As long as there are on-the-job injuries, there is room for workplace safety to improve. While incidents have decreased over the years, there are still 2.8 million workplace injuries and illnesses a year. Employers can take advantage of modern technology to lower that number.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to bringing internet connectivity to industrial devices. These technologies can provide facilities with a more interoperable workplace and access to helpful machine data. While they’re primarily seen as a means to improve productivity, they can also reduce safety concerns.
Wearable devices are an increasingly common part of the IIoT and present a unique safety opportunity. Sensors in these wearables can measure physiological signals like body temperature and perspiration. If these measurements indicate that a worker is close to overheating, the IoT device can alert them to take a break.
Similarly, wearables can detect repeated movements, even sensing posture and technique, and alert workers of potential ergonomic issues. Since musculoskeletal disorders account for 33% of all workplace injuries, these warning systems could prove indispensable. As wearable technology improves, the potential risks these sensors could detect expand, making them all the more useful.
IIoT technologies for worker safety don’t just monitor employees, but the environment around them as well. Outdoor workplaces like mines or construction sites involve various environmental factors that could endanger employees. IIoT sensors could detect extreme temperatures, incoming inclement weather and more to alert workers to these hazards.
Motion trackers could alert employees when they approach a hazardous area, like a slick floor or unstable ground. Similarly, sensors on heavy machinery could detect when workers get too close and either alert them or shut off the machine. Such a device would reduce accidents that result from distracted employees, an issue historically challenging to address.
Sensors aren’t the only technology under the IIoT umbrella, nor are they the only ones applicable to workplace safety. The IIoT also enables workers to access and control devices remotely, sometimes more than 10 kilometers away. In situations where physical proximity could be hazardous to humans, this advantage is hard to overlook.
In warehouses, workers could use IoT tags to check products on high shelves without reaching and potentially overextending themselves. Construction workers could use drones to survey worksites for hazards without putting themselves at risk. IIoT technology would even expand the benefits of traditional robotics, making them more accessible and interoperable.
IIoT technologies represent a data collection point wherever workplaces install them. The information from these devices could reveal trends in workplace safety that employers would miss otherwise. Facilities could then use these analytics to address high-risk areas or find new ways to improve their security.
Employers can’t fix hazards they don’t know about, and IIoT devices can provide the data they need. IIoT sensors can record when incidents occur and provide information about surrounding factors in each instance. Safety officials can then analyze this data to find common denominators and highlight risks they didn’t know about previously.
Implementing IIoT devices on a facility-wide scale represents a considerable investment, but a worthwhile one. The workplace injuries that these technologies prevent would cost far more than the lifetime expenses of IIoT ownership. If that weren’t enough, protecting the health and well-being of employees is worth any price.
The IIoT is still young, with years of advancement ahead of it. These devices are becoming more affordable and useful every day, representing an increasingly substantial safety advantage. Workplace safety in the future may rely on these technologies.