Technology enables a world class culture of safety for any company venturing into connected safety,” says Sean Stinson, VP sales and product management for Blackline Safety. “Use of connected worker technology means safety departments don’t have to ‘hope they know’ anymore. Based on data collected, you’ll have conversations with workers, such as, ‘You’re not using your PPE, what’s going on?’” Data collection and these conversations will change cultures, Stinson says.

Traditionally, safety departments get opinions and guesses thrown at them, says Stinson. There may be a hazard. Equipment doesn’t seem to be working. “Now you have objective data all mapped out. It’s very important that this is objective data, so you know for a fact that a part of plant is leaking. It’s a fact, not a suspicion,” he says. Now the safety professional can make the case that he needs $50,000 to fix the leak.

“It’s not an emotional conversation anymore. It’s a factual conversation based on a solid foundation of trusted data and low cost analysis,” says Stinson. As in all fields, technology democratizes the organization, he says.

Everyone wants to mine safety data and become predictive in nature. For example, you can analyze the ratio of supervisors to workers during a really complex job. “We’ve learned that if the ratio is too low, that’s a leading indicator for an injury. You couldn’t analyze this before. But now you have location awareness, plus cost of analyzing has gotten so low you can do it now,” Stinson says.

The business case

If a company cares only about safety in terms of compliance, this technology is not a good fit, according to Stinson. For high-performing companies, you get morale improvements, culture improvements, straight-up productivity benefits, he says. “For the technology to be a good fit, and to benefit from it, you need a company culture that values safety as a moral issue, not just compliance, and is already trying to study data.”

Manage Big Data

A lot of people don’t know what to do with all the data they collect – it’s like hoarding data, Stinson says. You need to plan on how to use your data.

Data can tell you that you have too many people on the job, or not enough. It enables you to make a decision about that, he says. Data can tell you if you have enough calibration gas, or if you have too much or not enough. 

Safety managers should be highly integrated with the company’s legal and IT departments in determining how the data is to be used, Stinson says. “You don’t want to use data to breach trust and privacy issues. Work with IT on how to securely store the data. You need to be working hand-in-hand with legal. Both legal and IT can put the brakes on privacy and ethical concerns and risks with data mining and servers. If you’re analyzing the habits and injuries of an individual, there are many implications you must be aware of. Lines that cannot be crossed,” he says.

Enabling engagement

Technology enables conversations to be based on fact, with an intentionality, with a real concern for the worker, Stinson says. “A manager can look into a person who is exposing themselves to risk. It all starts with objective data. Then the safety manager goes to that person at risk and says, ‘Hey man, I spent time looking at data, I want to explain to you what I found.’”

Technology boosts the brand of safety in a company and the brand of the individual safety manager, according to Stinson. “This really gives safety managers more meaning to the work they do. They can say, ‘I actually made a difference today. I addressed a training issue I wasn’t aware of before.’ It is totally about the conversations you can engage in with your people.”

Live camera vision 

A camera placed on the body gets information, photos and video from the field to HQ in real time, says Stinson. Perhaps a new employee can’t figure out how to deal with machinery. The employee can send a video, and then get an explanation from experts on how to do the job, he says. “It’s like having a live video conference from the field. This is a huge safety improvement.”

Blackline’s new camera can be put on a lapel pocket. It weighs about three ounces. Outfitting workers with cameras raises privacy issues, according to Stinson. Control centers can only tap into the camera if there is a safety incident. Perhaps a worker is not responding to an alert on the G7 gas monitor. “You can see if this is a real incident or a false alarm. Video discriminates between real and nuisance events.”

The G7 knows when a safety event occurs. It is an acute danger system. “Sensors give you layers of safety,” says Stinson. “They can detect falls using an accelerator and gyroscope. If there has been a fall, if there is no motion, an emergency latch can be pulled -- manually triggered. If people get attacked, a silent alarm is sent. The G7 has an alert for worker check-ins. If the person is present, they push a button to let the control center know. If the check-in alert is not pushed the, G7 could be destroyed, or in water and the radio signals can’t connect with server, or the worker could be out of cell range.” 

Leverage data science 

An enormous amount of data mining is now possible from gas detectors; available via web access, instantly 24/7, says Stinson. “A lot of people are surprised that what we make exists. They think it wouldn’t exist for another ten years. The future is here. Get out there and really see what’s going on, you’ll be amazed. Data-based decisions are happening now. Learn and see where it takes you,” says Stinson.


Note: ISHN’s Buyer’s Guide lists sources of gas detection technology.