Technological advancement, the introduction of IoT, and other intelligent technologies have made it easier (and safer) for workers to carry out tasks in mines, chemical factories, oil rigs, construction sites, and more. Today, robots, connected tools, and smart wearables are empowering workers to do their jobs with better precision and accuracy; yet when it comes to avoiding collisions with forklifts, cranes, excavators, compressors, or other heavy machinery, there’s room for improvement.
The problem with traditional IoT systems
Industrial sectors have been employing several IoT systems made up of sensors, processors, and actuators that are helping safeguard the safety of workers. But despite the aim being to use these to detect collisions, they aren’t 100% reliable. Here’s why:
- Traditional IoT systems lack situational awareness and do not have the ability to track human movements; they understand where the danger lies, but aren’t able to track workers in real-time, creating alert issues in potential collision cases.
- In poorly lit places like mines and excavation sites, these systems lack infrared or laser scanning capabilities, so it is not possible to get a good view of how vulnerable workers are at any given point in time.
- Although most IoT systems have motion sensors built-in, with poor or no internet connectivity, there is lag between detection time and when alerts are issued– putting workers’ lives in jeopardy.
- Poor integration of these IoT systems with other systems in the workplace and the lack of audible and visual alarms means workers are not alerted quickly or appropriately of potential collisions.
- Lastly, even if these IoT systems could detect potential collisions and provide warnings, due to poor analytics capability, they lack the ability to collate and identify issues that could be fixed through corrective action at a larger scale.
What the modern workplace needs
Protecting industrial workers and ensuring their well-being is not just about ticking a task off the compliance list. It is a moral obligation that can improve overall employee productivity, efficiency, as well as lower costs, downtime or lost time, and improve skill-worker attrition. But deploying solutions that are not human-centric will not provide the level of security and safety that is vital in industrial workplaces.
For workplace safety to really work, organizations need to focus on humans and provide a complete solution; a solution that is rugged and long-lasting, can operate efficiently even in low connectivity scenarios, and that offers unmatched intelligence and integration capabilities such as:
- Collision detection: Built-in collision sensors allow collisions to be detected in hazardous locations, with moving equipment and vehicles such as forklifts. Since these sensors operate locally on smart wearables, they do not require network connectivity for doing their job. In addition, such solutions can also be used to track the entry of workers into collision-prone zones and other confined places, so proper safety alerts can be delivered.
- Situational awareness: A solution with situational awareness capabilities enables workers to be aware of their immediate surroundings. Using sensory measurement, they can provide early warning to workers about potential risks of collisions and prevent the occurrence. By automatically detecting and generating local and remote alarms, they allow workers to take necessary steps to avoid incidents.
- Built-in analytics: Continuously collecting and analyzing all sensor data can also help in providing a historical view of trends as well as heat maps. Advanced analytics reports and dashboards provide insight into the real-time location and risk level of workers at any given point in time as well as over time. Through integration with other third-party biometric and environmental sensors, reveal how, when, or where collisions are most likely to occur..
- Emergency response: A modern collision avoidance solution must have the ability to instantly, or near instantly, respond to dangerous conditions and incidents, alert workers about an imminent collision, and trigger an emergency maneuver. In addition to offering automated, sensor-based alarms, the solution should also allow workers to send an SOS call to operators and other nearby workers, calling for support.
- Visibility: Collision avoidance solutions must offer multimodal, high-precision, three-dimensional positioning, and mapping capabilities, giving operators unfettered visibility and actionable information into the workplace. Using RTLS and GIS features, it can locate and track people, assets, and equipment as well as identify and optimize safe paths for workers. It can also create virtual fencing, lockout zones, and control access to certain locations based on the type of job, the role of the worker, or the time of the day.
Industrial workplaces are chaotic, with machines and humans working in tandem with each other to carry out important, sometimes life-threatening, tasks. Given the constant interplay of machine-human interactions, avoiding collisions between humans and industrial equipment has long been a critical element of workplace safety. Using an intelligent collision avoidance solution is a crucial way to detect the possibility of collisions, enable situation awareness, get insight into the real-time location of workers, and initiate emergency response to ensure workers are always safe in the labyrinth of heavy machinery and equipment.
Guardhat is pioneering end-to-end connected worker safety solutions for industrial workers. The company offers cutting-edge, wearable technology; a proprietary connected worker platform – unrivaled in its ability to ingest, manage and analyze unstructured data; easy to deploy monitoring and reporting software; and a growing ecosystem of partner integrations. With Guardhat, companies can monitor worker location, health, and work environment to speed reaction time and help proactively solve safety challenges. Guardhat is headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, and operates globally. The company holds 15 patents in real-time location systems, wearable solution design, and connected worker software. For more information, visit: www.guardhat.com or contact us.