Worker Safety & Productivity: A Paradigm Shift

When you hear about innovation, ‘workplace safety’ doesn’t come naturally to mind. The fault partly lies with technology companies who largely neglect the challenges of “old-world” sectors like manufacturing and mining. Yet, the consumerization of innovation cannot hide the fact that the industrial safety industry can benefit immensely from innovative technologies. As technology companies, we need to start taking our responsibility towards human life more seriously and create solutions that are more than just another checkbox to tick on the safety compliance form.

It is true that industrial organizations have awakened to the importance of ensuring workplace safety. The growth in the industrial safety market, poised to reach USD 5.41 billion by 2025, validates this. And there are sound economic reasons for organizations to make those investments. Consider that the number of work accidents costs organizations more than 70 million productive days in 2017, and the cost to the economy was nearly $162 million. The other side of this coin is something that you might not have considered—with a greater focus on safety comes an increase in productivity.

In many ways, these accident metrics are unacceptable in an age where we have made massive technological advances in our daily lives. So, how can we use technology to change this status quo?

While we speak of worker safety, we find organizations utilizing a mere fraction of their budgets on the equipment on the worker’s body (think hardhats, gloves, etc.). Most of these budgets are being utilized to mitigate property and plant equipment risks, and not on preventing them from occurring wholesale.

This is not good enough. The industry needs to have robust technology solutions in place to ensure that all potential risks to workers’ safety can be proactively identified, prevented, and mitigated.

To be clear, industrial worksites are inherently hazardous environments; with heavy equipment and machinery, power tools, several workers for a given area, and more. Given this environment, safety training is perilously ineffective. While all workers have to undergo mandatory safety training, these days-long training events are forgettable and are indeed soon forgotten. However, to embed safety as an intrinsic part of the work culture, there has to be a shift in worker behavior. Workers need to believe that they should follow protocol even when no one is watching. This shift will only come about when directions are data-driven and contextualized for the individual.

It is also true that most measures of safety are based on lagging indicators such as lost-time incidents, recordables, severity ratios, etc. However, these are all reactive metrics. It is important for these organizations to see things coming and develop the capability to develop preventive, rather than reactive strategies.

Thankfully, IoT and associated technologies have made enough progress to help us come up with a viable solution. As a case in point, Guardhat’s IoT ecosystem consists of wearables and a strong software infrastructure that includes an Industrial IoT Bus (Kyra), which can be deployed on-premise or Cloud, and hardware infrastructure that includes RTLS and communication devices.

The companion Safety Control Center (SCC) application provides the required real-time notifications and responses, and a robust big data analytics engine to address all the advanced analytics needs to enhance decision making.

With the Guardhat wearable devices, you get access to geo-localization, real-time sensor data, and also enable audio/video communication. How does this help? You:

  • Gain a direct understanding of the environment that the workers are in and the consequent challenges that they are facing.
  • Get the precise location of your workers in three-dimensional spaces within one second.
  • Get access to heat mapping data that signal concerns such as gas exposure, unsuitable employee and environmental temperatures, worker clustering, PPE violations, potential increased hazard zones, etc.
  • Access interactive graphics to evaluate emergency response times and fine-tune them. These graphics also give you insights into safety compliance and non-compliance statistics and give you opportunities to improve.
  • Safeguard your workers from the root causes of safety incidents leveraging technology implementations such as RTLS location, environmental sensors, SOS button features, and geofencing.
  • Improve critical response times as situational context and improved field of vision assist in making immediate decisions to prevent accidents and incidents of sexual harassment which makes the industrial environment inherently safer for the workers.

Improved time and attendance

Our solutions also significantly improve productivity. For example, the frontline workforce industries presently battle challenges such as overtime and inaccuracies with time logs. Workers waste time waiting in line to swipe their timecards. Biometric solutions to improve time and attendance and overtime management haven’t been perfected yet.

Our comprehensive solution ensures greater time log accountability. The worker’s time log is synchronized to the wearing/ taking off of the PPE owing to the RFID-enabled badges on the Guardhat that register the wearer.

Guardhat also enables easier data collection at entry and exit and also eliminates concerns of time theft.

With data collection becoming a real-time and continuous activity that activates an immediate feedback loop you can streamline workflows, layouts, and scheduling to optimize productivity and eliminate time wastage (think optimized layouts so that workers don’t waste time finding and picking up tools and waste time going from one to another).

The Traditional Role of Digital Twins

For industrial organizations; Digital Twins have been a popular mechanism to digitize industrial assets, systems, and processes. Through their ability to represent the physical world digitally, they enable enterprises to better understand, predict, and optimize industrial performance to achieve improved business outcomes. For organizations, they accelerate the process of achieving these outcomes and make their achievement more certain as processes can be tested, assumptions validated, and mistakes made (and corrected) in the Digital World without impacting the physical world.

According to Gartner, by 2021, half of all large industrial companies will use Digital Twins, resulting in a 10% improvement in their effectiveness.

Digital Twins consume historical data to understand the past, analyze current data to view present conditions, and apply machine learning algorithms to predict the future. By knowing the current context and predicting the most likely future state, Digital Twins help in effectively monitoring, simulating, and controlling industrial assets (and processes) while constantly optimizing lifecycles for better outcomes. All Digital Twins need to do their job is an IoT model or a hierarchy of systems and components, a knowledge base of historical data, subject matter expertise and industry best practices, and analytics to predict current and future behavior.

Once Digital Twins are generated, they automatically update themselves through real-time sensor data and relay any changes that occur back to themselves. Depending on the data they are expected to analyze, they will provide ongoing updates that may reflect changes in temperature, gaseous emissions, pressure, moisture, wind, sun exposure, and so on. In the long-term, as sensors constantly analyze equipment data, these changes may correspond to rusting, weakening, cracking, bending, wear and tear, structural damage or even complete breakdown of equipment.

For manufacturers who are deploying Digital Twins, the benefits are many: increased availability and reliability of services, improved production, lower maintenance costs, reduced risks, and faster time-to-value—among others.

For an energy producer with IoT-connected industrial valves, pumps, and generators, this would mean having Digital Twins for each piece of equipment, as well as one for the entire plant – which aggregates and analyzes IoT data end-to-end for improved operations.

While the integration is complicated and requires deep integration, when done successfully, it can become a key source of competitive advantage for manufacturers, especially as physical assets and equipment evolve. Despite the complexity6 of setting up and integrating Digital Twins, 61% of companies that have implemented digital twins have already integrated at least one pair of digital twins with each other.

Preventive maintenance

Asset productivity and employee productivity are directly proportional. Unexpected downtime is the largest source of lost production time. Research estimates that unplanned downtime can cost a company up to $260,000 an hour! Taking a predictive approach to maintenance not only helps contain issues that could balloon over time but also ensure that there is no productivity loss due to unplanned downtime.

However, for predictive maintenance to deliver tangible results one needs a continuous base of sensors across the asset unit. You also need comprehensive data sets such as time series maps to identify potentially hazardous conditions. For this, you need inbuilt environmental sensors and the ability to wirelessly link up with static sensors that are in close proximity. Our wearables and sensors, jot, and visualization platform helps our customers accomplish this easily and help them gain deep insights into anomalies ahead of time. We keep your workers safe and productivity high.

Remote support

While technology is changing and improving almost all functions in the industrial sector, one area has had a significant productivity impact—operational support. Presently, you have experts traveling to your site to provide onsite support and help your workforce complete maintenance, repair, and other such work faster and more efficiently. However, there is an expensive time and cost complexity associated with doing so.

Status quo remote support is not optimized as it requires 2+ people to access it because the existing audio-video equipment is not hands-free. Visuals are often hazy at best and connectivity is difficult to come by in many industrial areas.

The Guardhat solution alleviates all these challenges. The Guardhat solution contains extensive telephony, AV communications and peer-to-peer Push-to-Talk, and media recording/streaming packages, with wide-angle, low-light performance, and is also ATEX compliant. Our breakthrough multimodal communication technology helps you establish the last mile connectivity and eliminates the challenges that come with bandwidth issues.

With better audio-video capabilities you waste less time on the line. You can even record and archive audio-video recordings for post-processing, and for establishing tribal knowledge. With this field information, you can also identify your most requested experts and the common challenges and create tailored training programs to address recurring issues. All of these collectively have a positive productivity impact.

At Guardhat, we firmly believe in our solutions. Contact our experts to find out how we can make your workforce safer and more productive.


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