Efficient integration of technology in EHS – Wearables

technology in EHS

Gone are the days when wearable technology was once considered as the domain of professional athletes and keep-fit enthusiasts. It has evolved and penetrated mainstream consumer market to not only monitor health performance but also safety as well.

The electrocardiogram (ECG) feature was introduced recently on the Apple Watch Series 4 with the watchOS 5.1.2 update and is already being credited with saving its first user.

A Reddit user identified as “edentel” shared how his Apple Watch notified him of an abnormal heart rate. The wearable user then ran the ECG app and found out it was AFib (atrial fibrillation). The following morning, he went to urgent care and saw a doctor who said, “You should buy Apple stock. This probably saved you. I read about this last night and thought we would see an upswing this week. I didn’t expect it first thing this morning.”

The patient says he consulted a cardiologist the next day, who did an exam and confirmed the AFib diagnosis.

One can only logically assume that the natural extension of wearables, propelled by the rapid growth of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, would be in the direction of workplace safety and employee wellness.

The following are the most common applications of wearables and smart personal protective systems (PPS) at workplace that have surfaced in recent times :

Monitor and improve employee safety, health and wellness – The personalized nature of the wearables enables round-the-clock integrated body vitals monitoring and auto-alerting the wearable user and related authorities such as in-plant medical team on finding any alarming signs.

Wearable empowered body vitals monitoring present an excellent and much needed opportunity of identifying on-the-spot decline in worker’s physiological condition during high risk activities like working in confined spaces.

Several organizations have already deployed wearables for ergonomics assessment and correction of their workers. These devices can be worn on a belt and whenever the person move into a position of excessive bending, lifting, twisting or reaching, the devices nudges them and records their move based on the required ergonomics plan. This solution equipped with the right plan of action has proved effective in reducing poor ergonomic movements on a daily basis as much as 84 percentage over 4 week pilot study in workers at a global logistics company.

Trigger emergency response and aid first responders – Today, industry has started to bank on “Fall detection” and “Inactivity identification” to drive their worker rescue operations.

Honeywell and Intel unveiled a wearable, connected safety solution for industrial workers and first responders. The prototype provides safety intelligence that reduces worker injuries and prevents loss of life from “man-down” scenarios.

Environmental protection from invisible risks – Smart personal protective equipments (PPE) that are embedded with a plethora of sensors for detection of heat, gas, chemical, UV monitor the external environment to identify potentially dangerous patterns and alert supervisors when workers are in trouble. This is especially important in hazardous work environments, such as mining, oil and gas, automotive and manufacturing, where worker safety is critical.

Moreover, PPEs with smart cooling and heating elements can respond to body and external temperatures to keep the wearer safe.

Remote Asset Monitoring – One of the unprecedented opportunities of electronically enhanced PPEs is to allow site managers to know the location of their workers and whether they are protected and safe.

Smart mines are cropping up today which use a network system to identify the location of each miner and in lone worker scenarios

Smart communication systems – Smart helmets, ear muffs and face masks provide fast, effective communication in loud or low-visual environments.

A “Wearables at Work” survey from the Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated in 2014 revealed that 27 percent of U.S. adults, 35 percent in G.B, 49 percent in China and 56 percent adults in India concurred that increasing safety was the number-one factor that would make workers more eager to use wearables in the workplace.

Backed by industry, the safety wearables landscape is changing rapidly as technology improves and is revolutionizing the way companies tackle workplace safety.

Image courtesy:
jeanbaptisteparis (Mediamatic Hybrid Wearables)
under CC BY-SA 2.0

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