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How is technology improving field safety?

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

5 Ways to protect your team with tech

It’s 2020, friends, and the future is here. We use facial recognition to secure our phones, backup cameras and blind spot detection to safely maneuver our cars, and smart home security systems to text us pics when the mail carrier is at the door. It’s a brave new world, and tech geniuses everywhere have been using their skills to develop ways to make our lives safer and our information more secure. It should come as no surprise that the Internet of Things (IoT) is also making a big impact in the way we handle safety in industrial and utility workplaces.

Agencies like OSHA have done a remarkable job of creating and enforcing safety guidelines. In fact the number of jobsite fatalities has decreased from 38 a day to just 12 since OSHA was formed in the ‘70s. However, implementing technology into your safety plan has the potential to make a giant impact as well. Take a look:

1. Virtual reality

Training someone for chemical spills, arc flashes, fires and other potentially fatal risks can be difficult. Sure, your employees can view a PowerPoint and take a quiz, but are they really prepared? Enter virtual reality. Using VR simulations to train staff is becoming more common, which is pretty handy since those tech-savvy Millennials are taking over the workforce and 90 percent of workers recently surveyed reported that they want training that is engaging and fun. Workers can simply strap on a VR headset and obtain “hands-on” training without actually being put in danger. Oh, and it’s probably more effective, too – workers who use experiential learning techniques more than double the amount of information retained than those who simply read training materials.

2. Smart PPE and other wearables

Smart PPE and wearable tech represent a real breakthrough in workplace safety. The benefit of such devices is twofold: 1. They offer features to help prevent injuries and 2. They collect data to help operations improve their processes in the future. And the obvious bonus benefit is that they are super cool. You can get vests equipped with sensors to monitor exposure to gases, chemicals, UV rays and extreme temperatures. There are smart hard hats with 360-degree camera capabilities, visors that improve visibility, headbands that can detect when machine operators get drowsy and much more.

3. Drones

Camera-mounted drones are a quick and easy way to inspect areas that may be dangerous whether that’s due to faulty infrastructure, harsh environments, tight spaces or other reasons. Drones can also be used for daily hazard checks, as well as for monitoring employees for behavioral safety risks, which could be a real gamechanger when you consider there are somewhere around 4.6 million preventable workplace injuries each year. The information collected is easy to share and helps keep operations and safety managers informed of any issues. Plus, drones are affordable, making them easy to implement at most workplaces.

4. Real-time data

Oh boy, we may be partial, but this is where it starts to get really exciting. More than ever before – via mobile apps, sensors, IoT devices and more – operations managers have immediate access to critical insights about their equipment and production. And they have lots of data, streaming in on the daily. In terms of safety, it means that they can start identifying and fixing critical maintenance issues fast, as well as implement predictive maintenance plans that allow their employees to work on safer, healthier equipment. This data access also allows operations mangers to update their technicians on safety-related alerts in real time.

5. Automation

We know some people find the idea of workplace robots to be a bit scary. But, fear not, automation simply means getting machines to perform tasks instead of humans. Automation can take over repetitive tasks and heavy lifting (think automated palletizers, robotic pick-and-place systems, etc.) that can lead to back and neck injuries. It can also be used to operate heavy machinery and transport materials in high-risk areas. That said, we’re still open to the idea of that lovable Johnny 5 coming out of ‘80s movie obscurity and operating a crane or two.

So, in a nutshell, those are some of the most exciting ways IoT is transforming safety efforts. That’s right, there are so many advancements that pretty soon we’re going to have to call it Internet of Safety… IoS… and maybe make it look even techier for dramatic effect: iOS. That’s perfect! Unless, wait, is that taken? Stay safe!

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