Connected Worker Solutions Will Digitally Transform Worker Safety
Covid-19 showed how connected worker solutions can drive business continuity, reduce errors, increase real-time operational visibility, and redefine how workforces are managed. These solutions help manage social distancing in the workplace, for safer working conditions and speeding the return to work. But this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of their true potential. Fully utilized connected worker solutions not only empower the frontline workforce, but also save lives by providing real-time and historical visibility into the real-life conditions workers face daily as well as alerts tied to that information.
Empowerment through centralization
Connected worker solutions integrate workers with their environment, and the assets and tools therein. With real-time information and support from centralized systems and expert teams, frontline workers gain access to strategic information when and where they need it, to make the most informed decisions.
Using connected solutions, workers can complete incredibly complex tasks with greater safety, clarity, accuracy, and support compared to paper or even paper-on-glass SOPs. But to do this, connected worker solutions need to be part of a larger centralized information infrastructure.
This infrastructure centralizes, aggregates, and delivers information to workers to help them more easily complete their tasks, and to both get and provide safety support when needed. Timely, useful information can also go further to boost worker engagement and drive behavioral change, for a more productive and safer workplace.
Cut errors, improve safety
Growing sophistication and technology adoption in industrial operations has meant more complex tasks for industrial workers. The more complex the machinery, the more training required for operators, maintenance engineers and service technicians. Research shows that 23% of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing is due to human error. This human error can be tied directly to the tools workers in these environments have at their disposal. Factories and productions processes have gotten “smart,” but the frontline workforce responsible for running, fixing and improving these assets are often walking the floor with pen and paper.
Connected worker solutions both reduce human error and drive early intervention through data-driven process optimization and visualization matched to actual workforce needs. These solutions have been shown to reduce unplanned downtime, increase OEE, and improve human performance.
However, before you deploy connected workforce solutions in industrial environments, it’s important to consider many of these operations are inherently dangerous, and the end-user might have specific requirements or skills sets that impact the form factor of the device and/or software solutions. Devices must be ruggedized and certified for the field of use. Technology must be user-friendly and the hardware inconspicuous and unobtrusive.
Improve contextual and situational awareness
Connected worker solutions can also vastly improve safety through enhanced contextual and situational awareness.
Traditionally, worker safety has been addressed through safety brochures, posters, briefings, and audits. However, with connected solutions, industries can enable:
High-precision (sub-meter and full 3D) indoor and outdoor location tracking using infrastructure beacons
PPE compliance and audits using RFID
Presence detection using standard BLE beacons and UWB.
This dramatically improves overall situational awareness and provides valuable insight into the industrial workplace.
Wearables can deliver notifications and alerts for incidents and events occurring to nearby workers, provide detection and alerts for geofence/lockouts, and for entry and exit. They can send out alerts for unauthorized access, ensure PPE compliance, and even remind workers on the correct PPE usage based on work location and job type.
Connected worker technology and the wearables they include can also be used to request assistance in the event of emergency situations via user-controlled SOS/panic buttons and enable last-mile connectivity to keep workers safe.
It is essential that connected worker solutions account for the unique needs and demands of the industrial sector and the frontline workforce, while simultaneously improving overall asset and worker efficiency and productivity without sacrificing worker safety. This requires unique design considerations such as ruggedization and intrinsically safe devices, as well as people-centric software and data analytics to provide a holistic, user-focused ecosystem of devices, software, and platforms. Evolution, in any industry, is driven by the workforce and by equipping the industrial worker with a connected solution management can transform worker safety, drive behavioral changes, and implement data-driven processes that are safer and more productive.