Can IoT help you build a safer workplace?

Many companies are utilizing IoT devices in order to help track, monitor, and protect their employees' health and safety.
5 June 2018

IoT devices are enabling a safer work environment. Source: Shutterstock

According to the International Labor Organization, every 15 seconds, 151 workers suffer a work-related incident. Even more concerningly, around 321,000 people die each year from occupational accidents.

These incidents are a massive global problem, despite the implementation of a range of safety regulations and procedures.

Even non-fatal injuries can have devastating impacts on an employee’s health and well-being. And for employers, on top of the distress of an employee suffering from an injury, work-related accidents can significantly impact productivity, ultimately resulting in financial losses.

In fact, according to research from CDC Foundation, in the US alone, work-related injuries and illnesses cost companies over US$220 billion annually.

Fortunately, advancements in the Internet of Things (IoT) sector is enabling the rise of the connected worker. With the help of connected devices such as wearables and sensors, employees are able to monitor, and be monitored by, their environments. As a result, injuries can be significantly reduced.

Here are a few examples of how IoT is enabling a safer working environment.

The safety of lone workers

Connected devices are helping to bring safer working conditions to the millions of lone workers who have nobody to turn to if things go wrong.

It is estimated that there are 53 million lone workers in Canada, the United States, and Europe combined; a total of around 15 percent of the overall workforce.

How can an employer keep tabs on these lone workers?

In order to optimize the monitoring and protection of such employees, many companies are now leveraging a range of smart devices.

IoT devices are ramping up the protection of lone workers. Source: Shutterstock

Wearsafe, for example, is a wearable tag which enables lone workers to alert employers or emergency contacts when their safety is in danger.

In situations of unease, the simple press of a discreet, connected button instantly sends an alert with audio, location, and group chat. Trusted responders are then able to send the right help, right away.

With the use of IoT geolocalization technology, Telecom giant Orange has developed customizable worker safety solutions, enabling an individuals smartphone to transform into a workplace safety tool.

Isabelle Finkler, head of the digital factory program for Orange Business Services in France, said in a blog post.

“Think holistically – a smartphone with a range of worker safety apps and tools all in one on it beats having a whole load of different devices attached to your belt on site.”

Berg Insight predicts there could be over 2 million users of lone worker protection services in Europe and North America by 2020.

Leveraging real-time data for safety insights

Businesses are able to combine the real-time data generated by IoT devices such as wireless sensors, wearable equipment, and GPS tracking, with big data to extract key insights into workers behavior.

This valuable data can then be leveraged to alter and improve safety programs and practices. With IoT data continuously flowing in, the effort to ensure optimum safety can be an on-going process.

IoT is being leveraged by industries such as manufacturing in order to monitor the safety of equipment. Source: Shutterstock

For instance, IoT is becoming increasingly popular in the manufacturing industry in its ability to detect malfunctioning systems.

Through the use of connected sensors, real-time data can prevent the likelihood of employee injuries by bringing a potential danger to their attention before it becomes a real threat.

Monitoring workers health with wearables

In addition to fitting their equipment and systems with IoT devices, many employers are fitting their workers with wearable IoT devices to track and monitor their health.

This is particularly popular in dangerous working environments such as construction, where workers are exposed to dangers such as extreme weather conditions and hazardous equipment.

Smart helmets are increasingly being used to protect construction workers. Source: Shutterstock

Companies such as Daqri have developed smart helmets, which are quickly becoming powerful tools for construction workers.

They enable to monitoring of a user’s heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen saturation, and brain activity. This data is tracked in real time and sent to a central hub where it can be monitored.

The technology can detect early warning signs of dangerous conditions and locations. It can also identify when a worker is too tired or unfocused to safely carry out their work operations.

Daqri’s smart helmet even incorporated augmented reality (AR) to further improve the safety of workers.

One example of an AR feature is its diagnostic tool. Workers can identify hazardous work conditions, for instance, if an electrical box they are working with is too hot to touch, eliminating the risk of burn injuries.