27th Sep, 2020 Read time 5 minutes

Using the Internet of Things to create a safe workplace

Despite widespread efforts from many businesses and their health and safety managers, there is still room for improvement when it comes to industrial safety and injury prevention. From chemical exposure to equipment incidents and from fatigue to falls, there are numerous dangers in a variety of workplaces across the globe. Construction workers in particular are still suffering greatly from workplace incidents, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

Health and safety managers are increasingly looking for ways to proactively address potential safety issues, rather than opting for a more reactional response. Investing in technologies allows companies to react proactively, helping them to reduce risk more effectively and allowing employees to return home safely to their families.


How does the IoT help to create a safer workplace?

The Internet of Things has benefited safety in a variety of ways, with the huge surge in safety tech bringing with it a whole host of improvements to safety processes and systems. Smart, connected devices are giving rise to enhanced visibility into workers’ health and the safety of the environments that they are in.

New safety tech is enabling companies to capture vital physical metrics including heart rate, skin temperature, movement, activity, and location. Whilst environmental sensors can record critical information about working conditions and their exposure to external dangers. Using advanced analytics, data can be recorded, stored, and turned into insights to help improve safety performance.

Let’s examine how IoT is taking safety to a new level in workplaces across the world.


1. Allows for quicker emergency response

With advanced technology systems integrated into workplaces, any critical events experienced by employees can be instantly reported and pre-determined, allowing for workflows to be executed that can speed up evacuation and rescue.

For example, when a worker falls from a height, alerts are triggered at the safety control centre so that medical aid can be immediately despatched. Similarly, if atmospheric gas levels surpass the tolerated threshold, employees can be immediately notified and evacuated.


2. Enhances worker health, wellness, and productivity

Improved visibility into work environments is never a bad thing and can help businesses to further understand the working environments their employees are in. This can improve the overall health of employees, with improved physical and mental health having a boost on productivity.

Sensor data, that can be found in items such as hard hats, enables managers to watch out for any signs of fatigue or dehydration for example, and so managers can make sure their workers take appropriate breaks. These “smart hats” also gather data on working conditions such as equipment temperatures, dust, toxic conditions, and more, which can help to identify any potential risks to workers from the outset by evaluating trends or possible errors.

Wearable technology and moveable smart equipment are helping shape the way both workers and managers think about safety. Real-time information provided by smart devices can help inform immediate decisions that improve the health of individual workers.


3. Helps to diagnose and prevent future incidents

As well as allowing for more reactive responses, IoT and predictive analytics allows for anticipating and preventing hazards before they occur. Likewise, condition monitoring and predictive maintenance minimise the failures of critical assets like pumps and pipelines, which can save lives but also save money and improve efficiency.

Another good example of how IoT is being used to prevent future incidents is on forklift trucks. Pedestrian and forklift technology can slow the speed of the fork truck when it comes within a certain distance of pedestrians, and can actually stop the fork truck if it gets within certain distance parameters of a person or object.

4. Improves overall facility safety

At their most basic, IoT systems can send real-time safety alerts when something is wrong. The next level of advancement would include trending alerts that can warn facility managers if broader actions are necessary. Leading IoT systems allow safety personnel and plant managers to identify potentially unsafe events and can help to highlight any equipment and maintenance needs, potential training opportunities, and process improvements.

Safety managers can use data collected from safety systems to see near misses that might have otherwise gone unnoticed or not been reported. An electronic tool like IoT can document these instances without the human element of turning in a co-worker. They will stay up to date on changing employee behaviour that could be a potential danger.

In short, IoT is allowing for improved safety in facilities and workplaces across the globe, on a huge level.


The downsides of IoT in safety

One common challenge that comes with the increased use of these advanced systems is the sheer volume of data they collect. Having so much data can be overwhelming, making it difficult to distinguish what information is useful and identify trends or opportunities for improvement. When investing in IoT, you need to choose a system that not only harvests raw data but also allows you to drill into the details and gain actionable insights that allow you to make data-driven decisions.

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