If you have a smartphone, chances are you’re using IoT technology in your daily life. You probably just don’t call it that. IoT is managing your home thermostat from your office or answering emails from your smartwatch. But IoT also influences workplace safety in incredible ways.
We recently brought together some of Levitt-Safety’s greatest minds in IT, marketing and customer engagement to discuss IoT and the future of workplace safety.
Want to impress your coworkers with your safety tech knowledge?
Watch the full panel discussion (it’s only 30 minutes).
What is IoT?
IoT (Internet of Things) is the application of connected sensors and control devices to machinery, vehicles, and clothing. We see IoT in basic forms every day, but it’s used on a bigger scale in fully automated assembly lines.
How does IoT improve workplace safety?
In safety, IoT is being used in a big way for wearable technology — from gas monitors to earmuffs. It can also help with personnel, equipment and asset tracking.
Here are some of the topics our panel touch on during their discussion. Watch the full panel discussion here.
Data and security
Data collection is not an invention of IoT. But, getting the data was labour intensive and involved a lot of manual input.
How IoT technology is benefiting safety:
- Collecting and interpreting data is easier
- Minimizing downtime
- Keeping people connected, even kilometres away
- Improving emergency response time
- Increasing productivity and reduction in compliance issues
Devices are now set up to automatically send and receive data, making data collection effortless.
IoT technology also helps minimize workplace slowdowns. A big part of Levitt-Safety’s offering is in product service and maintenance. We can tell what’s happening with our customer’s equipment, if sensors are going to fail, or if they’re running low on vital products. This ability minimizes downtime and gives hours back in the day of the person responsible for managing those tasks.
Emergency situations and first responders
As the Government of Ontario pointed out in their Emergency Response and Mine Rescue review:
As mines expand and get deeper, it becomes more challenging to get mine rescue responders to the location of the emergency quickly. Emergency plans must consider this. Specially designed and constructed team transport vehicles can be provided to mine rescue teams so they are able to get to the site of the emergency faster.
Connected devices like smart gas detectors or radio frequency identification (RFID) chips keep team members connected even when working dozens or hundreds of kilometres apart.
These chips can pinpoint a worker’s co-ordinates. In the case of a medical emergency, the chances of getting help to the affected worker in the necessary timeframe increase drastically.
Empowering the worker
The panel discussion raised an interesting question about getting employee buy-in. How can employers and employees reach an understanding that these devices are for safety and not for spying?
Technology is giving workers a better sense of their safety and more control of their safety.
Along with the improvements that IoT gives to first responders, it should make employees feel empowered.
RFID chips allow health and safety managers to assign PPE to workers, see a worker’s training credentials and complete plant audits and manage inventory.
This means workers are:
- getting the right PPE
- only being tasked with jobs they’re comfortable completing, and
- working in a maintained workplace that addresses safety concerns.
Watch the full panel discussion to learn more.
Small innovations lead to big results
IoT in safety isn’t just about seeing where a worker is and what they’re doing. It’s also about little innovations that can make a world of difference.
In the panel discussion, Leslie gave an example of smart hearing protection.
Hearing loss is a workplace injury that gives no warning signs. There’s no incremental loss of hearing. It’s hard to monitor, but when the damage sets in, the impact is huge.
Managers can now monitor where the noisy environments are in their workplaces and use the hierarchy of safety controls to find a solution.
It might be noise reduction improvements or new PPE introduction like communication ear muffs.
Safety and Health Magazine states 45% of Canadian oil and gas workers reported noise-induced hearing loss. And the percentage is increasing. The research cited in the article also found that 98% of workers say they wear hearing protection.
Along with monitoring noisy environments, managers can monitor when appropriate PPE, like hearing protection, is not being worn. Implementing IoT technology into a workplace safety program can improve compliance rates and protect the people most at risk.
What else the panel discussion covers:
If you haven’t watched the panel discussion, do it now!
As Mike succinctly put it at the end of the discussion, “IoT in safety is about being safer, making quicker decisions and driving workplace deaths down to zero — where they belong.”
Along with the bits mentioned here, the panel also discussed:
- Productivity and the bottom line
- IoT Limitations
- IoT in mining safety examples
- IoT in construction safety examples
- What’s next with IoT in safety
Our presenters and where to find them
A huge thanks goes to our experts who joined the discussion. You can connect with them on LinkedIn to see more thought leadership from their individual spaces.
Levitt Safety’s Market Segment Managers:
Jack Miedema, Fire and Safety
Derek McEwen, Fire Protection Systems and Mining Technology
Leslie Molin, Personal Safety
Tony Guarino, Confined Space
Jonathan McCallum, Occupational Health, Industrial Hygiene, Environmental Monitoring