Wollongong’s Safety Compass is digitising the workplace safety manual through augmented reality and interactive mapping

- January 11, 2016 3 MIN READ

Adam Poole was working as a mechanic in 2004 when a routine service went horribly wrong. He had performed the same service over a hundred times and never expected that a workplace injury would take him off work for six months. Doctors told him that it was time for a career change, as he would never be able to work as a tradie again.

Workplace injuries are a massive global problem and cause physical and mental strain on individuals and their families. Every 15 seconds, a person is killed on the job somewhere around the world – that’s more than 2 million workers a year. Last year in Australia 186 workers were killed on the job, while the cost of work related injuries has skyrocketed to over $60 billion dollars.

“It’s a massive global problem and it’s often because people are going into workplaces that they may not be aware of the hazards and are getting themselves in trouble from there,” Poole said.

It was Poole’s first hand experience of injury and the hardships of losing his job and ultimately his career that led to the creation of Safety Compass. The startup has created an app that provides live location-specific workplace safety information through augmented reality and interactive mapping. The app is designed to identify the risks and hazards involved in day to day labour for field-base workers to give them an understanding of potential hazards and help them to avoid the accidents that can change their whole lives.

It helps workers manage safety risks on site and prevent injuries that lead to time off work or even death. It avoids the use of site manuals, where workers typically have to read large volumes of complicated text in loud, dark, or crowded environments, slashing the time and effort that is currently necessary to assess the dangers and risks in the workplace.

“Seeing those injuries which are traumatic by nature really gets to you. I’m trying to find a solution to help these guys at the end of the day,” said Poole.

“I’ve got a lot of family and friends that have sustained workplace injuries as well and it’s not good enough. I don’t go to work and expect to be killed it’s just baffling to me that it happens and they’re traumatic injuries; people being crushed to death or falling off sides of buildings or getting trapped in machinery, it’s really horrible.”

The information on Safety Compass is collected, managed and shared to and from workers and supervisors to ensure all team members have the same knowledge and understanding of on site risks and hazards. Vital information on present dangers is sent straight to the worker’s smartphone using the inbuilt camera and GPS system. The app displays real time risk communication to field users, where supervisors can update hazard tags in the admin function to send workers live risks within minutes.

The app has two functions – supervisor and worker – to allow interaction and the sharing of information across all teams. For $5 a month users can access either function, depending on what their company decides. The app picks up the physical location based on the latitude, longitude and altitude of each worker and attaches safety info to that point. The information is collected by higher management, who can share photos, hyperlinks, PDF files and YouTube videos simultaneously to all their workers on site straight from the supervisor function. All employees can access the information and interact with it from the worker function.

“Traditionally these types of workers are predominantly male with trade backgrounds; they have to navigate all these complex and detailed paper based management systems, so we’re trying to take what’s relevant from that info and give it to the guys on the job,” explained Poole.

The app is targeted towards the trades sector, a sector that employs around a quarter of the world’s workforce. The sector is male-dominated, with 25-44 years being the age bracket where the bulk of work-related injuries take place. Poole said the development of the app has come through collaboration with these kinds of workers, looking at everything from the colour scheme through to model testing to ensure it’s as user-friendly as possible.

The app soft launched in September last year and has been through a couple of early stage pilots. Version one is available in the App Store and version two for Android should be in the play store within the next few weeks.

Poole secured $75,000 in investment last year from Black Sheep Capital, Mirin Capital and Blue Chilli, with whom he has been working closely with to develop his ideas.

Safety Compass is currently looking to raise $500,000 from angel investors for 20 percent equity, which will allow them to scale their app globally. With around 800 million people working in the trades sector worldwide and half of that number residing in Southeast Asia alone, Poole said the company is currently eyeballing the Asian market.

While there are other apps on the market for workplace safety, Poole believes that none are quite targeting the same audience as Safety Compass; iAuditor, for example, allows for the conducting of workplace safety audits. While business success is important, Poole’s big hope is that Safety Compass will help drastically improve workplace safety for onsite workers, ensuring they get home to their families each and every night.

Image: Adam Poole. Source: Supplied