When it comes to today’s workers — especially those who work alone, or in remote locations — the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can do more than just get them better connected.
It can keep them safer.
Exposure to toxic/flammable gases may be one of the greatest risks such workers face. But newly developed IIoT technology empowers them to use their smartphones to access gas detection devices.
Industrial areas such as oil and gas facilities may typically present a variety of worker hazards. A prime example: exposure to flammable and/or toxic gases. Especially in confined spaces, vapors can build up quickly. Even relatively limited exposure may cause injury, or even death. In recent years, OSHA has attributed hundreds of fatalities to these conditions in U.S. plants.
Portable gas detectors do provide warning of gas leaks. However, they can’t register biomedical dangers — despite the fact that sudden changes in body temperature or blood pressure can deliver early warning of upcoming hazards. Also, in case of trouble, these detectors alert only the worker. If quickly rendered unconscious, a worker may never get the chance to send an alarm.
Safety managers are still unaware of a gas hazard emergency until it’s too late.
In addition, those responsible for safety at industrial sites face a considerable amount of routine administrative work. Gas detectors must be inspected and maintained on a regular basis. And they must remain fully compliant with evolving regulations. Manual record keeping on all these fronts is typically costly and time-consuming.
Smartphones Make It Safer
How could these challenges be met? By gathering, transmitting, and analyzing worker health and safety information with speed and efficiency. These capabilities are now made possible by smartphone connectivity. A worker can wirelessly link his or her portable gas detector or other devices to a smartphone, via Bluetooth.
This opens up a world of critical safety connectivity for safety managers. They can now monitor each individual worker’s safety data automatically, in detail and in real time. That includes toxic/flammable gas readings, worker—down alerts, and worker location. Where a lack of network coverage makes Bluetooth impractical, these devices may also support Wi-Fi, mesh, and GPS wireless communication protocols, to ensure that workers stay connected.
Portable gas detectors can be integrated with wearable biometric monitors, so safety managers can maintain comprehensive, real-time awareness of a worker’s health status. Intelligent harnesses can measure vital statistics — including heart rate, body temperature, breathing rate, and posture — and instantly make them available.
Thus the safety manager can warn a worker in a confined space to move away from a hazardous location. In more dire situations, managers can arrange immediate rescue if they receive a “worker down” signal.
Smartphones Keep It Easier
Compliance and other administrative functions are also made easier by this new IIoT-enabled smartphone connectivity.
Using recorded data, safety managers can run reports on an individual or a population of workers, and monitor their exposure to hazardous substances over time. This is key to heeding — and acting on — biomedical warning signs before they become more serious. For example, a worker’s exposure levels over a given shift can be reduced by changing locations or adding protective gear.
Compliance management can also be streamlined, for enhanced efficiency and productivity. Safety management software platforms simplify configuration, testing, and maintenance of portable gas detectors. They generate reports on testing, certification, and safety incidents on request. They provide automated notifications if a product certification is expiring. And they offer a comprehensive overview of device health that consolidates calibration, bump test, and event data.
Smartphone apps can even enable safety managers and workers to verify, at a glance, if they have the right permit or training to access a hazardous environment (one that poses the risk of asphyxiation or exposure to toxic/flammable gases). This helps eliminate the possibility of entering dangerous confined spaces unknowingly.
Finally, this new IIoT-enabled connected safety approach can be easily scaled up beyond gas detectors. Smartphone connectivity technologies may be applied to other safety measures such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
The more connected workers become, the more easily their safety can be enhanced.For more information, visit www.honeywellsafety.com
By Prabhu Soundarrajan Global Connected Worker Leader
Honeywell Industrial Safety