IoT for Worker Safety: 3 Applications That Will Transform Your Workplace

The Internet of Things (IoT) enables remote monitoring of the mobile field workforce in a non-intrusive and effective fashion, promising significant improvements in industrial worker safety. To support these revolutionary IoT solutions, you need the robust, scalable and cost-effective connectivity power of Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN).

IoT for Worker Safety
The size of Worker Safety Challenges (Source: International Labor Organization)

From chemical exposure and equipment mishaps to fatigue, heat stroke and fatal falls, there are numerous workplace dangers facing industry. Robust regulations and extensive training alongside conventional personal safety equipment (PPE) are vital, however, these practices do not inform workers when external environments suddenly turn dangerous. Likewise, supervisors and managers are entirely unaware when remote field workers are reaching their physical thresholds.

The introduction of IoT and smart, connected devices are now giving rise to an unprecedented level of visibility into workers’ health and their environments. Intelligent gadgets (watches, helmets, vests…) continuously capture vital physical metrics like heart rate, skin temperature, movement, activity, and location. In parallel, environmental sensors record critical information about employees’ working conditions and their exposure to external dangers.

Leveraging an advanced analytics platform, situational data can then be distilled into actionable insights visualized at a remote management console. Through enhanced visibility, IoT for worker safety solutions empower data-driven decision-making, thereby improving the safety and productivity of the cross-industry field workforce.

1. Faster Emergency Response

As critical events experienced by employees are instantly reported to the command center, pre-determined, automated workflows can be executed to accelerate evacuation and rescue activities. For example, when a worker falls from a height or suddenly passes out, alerts are triggered at the safety control center for timely dispatch of medical aids. Similarly, if atmospheric gas levels surpass the tolerated threshold or an imminent explosion is detected, employees are immediately notified and evacuated out of the endangered areas.

2. Enhancing workers’ health, wellness, and productivity

Improved visibility into work environments also help avoid prolonged exposure to harsh conditions like CO2, radiation, noises, heat or humidity. Sensor data enables managers to watch out for any signs of fatigue, dehydration or exhaustion encountered by their workers, thus encouraging them to take a recovery break, as needed. Minimizing overexertion not only improves overall productivity, but also reduces the risk of injuries, accidents and chronic diseases.

3. Diagnosing and preventing future incidents

Beyond reactive responses, predictive analytics fueled by massive field sensor data allows for anticipating and preventing hazards ahead of time. For example, smart sensors installed on rock bolts measure seismic activities in underground mines and help detect the potential collapse of unstable shafts. If a threat is identified, operation in these areas will be banned or preventive measures will be taken to circumvent mishaps.

Likewise, condition monitoring and predictive maintenance minimize failures of critical assets like pumps and pipelines. The explosion risk of gas leaks can, therefore, be reduced. With remote tracking, heavy machinery that is not in use, but still functioning, can be identified for shutdowns. This helps bypass equipment accidents and improve efficiency.

IoT for Worker Safety
Operational Benefits

Versatile Field Connectivity is a Prerequisite

Amid enormous potential, a significant challenge in implementing IoT for worker safety solutions is finding viable field connectivity. Many high-risk industrial workplaces like construction sites, factories, offshore drilling platforms, and underground mines, are characterized by challenging topography, heavy physical obstructions and vast areas. These hostile conditions hinder effective radio propagation by causing shadowing, attenuation, diffraction, and reflection.

Providing an extensive range of many kilometers and a deep building penetration capability, LPWAN introduces a versatile communication solution for geographically dispersed, structurally dense industrial campuses. Ultra-low power consumption also allows for increased battery life, making LPWAN a practical solution for connecting battery-operated IoT devices like wearables and environmental sensors.

Alongside coverage and power consumption, the best LPWAN solution for IoT Worker Safety, will also offer excellent Quality-of-Service, scalability and mobile communication.

Learn More About our End-to-End IoT Architecture for Worker Safety

Download our White Paper on the joint solution by BTI, Advantech, Intel, Hitachi Solutions and Microsoft.