Safety Gets an Upgrade

Safety Gets an Upgrade

There’s little doubt that otherwise ordinary objects are becoming more and more connected these days. Even refrigerators have wi-fi signals now. There’s even a catchy term for the subject that you may have heard called the “internet of things.” While a lot of these internet-enabled devices and objects could logically fall into the “bells and whistles” category of trivial items, there are a few areas where they could very well become invaluable. One of the most important is in the realm of personal protective equipment (PPE), where lives can be saved. Smart PPE is going to change safety.

Getting Smarter about Safety

Depending on your industry and the nature of work being conducted, there are all kinds of different ways to apply smart PPE to your operations. There’s a lot for business owners and safety managers to gain from using this technology because of the unique insight and data tracking it will be able to provide.

Some of the most common examples include:

  • Communication devices – For workers who encounter dangerous or low-visibility environments, having things like a helmet, visor, mask, or ear protection equipped with communication devices to will help keep their teams updated on the status of the job and individuals involved. The addition of cameras and other monitoring packages combined with communications can give supervisors a real-time look into just how well things are going.
  • Smart glasses – Similar to the way communication devices help monitor a job task, smart glasses can enable the sharing of information. Imagine being able to upload schematics to an employee that’s working on a component in a different part of your facility from you. They can also send you back video and audio. In theory, you could run an entire factory this way with monitoring and control from a single primary source anywhere in the world.
  • Connected hard hats – Hard hats fitted with vital sign, location, and imaging technology were initially utilized by entities within the mining industries to help them keep track of worker location and condition in the labyrinth of underground systems they work within. Today, the tech has also been widely incorporated into the emergency response sectors, where first responders in difficult situations can remain connected with medical professionals in real time.
  • Thermal imaging – Thermal imaging devices are increasingly seeing use in emergency services like firefighting in addition to numerous other industrial and manufacturing applications. If you’re searching for a hot pipe inside of wall, or perhaps a victim trapped in a nearby room, thermal cameras can help locate them.
  • Temperature control – There are various types of tech-enabled garments that can be used to protect workers in extreme environments such as sub-zero temperatures or superheated conditions. These items have sensors that can monitor a person’s body temperature and warn both workers and employers about potential problems. These can also, of course, be combined with location monitoring and other technology like gas or chemical sensors. They can even be fitted with impact sensors to report the seriousness of an accident.
  • Fitness trackers – Popular with health enthusiasts and individuals who exercise, fitness tracking technology has also been used by employers that have employees that both live and work in their facilities, like on ships or oil rigs. There are a lot of reasons why an employee’s health would be an important factor in the safety programming of a facility of this type. Poor diet, for example, or lack of sleep could lead to fatigue that threatens the safety of other workers.
  • Transportation accident prevention – Tech is even working to help alleviate one of the biggest problems in the transportation industry today: accidents caused by fatigue or sleeping behind the wheel. By tracking the behaviors and conditions of drivers and operators, safety experts are now able to help prevent accidents that could injure innocent civilians and expose companies to huge liabilities. This is also not just commercial technology anymore, either. Drowsiness detection systems are also being pioneered and implemented in consumer vehicles by several major auto manufacturers.

We’re Going to Learn a Lot

Smart PPE, combined with the rise that’s taken place in internet-enabled equipment and vehicles, is going to present employers with more data on their operations than ever before in the past. Experts project this will be a major boost to efficiency and productivity as potential accidents and malfunctions that could bring work to a standstill should, in theory, be known about well in advance of the incident. But, given the high-performance standards these devices will be expected to handle, there is still a fair amount of development that will need to take place before items like these become commonplace. Because when people’s lives depend on it, these gadgets will have to work every single time.

One thing’s for sure though, that development is on the way. It won’t be long before many day-to-day work activities become safer through intelligent information sharing.