Advances in technology are helping forward-thinking organisations to become better equipped to prevent workplace health and safety risks.
A regular review of site safety measures is vital to mitigate risks in dynamic work environments, but how can employers be assured that they fully understand these risks to refine control measures effectively?
Teams working in heavy industry are at risk from immediate site safety hazards, such as interacting with heavy moving machinery, and developing long-term debilitating health conditions from exposure to vibration, noise and dust.
The challenge for employers is to find ways of preventing these common workplace risks without impacting day-to-day operations.
How can employers protect teams from exposure to invisible health risks, which don’t surface until later in life?
How can employers prevent accidents involving people and moving equipment, or machinery, when close-working operations are simply necessary to complete the task?
Based on over 20 years of experience in the prevention of workplace risks, Reactec® explore how a combination of connected wearable technology and data analytics software can create a safer work environment by design, without slowing down operations.
Wrist-worn hand-arm vibration monitoring:
Frequent exposure to vibration from operating power tools can cause irreversible damage to nerves, blood vessels, muscle and bones. This can develop into chronic conditions such as Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
According to the HSE, there are over 300 industrial cases of HAVS recorded each year in the UK (1). Under the Control of Vibration at Wok Act 2005, it is a legal obligation to ensure the risk of exposure to vibration is as low as reasonably practical. The ongoing prevalence of workers developing this disease suggests legal compliance is not enough.
A worker’s exposure to HAV, is affected by the way that a person actually uses a tool, their competency, the tool condition, the tool accessory and a myriad of other – often unpredictable – factors. Yet, the traditional method for determining the risk posed to workers by exposure to vibration relies on data from one worker’s use of one tool, during one activity, and at one point in time. Said otherwise; it doesn’t account for the variability or unpredictability that most certainly influences a worker’s actual, long-term exposure to vibration. And yet this limited risk assessment data is used to predict a worker’s exposure moving forward. However, the reality is that such restricted information is essentially useless for ascertaining a worker’s actual exposure to HAV over time. It’s simply impossible to utilise such finite data to make informed predictions about long-term exposure to unsafe conditions.
Reactec’s wearable HAV monitors, both HAVWEAR and its successor R-Link, give a much better insight to the real-world risk environment from the use of power tools while also ensuring compliance to the latest HSE guidance. Reactec’s wearable technology is the most practical solution to monitor a full day’s HAV exposure from the use of power tools, providing data which follows HSE guidance and additional complementary data on the real use of the tools. Personalised, more accurate data – like that provided by Reactec – offers actionable information that can be used to refine controls and reduce risk. Reactec’s wearable technology informs workers of their exposure by calculating and displaying their risk assessment in real-time, and sound and vibration alerts inform workers if their personalised exposure thresholds have been exceeded. The data collected is then easily collated and disseminated to duty holders to further support appropriate, informed risk reduction initiatives.
The information provided by Reactec is superior not because it is perfect – there is no such thing as a perfect metric for measuring an individual’s exposure to risk from HAV – but because it provides clearer, more approximately right information about workers’ exposure to dangerous workplace conditions than traditional methods, which fall well short of providing reliable data.
In-ear protection from noise induced hearing loss prevention
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a permanent and disabling occupational disease that affects nearly two million workers in the UK (2). Hearing loss can isolate sufferers socially and seriously inhibit their ability to work. What’s even more concerning, is the cognitive decline associated with hearing loss and the increased risk of developing Dementia.(3)
Reactec has partnered with Minuendo®; a specialist in noise monitoring technology – to bring effective, personalised hearing protection to tackle uncontrolled noise at work.
Minuendo has developed Smart Alert; a ground-breaking in-ear noise monitoring technology that sets new standards for hearing protection.
Smart Alert is a lightweight earplug with in-ear noise monitoring capability. Smart Alert uses real-time noise alerts to remind workers to wear protection, and offers hear-through technology to ensure that the wearer can communicate with co-workers and remain aware of their environment without removing their hearing protection.
Smart Alert’s data is fully integrated into Reactec’s cloud-based analytics platform. With the information and insights available from data analytics, it’s possible to actively monitor wear rates and proactively manage a worker’s exposure to harmful noise.
Real-time personal dust monitoring technology
Prolonged exposure to harmful dust, such as silica dust, can cause workers to develop serious lung conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or Silicosis in later life.
According to the HSE, silica is the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos. For that reason, Silicosis is believed to contribute to the death of 500 construction workers each year in the UK(4), with many thousands exposed to silica dust during daily construction work such as cutting and drilling activities.
Reactec has combined expertise with dust monitoring specialists; Trolex®, to leverage the latest real-time personal monitoring technology with automatic data collection and powerful data analytics to control exposure to harmful respirable dust.
Trolex has launched the XD1+ personal dust monitor which delivers instant alerts for fully customisable short-term exposure limit (STEL) and time-weighted average (TWA) measurements from a range of harmful particulates: PM1, PM2.5, PM4.25 to PM10.
Reactec’s cloud-based analytics platform brings XD1+ exposure data to life by delivering real-time updates from individual workers to remote supervisors, and tracking respirable data, to determine where the highest concentration of dust can be found in the workplace.
Advanced proximity warning systems
Real-time detection capability also enables on-body monitoring technology to protect workers for imminent site safety risks involving people and moving equipment or machinery.
Accidents involving pedestrians working in close proximity to heavy plant, or unguarded machinery, rank among the top 5 cause of fatalities within the construction industry (5). It’s also estimated that there are over 1,300 accidents involving pedestrian workers and forklifts each year (6).
To tackle this common site safety hazard, employers are turning to emerging technologies to implement proximity warning systems which can augment their existing safe systems of work.
Reactec expanded the utility of the R-Link smart-watch from vibration monitoring to include advanced proximity warning capability. R-Link utilises the latest ultrawide-band (UWB) technology to communicate with a receiving device, known as the R-Link beacon, which is flexibly mounted onto a vehicle or an unsafe restricted area, to alert the R-Link wearer when they are in close proximity to the operating hazard in real-time.
Like the vibration monitoring data, any data on near-miss occurrences recorded by R-Link is transmitted safely and securely to the Reactec Analytics platform to produce worksite heatmaps and provide an intelligent data insight to prevent future accidents.
In construction, the challenge for duty holders and contractors is how to prevent accidents involving people and moving equipment or vehicles when authorised close-working, like banksman and slinger activities, are necessary for completing work.
Proximity warning systems must be highly configurable to adapt to real-world scenarios, while offering full protection without affecting operations.
When it comes to choosing a proximity warning system, customisation is key. R-Link’s bespoke credentials allows drivers to authorise safe close-working or configure the range of their vehicle exclusion zone in the field. The sophisticated technology even recognises when a driver exits their vehicle to provide immediate protection to them as a pedestrian.
R-Link’s capability to adapt to dynamic work environments also prevents false proximity alerts, which have the potential to interrupt operations unnecessarily.
Watch Reactec’s video for more information about R-Link’s advanced proximity warning system.
An actionable data insight into your risk environment
The Reactec Analytics platform is central to the ecosystem of connected wearable technology referenced in this article.
Reactec Analytics enables employers to overlay exposure data (on vibration, dust and noise) with near-miss proximity alerts to deliver an unparalleled view of a worker’s personal risk profile. This empowers employers to better understand their risk environment and refine controls – all on a single platform.
For more information about Reactec, visit our website