Networks and connectivity make technology better. Imagine how unproductive an office full of PCs would be without a LAN connection, or a modern military would struggle without a command, control and communications (C3) network.
Real-time connectivity expands the capabilities of devices and the people using them. This explains why experts project that there could be over 41 billion connected devices in use by 2025, with business and industry being areas of extremely high growth.
Industrial control systems (ICS) are nothing new to the manufacturing industry. SCADA (Supervisory control and data acquisition) has enabled real-time control of switches, pumps and valves since the 1960’s. The success of SCADA, the growth of cloud computing and the evolution of the Internet of Things has given rise to next generation of industrial intelligence: Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 Needs EHS 4.0
Industry 4.0 employs cyber-physical systems that connect people, machines and data to create smart factories and smarter businesses. It extends the capabilities of legacy ICS to drive the digitization of businesses and improve how they collect, manage, analyze and respond to data.
Industry 4.0 promises to dramatically improve business productivity, accelerate growth and increase customer satisfaction. To be completely successful, however, Industry 4.0 must be accompanied by advances in EHS strategies, or EHS 4.0.
EHS 4.0 does the same thing for safety processes that Industry 4.0 does for core business processes. It integrates sensor-enabled equipment, cloud computing, mobile devices and business intelligence/business analytics to digitize EHS processes and enable a totally new approach to EHS management. The objective of connected safety is to keep workers safe, reduce the impact on the environment and keep operations running productively and without incident.
Connected People Drive Connected Safety
If the goal of any workplace health and safety program is to keep workers healthy, happy and safe, then empowering workers to ensure their own safety makes a great deal of sense. Mobile devices help make this happen. They are ubiquitous and enable real-time, companywide communications as well as powerful health and safety capabilities such as:
- Bulletins and push-to-talk communications to workers wherever they are.
- Real-time locating workers around the facility via GPS or RTLS.
- Anywhere, anytime access to forms, e-permits and SDS sheets.
- Lone worker protection (SOS trigger, RTLS, fall detection (Accelerometer))
- COVID tracking and tracing via Bluetooth proximity sensing.
Smart PPE Connects and Protects
The COVID-19 pandemic may have made PPE (personal protective equipment) a household acronym, but protective equipment such as hardhats, googles, boots and gloves have been keeping workers healthy and safe for decades. The next generation of PPE, aka Smart PPE, will move beyond protection to include prevention. Smart PPE includes sensors and cloud connections that deliver real-time data for rapid alerts or more detailed analysis. Smart PPE is expected to grow by a factor of three over the next 5 years. Some examples of Smart PPE include:
- Ear protection that adapts to and reports noise levels and may also include wireless communications.
- Hard hats with integrated cameras, microphones and accelerometers to monitor lone workers and detect falls.
- Garments with integrated temperature sensing, heating capability and telemetry links.
- Safety eyewear with integrated augmented reality (AR) to display task information.
- Self-cleaning, smart face masks that track effectiveness and disinfect overnight.
In addition to their primary function of protecting the wearer, Smart PPE and wearable IoT sensors enable a digital native workforce to become a network of “walking sensors” that collect and report environment data throughout the workplace in real time. This data is used to generate automatic alerts and/or analyzed to identify potential hazards so that working conditions and key processes can be improved.
Smart Safety Saves Money and Lives
Organizations around the globe are becoming increasingly risk averse and are looking for new strategies to improve their health and safety performance. They are investing more in data and technology solutions to support connected safety so that they can protect their workers in the short term while improving operations and preventing costly incidents and accidents in the long term.
For example, connecting the output from various sensors and monitoring devices directly into EHS management systems. The automatic uploading of hundreds or thousands of data points via sensor technology removes delays in data gathering and reporting and allows alarm data from gas monitoring devices, for example, to be quickly analyzed and disseminated to workers in the area. As a result, the workflow from alarm to incident reporting is streamlined and the risk of data inaccuracies is eliminated.
One such connected technology is Intelex HazardIQ, which is a perfect example of the synergy between wearable sensors, cloud connectivity and powerful EHS 4.0 software. It improves worker safety through real-time data enabled hazard detection and analysis and provides workflows for root cause analysis and preventative actions.