With 2.3 million people around the world affected by work-related accidents or diseases every year, ensuring the safety of workers has become a priority for most businesses, especially those operating in dangerous environments. Since industrial businesses are far more susceptible to hazards, spills, leakages, accidents, and dangerous breakdowns that can cause massive damage to workers as well as the environment, enterprises have the responsibility to take all prudent steps to make safer operating conditions within an industrial site.
Embracing the latest technological innovations is a great way to reduce, control, and eliminate such hazards and ensure the safety of workers, assets, and the environment.
Here are five technologies that could transform industrial safety in 2020:
1. Artificial Intelligence
With the immense promise of AI, the technology is gaining adoption across several industries. The use-case for ensuring industrial safety is also a great candidate for AI based solutions. AI models can be trained to optimize operations as well as to detect potential incidents or threats arising from poor conditions or equipment degradation. With AI, enterprises can not only respond to events in real-time but also prevent them from happening in the first place.
For example, AI algorithms, when implemented in the mining industry, can monitor ambient conditions (hazardous gases, proximity to hazmat, health of equipment) and proactively detect the chances of hazards and take preventive action. AI-powered sensors can assess the environment, predict the level of degradation, and optimize ventilation to maximize industrial safety and prevent mishaps from happening.
Workers in industrial settings often have to work in remote and isolated environments that carry high risks. However, IoT-based sensor technology that produces real-time insights can allow enterprises to stay abreast with the safety status of their workers. With IoT, industries can not only monitor various ambient conditions such as temperature and noise levels but also keep track of the vital signs of an individual worker. They can monitor parameters like the heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and more. They can track the worker’s movement, monitor their posture, and even determine if the worker is experiencing fatigue.
For example, smart wearables can prove to be an invaluable asset for chemical company employees who work around-the-clock in high-risk conditions. These wearables, with in-built real-time tracking, can detect signs of danger such as the presence of harmful gas, high temperature, moving objects, collapsing trenches, and more, and alert workers whenever there is a significant risk.
For industrial enterprises that have workers working in high-risk environments, obtaining actionable intelligence and real-time situational awareness is extremely critical to ensure their safety. Intelligent device communication and real-time, stream-data analysis can provide industries with reliable and actionable intelligence. Safety detection systems with built-in analytics can collect, deliver, and analyze data for those on the front lines to deliver the oversight, insight, and foresight needed to ensure safety and productivity.
For example, in manufacturing, the safety risks caused by heavy machinery, electrical connections, and ill-maintained equipment are reasonably high. Real-time analytics can provide timely insight into poorly maintained machinery and the risk it presents to workers. By constantly collecting and analyzing data on equipment operations, analytics can provide warning indications about maintenance needs or breakdown possibilities while optimizing throughput across the equipment lifecycle.
4. Mixed reality
Mixed reality technology is finding great application across industries. AR and VR can enable the critical field of vision—allowing workers to get insight into what’s happening, where it is happening, and who it is happening to. Through digital visualization of the real world, these technologies can enable workers to become more aware of their workplace surroundings and the risks they present. Workers can get hands-on training on virtually everything—from operating excavators to welding and more.
For example, in the automotive industry, 3D visualization software can enable workers to simulate real-world like workplace conditions and get insight into the dangers and hazards in advance. AR and VR can enable workers to virtually get exposed to extremely high-risk situations on the shop floor and see what safety equipment and materials they would require for preventing accidents.
5. Drone technology
The industrial sector can also benefit a great deal from the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones. Using drones, industries can get real-time insight into safety conditions from far above, a perspective usually not available to safety managers. Drones can not only reduce the risk of accidents but also see how and why something went wrong in the first place.
For example, in the oil and gas industry, drones can be used to check the risks present at a rig, giving workers crucial safety information without endangering their lives. It can help survey sites located deep in the sea while conducting inspections and identifying potential hazards. Drones can also be used to take photographs over time and keep workers informed of changing work conditions to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations.