How to create a safer workplace using IoT?
On-field workers confront numerous workplace dangers. Chemical exposure, equipment mishaps, fatal falls, heat strokes and fatigue to name a few. Along with conventional personal safety equipment, it is also important to provide the field workers with robust regulations and extensive training. However, even these practices do not confirm absolute safety; no one knows when the external environment suddenly turns dangerous. Likewise, managers or supervisors are entirely unaware when remote field workers reach their physical threshold.
Smart connected IoT devices now provide an unprecedented level of visibility into workers’ health and working environment. Smart IoT-enabled wearables like watches, helmets, etc., continuously capture vital physical metrics like blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, etc.
According to ILO, more than 2.8 million workers die per year due to occupational accidents or work-related disease. It is devastating to know that every 15 seconds, 178 accidents happen at a workplace. It is a staggering number that potentially affects every employee. Businesses pay considerable prices to improve workplace safety. The US Department of Labor calculates an annual cost of 170 billion USD associated with workplace hazards and injuries.
This article discusses the potential reasons for occupational accidents and explains how IoT works in eliminating such dangers.
- Why do accidents happen?
- What is IoT, and how it applies to workplace safety?
- How IoT helps to monitor the factors leading to accidents?
- How do IoT sensors work and provide actionable data?
In the first place, it is crucial to identify why accidents happen then only it is feasible to find a meaningful solution. Essentially, the grounds are categorized into two main factors:
- Internal factors: Human errors, acting on incomplete information, improper use of equipment, neglecting safety regulations, working when unwell, sleep-deprived, lack of preparedness and training.
- External factors: Use of outdated or damaged equipment or unsuitable working conditions.
It is necessary to address both factors to prevent accidents. Here, IoT i.e Internet of Things can be the panacea that can significantly improve field workers safety on onsite workplaces.
As known to all, IoT represents a network of physical objects that are connected to each other and to the Internet with the aid of embedded sensors, applications and other alike technologies. In the context of field-job workplaces, these physical objects can be the types of equipment machines, wearables or any other thing that needs monitoring. The biggest functionality of IoT is that it provides real-time data insights, and this capability of its can be an excellent solution to improve workplace safety. IoT sensors can connect every physical thing at hazard-intensive workplaces like waste management plants, construction sites, coal mines, manufacturing factories, and others.
These connected sensors can monitor everything from location to equipment and workers’ well-being by collecting real-time data. Data collected from IoT sensors can explain a lot about the condition of things connected to the IoT network. This helps in better understanding the work environment. for instance, is any machine running faulty, or is there any leakage of the hazardous item, are the vital body statics of a worker deteriorating? Likewise, IoT sensors can provide various vital data insights that can be used to improve workplace safety by facilitating the following practices:
- Faster emergency response
- Better visibility into workers’ health, wellness, and productivity
- Early diagnosing and preventing future incidents
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The IoT data collected from wearables (watches, helmets, jackets, etc.) are combined with environmental data to monitor workers’ physical state and working environment. The tracking indicators help watch out for employees who start to show strain and alerts them to take preventive actions.
The sensors used to capture environmental conditions collect data related to carbon monoxide levels, temperature, vibrations, weather events and many others.
When combined with advanced analytics, the real-time IoT data provides valuable insights, and businesses can use the predictive information to address issues before they become problems.
How IoT improves workers’ safety?
Facilitates wireless CO2 monitoring
- Wireless sensors continuously monitor air quality and provide granular real-time data, including CO2 levels, pollutants and other toxic gases that can impact workers’ health.
- As soon as the CO2 level reaches the unsafe threshold, the sensors generate an alert and send it to the building automation system to activate ventilation and HVAC filtration. With real-time notifications, the monitoring system can also prompt manual actions such as opening doors and windows.
- When no or very low CO2 is detected, these systems are automatically turned off to ensure optimal energy efficiency.
- CO2 sensors paired with LPWAN for IoT connectivity ensure reliable data transmission.
- The transmitted data is saved on the cloud and is used to perform analytics and generate meaningful insights.
Ensures that workers abide by the necessary safety measures
Different cameras are installed for various purposes; for example, IP cameras are used to capture and respond to real-time images. For example, if a worker misses the hard hat or leaves any equipment unattended in warehouses or factories, IP cameras capture images. By analyzing pixels for recognizable patterns, alerts are generated to take corrective actions.
Provides a better understanding of the environmental factors
Different IoT sensors monitor the surrounding conditions, including temperature, air quality, humidity, etc. Temperature sensors are used to monitor the amount of heat and identify temperature changes. A gyroscope is another sensor that is used to evaluate the angular velocity of rotation around an axis.
The IoT sensors combined with wireless connectivity are an intrinsic part of environment quality monitoring systems. The transmission protocols used are MQTT and HTTP. MQTT stands for Message Queuing Telemetry Transport; it is a lightweight, publish-subscribe network protocol used to transport messages between devices. HTTP is Hypertext Transfer Protocol used for transmitting hypermedia documents such as HTML.
- IoT-enabled field devices like wearable gas sensors, Smart glasses and other wearable devices capture data, including working environment conditions and workers’ health data.
- The data collected is transmitted through the sensor hub to IoT gateways. These gateways aggregate the data and perform basic analytics.
- The aggregated data is further sent to the cloud for more sophisticated analytics, which generates valuable insights for organizations’ profit.
Azure IoT Central, AWS IoT platform, Google Cloud IoT Core, Oracle IoT, Android Things and IBM IoT Foundation Device Cloud are various IoT development platforms used for building Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications.
Companies face dramatic market changes and suffer huge losses due to accidents at the workplace. Smart IoT solutions can help improve worker safety effectively. Industrial workers who work in remote sites can benefit from improved access to information. IoT applications can guide them through unfamiliar equipment, alert them about hazardous conditions, improve productivity and help keep workers safe.
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