Industry 4.0 and the ongoing automation of traditional industrial practices, using modern smart technology has played a prominent role in the evolution of workplace safety in the past decade. In particular, wearable technology which safeguards against gas safety risks, has seen notable benefits from recent advances in connected and digital technology.
Impact of Covid
The trend towards lone working in industries such as utilities, brought about largely by social distancing and other lockdown regulations implemented during the Pandemic, has promoted increased focus on requirements for employees to be equipped with portable gas detection devices which alert the wearer to an accumulation of gas, or low oxygen levels in the working environment.
This lone working trend has been further fuelled by the improvements in technology which mean that managers working remotely are able to supervise their workforce and monitor data off-site; a trend which we anticipate will increase in the future across many industry sectors.
Wearable gas detection
Gas detection is a critical and a life-saving measure to ensure the safety of engineers and other personnel, but also to ensure the safety of plant equipment.
As part of a robust gas safety solution, portable gas monitoring devices are issued to engineers working in the field or in isolation. These devices are usually compact, battery-powered devices worn on an employee’s clothing, or hand-held and have a variety of safety functions. They can provide early warning of the presence of a toxic or flammable gas or vapour in the area immediately surrounding the person wearing or using them and can help in tracing low-level and low-risk leaks of flammable and toxic gases before they pose a serious danger. They can also test the atmosphere in a confined space to provide a pre-entry check for hazards like gases or low oxygen levels and provide continual safety monitoring of gases and oxygen levels while working in the area.
When a portable gas monitoring device detects any gas that reaches the pre-set alarm levels, it will activate an alarm and start flashing. The alarm is designed to be clearly heard and seen by the wearer, allowing them to immediately take action to protect themselves and others, like leaving the danger area.
Advances in technology
The concept of technological connectivity boosting outcomes is not a new one, with the term Industry 4.0 first coined over a decade ago.
More than 15 years later, the ideas and technologies promised as part of a fourth industrial revolution have indeed brought far-reaching benefits – spanning big data and cloud computing, to predictive maintenance, Industry 4.0 has positively impacted many sectors.
The possibilities for these technologies when it comes to gas safety are significant, and there have been some major advances in innovation within this area over recent months.
Sectors such as the water industry are able to use real-time monitoring of hazardous environments such as sewers linked to inter-connecting systems which communicate and respond to one another safeguard personnel across a clean water site has far-reaching applications.
Connected safety solutions
Using new innovation in this space, a connected smart safety system can now be created to link all of portable devices.
This offers a number of key benefits, including live monitoring; whereby key information is displayed in real time via an online user interface. This interface is available to anyone who has the appropriate permissions, meaning that workers on site, or managers in a central location, can pinpoint the position of their colleagues and the status of their gas safety at any given moment. If an alarm is activated by any individual device, colleagues and managers would be immediately alerted to the risk, and receive the key information displayed on the management dashboard. Furthermore, emergency services can be granted access to the data which allows them to manage an emergency situation, if needed, and the data is also logged for later analysis.
This means that hazards can be identified more quickly; countermeasures can be initiated faster, and correlations and anomalies can be analysed more easily to identify root causes. This is important in improving outcomes, not only in post-event analysis, but in real-time through live monitoring.
Another key benefit of this type of digitisation is that it offers opportunities for more efficient asset management, simplifying a range of processes that were previously more complex, and centralising management, whilst decentralising execution.
This makes device management and compliance far more straightforward, as data in relation to operational status, testing and calibration results can be collected and accessed from anywhere, with the ability for analysis to be performed directly. Device updates can also be distributed centrally with ease, notifications can be sent to users, and a complete documentation history for each gas detection device is automatically stored on the connected system.
Increased transparency, easier management and reduced potential for human error are key outcomes of the smart system, leading to significantly improved safety to life, and also cost savings at the same time.
Driving digital innovation
Covid has served as a catalyst to drive forward digital innovation, with changes to working styles prompting an urgent need for remotely accessible real-time safety data.
Of course, it is vital that good training and a thorough understanding of such technologies is well-embedded as part of any new roll-out. Without this, there is a real risk that the full benefits may not be realised.
With demand growing throughout the industry to generate better safety insight and information to better inform safety policies and approaches, there is a huge demand for safety data. And whilst this may feel challenging, advances in safety technologies are making this increasingly possible, and straightforward.
As connected and digital safety is starting to be better understood and harnessed across multiple industry sectors, and alongside the range of operational benefits, this new wearable technology heralds new potential to safeguard those exposed to gas safety risks in the workplace.