From industries such as construction, oil and gas, manufacturing and petrochemical, working at heights is a common practice at worksites around the world that poses several safety risks. When a fall occurs, the speed of the response is critical, as an accident can quickly turn fatal.
Today, many organizations rely on spot checks and radio calls to manage workers operating at heights. Others have also instituted policies where tradespeople must always work as teams. While sometimes effective, these practices leave gaps in a company’s safety program and may also sacrifice business efficiencies.
To ensure a comprehensive fall protection program, organizations have begun to adopt connected safety and lone worker technology that proactively detects falls, enhances communication, monitors location and helps enact more preventative measures. Detailed below, these qualities can be the difference between a rescue and a recovery.
Fall Detection Technology
The risk of serious or fatal injuries increases when working alone, as the incident may go unnoticed for an extended period of time. If a worker is conscious after the fall, he or she may be able to contact emergency personnel with a radio or phone. However, if the lone worker becomes unconscious, there is nobody to call for help.
Fall detection technology that can immediately detect the sudden acceleration of a fall is available with some connected safety wearables. When an impact is detected, an external monitoring team is notified and the response process is activated in real time. This technology also allows for a worker to confirm if all is well before response personnel are engaged, especially in an event where the device was simply dropped or another safe activity with sudden accelerated was performed.
Multiple Layers of Safety
Organizations with connected technology also often leverage an SOS trigger, such as a button or fool-proof latch, that providers workers with a way to call for help manually.
Some falls may be complex, especially if other objects are involved. SOS buttons or latch features provide an extra layer of protection on top of automated fall detection capabilities integrated into wearable safety monitors. Scheduled, periodic check-in timers can also be activated as a failsafe, accounting for an unconscious worker scenario.
Two-Way Communications via Push-to-Talk and Emergency Voice Calling
A crucial component of fall protection programs is the ability for monitoring teams and workers to communicate with each other during an incident. Several organizations leverage technology that enables two-way emergency voice calling, allowing a response team to speak directly with a worker who has fallen. Push-to-talk (PTT) capability integrated into connected safety equipment is also often leveraged, where a device operates similarly to a walkie-talkie. Unlike traditional radios, PTT does not require a radio license and eliminates the need to invest in a separate, costly fleet of radios.
This ability to communicate seamlessly allows the monitoring agent to collect critical situational information to ensure the right kind of help is delivered in the shortest amount of time.
When a fall does occur, knowing the worker involved and where he or she is located is instrumental. This is often where tools and practices from the past fall short. When leveraging more advanced safety technology, the location of any worker in distress is easily accessed, providing organizations with the ability to immediately dispatch emergency responders to the exact area of the fall.
Having access to workers’ locations – especially when they are working alone – is a critical aspect of fall protection. To address some workers’ privacy concerns, many connected safety devices can be configured to report location data only when alerting a live monitoring team of an incident. Educating the workforce about the benefits of this technology, especially when they are experiencing an injury or health event, is a must.
Data Science & Preventative Safety
Responding quickly to a fall and mitigating harm is only the first part of an effective fall protection program. Taking it one step further, organizations that best manage safety when working from heights take preventative measures to minimize the threat of falls in the future.
When using cloud-connected safety technology, data from each device can be streamed to the cloud and provided to the business’s safety and operations teams. This data can help identify problems or trends across a worksite that may be leading to heightened safety risks. By leveraging this data, guess work is eliminated and companies have the facts needed to make proactive improvements.
Fall protection equipment is an effective tool for keeping workers safe. However, connected safety technology with integrated fall detection capabilities is an added line of defense when a serious fall does occur. No matter how significant the fall, several resources and capabilities are available to minimize injuries and empower real-time emergency responses should the worst occur, keeping workers safe and confident while on the job.