Eliminating workplace hazards entirely is always the safest way forward if possible, but some risks are unavoidable. As the weather grows warmer, many workers, especially in industries like construction, may find themselves facing extreme heat. Since you can’t reduce the temperature outside, mitigation steps to reduce the effects of serious heat are essential.
Heat can be dangerous — even fatal — if safety managers aren’t careful. Thankfully, new technologies provide new ways to address this threat. Here are five technology use cases for improving worker safety amid extreme temperatures.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most important technologies for worker safety. Under the umbrella of heat protection, IoT-connected personal protective equipment (PPE) can monitor employees’ bodily functions to catch early signs of heat illness.
Serious heat-related issues happen when body temperatures reach 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, so workplaces should ensure workers don’t get to that point. Smart PPE like connected helmets or even consumer devices like fitness trackers can help monitor body temperatures, heart rates and other vital signs. If any of these factors approach dangerous levels, these gadgets will alert workers and managers.
Getting health data in real-time lets employees take breaks or rehydrate as necessary. That way, they can stop heat-related illnesses and injuries before they happen.
The IoT goes beyond employee-monitoring devices, too. Environmental IoT sensors can monitor factors like outdoor temperatures and humidity to provide a better understanding of a workplace’s real-time risks.
The main advantage of IoT connectivity in this area is that sensors can alert managers as soon as conditions get dangerous. Since IoT devices communicate in real-time, they can notify workers the second temperatures or humidity levels get too high. That way, teams don’t have to rely on their own feelings or slow, manual checks to avoid the most extreme conditions.
Planning breaks around these alerts to keep employees out of the harshest times of day will minimize heat-related risks. Basing them off real-time, site-specific data ensures these breaks reflect reality, not just what feels hot or humid. This data-based approach reduces the risk of human error potentially endangering employees.
Some technology may not seem directly safety-related but still has a significant impact on worker health. Modular construction — where teams of workers and robots build much of a project in a factory environment before sending it to the construction site — is an excellent example.
Modular construction is most popular as a way to boost productivity, as it helps avoid weather-related delays and human errors. However, because it minimizes onsite labor, it can also be a helpful safety strategy. With more prefabricated parts, construction teams can spend less time in the sun.
Since modular construction requires less time on site, teams have more flexibility in planning their outdoor work. Consequently, they can plan to work on cooler or less humid days to minimize heat-related risks.
Smart HVAC systems
Construction and other outdoor workflows are the most prevalent when discussing heat protection. However, 61% of nonfatal heat-related incidents happen in indoor work environments, so these also deserve attention. One of the most important technologies for heat mitigation in these workplaces is smart HVAC systems.
Smart HVAC uses IoT technology to sense real-time temperature levels and energy consumption. It then adjusts air conditioning systems to provide maximum comfort with minimal energy use. Many people use them in their homes to reduce heating and cooling bills, but workplaces can use them to prevent heat illness.
Since smart HVAC systems respond to changing conditions in real-time, they cool areas more effectively and can account for abnormal changes. That way, indoor workplaces can stay at comfortable temperatures, keeping workers safe.
Similarly, smart sensors in HVAC systems or other equipment can detect maintenance issues and alert employees as they occur. Businesses can then fix this machinery before it suffers a costly, complex breakdown to keep it in peak condition for longer. That’s particularly important when malfunctions can increase the chances of heat-related injuries.
This IoT-based approach — called predictive maintenance — helps workplaces fix air conditioning or similar systems faster and more affordably. These quick responses, in turn, ensure things don’t get too hot during maintenance, minimizing heat-related risks.
Predictive maintenance can also prevent heat-driven issues in other equipment. Some machines may malfunction at high temperatures, endangering their operators or other employees around them. Keeping an eye on these maintenance issues through the IoT helps prevent these dangerous situations.
New technology provides crucial protection in hot weather
Heat risks are becoming increasingly common and severe as climate change worsens. In light of these threats, it’s more important than ever for workplaces to address heat-related health and safety risks. These hazards may seem uncontrollable at first, but technologies like IoT provide helpful solutions. As more businesses use them to these ends, heat illnesses and injuries will decline across all industries.