Uncompromising safety standards are a cornerstone of any successful operation. From protecting your team’s health and improving morale to boosting your bottom line, no single factor has a bigger impact on your day-to-day operations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overexertion and falls alone cost businesses more than $25 billion annually. Needless to say, when there’s talk of advances in safety, the industry tends to take notice.
By now, you know what the Industrial Internet of Things is, and why it matters. You’ve probably also heard plenty about how the IIoT can improve your maintenance program, increase efficiency and predict equipment failures before they occur.
But what do machines talking to each other have to do with keeping your facility safe? The short answer is, plenty. Let’s start with three key ways the IIoT can improve the safety of your overall operations.
Smarter Safety Data
As with all things IIoT, opportunities to improve safety boil down to data and analysis. Traditionally, health, safety, and environmental data has been collected sporadically and stored inefficiently. When information is collected at all—oftentimes the result of an audit or annual review—it’s recorded in disparate locations ranging from spreadsheets and emails to all types of other files.
This makes it difficult (not to mention inefficient) to analyze information pertaining to injury, illness and other safety incidents. All too often, this data is underutilized, non-actionable—and consequently of little real value.
Enter the IIoT.
Seamless, real-time data collection and a direct connection to what’s happening on the plant floor make it easier to identify safety risks in order to improve conditions. As Industry Week puts it, “A well-defined Industrial Internet and analytics strategy will help isolate and address HSE issues.”
In other words, the IIoT makes it easier to tap into usable safety data (event sequences, fault codes, operational status and the like) and gain actionable insight.
“A well-defined Industrial Internet and analytics strategy will help isolate and address health, safety, and environmental issues.”
When it comes to keeping employees safe and healthy, it simply makes sense to monitor everything from a worker’s repetitive movements (for ergonomics) to their vital signs. From vests and watches to smart helmets and work boots, wearable sensors are changing the way many companies monitor the well being of their workforce.
Beyond personal health data like heart rate and body temperature, sensors can monitor dangerous work environments for potential safety risks ranging from toxins in the air to open flames. If a safety concern is triggered, an alert is sent to both the employee and management via the IIoT so action can be taken to avoid an injury or incident before it happens.
Wearable sensors are also a smart way to monitor a team that’s working on a remote or isolated site. Sensors effectively keep the workforce on the grid and allow management to respond immediately in the case of an emergency or safety incident.
Remote Access and Monitoring
Monitoring high-risk environments like mines and offshore oil and gas facilities remotely can help keep workers out of harm’s way. Take, for example, an offshore oil rig. In 2015, high winds damaged a gas pipeline resulting in a fire that killed dozens of oil workers aboard a rig in the Caspian Sea.
Implementing IIoT technology can prevent these types of accidents by monitoring the environment and analyzing data to predict potential consequences of certain conditions, such as extreme weather. Workers can then be safely evacuated before an incident occurs.
IIoT sensors can also be used to detect environmental factors like flammable vapors that could cause an explosion. Finally, the IIoT makes it possible to monitor—and even operate—equipment and machinery in high-risk environments remotely, putting fewer boots on the ground in these potentially hazardous work sites.
From monitoring the environment to keeping tabs on the vitals of your workforce, the IIoT gives you access to real-time data that can alert you before a health or safety incident occurs. Combined with the IIoT’s data analysis and predictive capabilities, it’s clear that the Industrial Internet of Things has real potential for improving safety on the work site.