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As our workplaces and operations continue to evolve, the next frontier is wearable technology for workplace safety.

Some companies have started testing various types of wearable technology to reduce injuries in a number of industries, including oil fields, construction sites, mines, power plants, shipyards, warehouses, manufacturing, aviation and logistics.

Hands-free wearables can be employed to monitor workers’ vitals along with their exposure to harmful elements and chemicals, as well as their proximity to dangerous areas in the workplace.

And new technology is being developed that can collect data on the job site and detect changes in the work environment and the condition of equipment and machinery. The devices are designed to alert workers wearing the gadgets to any problems.

Wearable devices can provide safety alerts and prompts to employees in the field, remind workers of specific safety procedures when conducting different routines, and even enable an injured worker to reach out for help.

In this issue we explore some workplace wearables that are designed to reduce workplace injuries.

 

One-touch SOS alert

Matrix Medical Network, which provides in-home care services, is using wearables to help its 500 employees send out a distress call if they are at risk or threatened.

The company is using a system sold by AlertGPS to provide one-touch SOS alerting. If an employee in the field feels at risk or threatened, a simple touch of a button will instantly alert authorized personnel to the emergency.

Since the system uses GPS, authorized personnel are able to know exactly where the employee in distress is located.

The wearable technology provides additional safety features such as predator alerts, so if a staff member is scheduled to work near the home of a registered sex offender, he or she will be alerted right away.

AlertGPS also lets the company send mass notifications to all of its workers, if needed.

No dunce caps here

Australian mining giant Rio Tinto issues its dump truck drivers a wearable called the SmartCap.

It looks like a baseball cap, but it has a twist: It can conduct regular EEG tests on the wearer to gauge the worker’s alertness.

If it senses that a truck driver’s mind is approaching something called “microsleep” – the feeling you have if you are close to dozing off behind the wheel – the SmartCap will send out an alert.

The product’s applications are not limited to the mining industry, and it can be used in any production environments, trucking and for a company’s fleet drivers.

Fatigue is a major contributor to workplace accidents and deaths, so a device like this would be appropriate for any workplace in which employee alertness is critical to their safety and productivity.

 

The gas detector

Marathon Petroleum teamed up with Accenture in 2011 to develop the Accenture Life Safety Solution, a “wireless-enabled multi-gas detection system” that helps protect workers in potentially hazardous situations.

Employees wear a single, multi-gas detector (within 10 inches of their breathing zone) that is able to detect a number of gases, including:

  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Lower-explosive-limit (LEL) hydrocarbon gases
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide

 

The device combines Wi-Fi and location-based technologies with gas detectors. The combination enables safety and operations managers to remotely monitor workers.

The company says that because its employees knew their safety was being monitored continuously – no matter their location – they had a greater sense of confidence and security.

In addition, Marathon reported cost savings resulting from its implementation of the wearable tech.