk assessment solution that enables a positive psychological impact on managers and frontline operatives to support the prevention of harm within organisations. On World Mental Health Day, we are proud to share the positive impact FYLD has on the mental health of field workers.