Smarter Gear for a Safer Workplace
Blog Contributed by MW Industrial
Be honest: How much has your safety gear changed in the last decade or two? Has your personal protective equipment (PPE) evolved along with the machinery you’re working on? Are you keeping up with the latest technology?
The truth is, a lot of safety gear hasn’t changed all that much in the past half-century. Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade.
Investing in some of the new wearable technology on the market can pay big dividends when it comes to reducing injuries, boosting productivity and improving team morale. Clothing and other wearable gear that tracks movement, monitors the environment, and sends workers alerts and warnings is making job sites safer in every sector.
The Impact of Injuries
“The total cost of fatal and nonfatal injuries in the construction industry is estimated at nearly $13 billion annually.”
We all know that technology can boost your bottom line by increasing efficiency, but the same can be said for smart gear that improves safety. A workplace with fewer injuries translates to increased productivity, decreased downtime and a hard working team with high morale.
Fewer injuries can also lower your insurance premiums and boost your company’s reputation. Reducing risk of any kind is always good business, and safety is an area with plenty of opportunity for improvement.
Safety advancements range from simple upgrades to elaborate high-tech systems. Wearable devices and PPE embedded with sensors are an accessible entry point into the emerging world of advanced safety.
High-Tech Hard Hats
Remember when wearing a hard hat on site was more of a hassle than a requirement? Times have changed, to say the least.
You’ve heard about futuristic augmented reality helmets that allow you to see plans on site pre-installation, but safety is another area where hard hats are evolving. Hard hats that detect carbon monoxide? Yep, they’re here.
Smart new hardhats fitted with pulse sensors that monitor blood oxygen keep workers safe by detecting the onset of carbon monoxide poisoning. So if you’re working with gas-powered hand tools and the exhaust builds up to dangerous levels, you’ll be alerted before your health takes a hit.
The next wave of hard hats still in development can be outfitted with all sorts of bells and whistles, including depth sensors in the front and back that alert you if you wander into the path of approaching heavy equipment.
Also in the works, hardhat sensors that can monitor your temperature and heart rate along with the temperature and humidity of your environment. You’ll be alerted before you approach dangerous heatstroke territory.
Better Safety Glasses
Protective eyewear that keeps you safe from flying or airborne objects, sparks and even chemicals is getting an upgrade. Improvements that enhance safety include lenses with better anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings, improved clarity and reduced glare, all of which significantly improve visibility.
Lighter, more flexible frames also prevent newer safety glasses from breaking and causing potential injury upon impact. The latest class of visors can stand up to high impacts as well and are even chemical splash resistant.
While not intended for traditional hazard protection, futuristic eyewear like Google Glass can also improve work site safety. Capabilities like taking photos and videos, sending text messages, and accessing plans or computer programs at eye level aren’t just good for streamlining communication and increasing efficiency.
When it comes to safety, the hands-free nature of the eyewear is the big benefit. So workers in often-precarious positions won’t have to drop everything, set down tools or pause machinery operations in order to communicate in real time or access data.
Similar technology is also being developed for helmet visors, and will likely be merged with safety glasses at some point soon.
Beyond hard hats and eyewear, sensors are starting to be embedded into clothing and personal protective equipment such as safety vests. Similar to emerging hardhat capabilities, sensors can monitor both the environment (heat, voltage, hazards), along with worker vitals and even movements (repetitive motions, posture, slip and falls).
Workers are alerted whenever they’re at risk for anything from overheating to lower back strain. Additional capabilities in the works include sensors that will warn you when your PPE is not being worn correctly, and even issue an alert when you enter a hazardous “danger zone” area of a worksite.
Beyond wearables, small standalone sensors that monitor the environment are also improving worksite safety. These shoebox-sized sensors can monitor noise levels, airborne particles, hazardous fumes, heat and more. Alerts are sent to safety managers and superintendents in real time so accidents can be avoided before they happen.
The smart safety gear of the future is in various levels of development, with plenty of emerging technology already on the plant floor. In the years to come, expect the best of this gear to become as ubiquitous as hard hats and work boots on the job site.
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