Raising the Bar on Productivity, Plant Safety and Profitability  through Connected Worker Technology

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Raising the Bar on Productivity, Plant Safety and Profitability through Connected Worker Technology

In today’s competitive business environment, companies that deploy connected worker software and related devices stand to gain a lot from their investment: an easier path to regulatory compliance; a simpler, better way to maintain safety equipment; real-time monitoring of workers to protect their health and safety; and faster, more informed response to a safety incident such as a man down. But to a company’s business leaders and investors, they see a far-reaching business benefit: a competitive advantage. 

Today, a wealth of real-time information is available to industrial sites.  This information is made possible, to cite one example, through wireless gas monitors working in conjunction with the connected worker software. Today’s cutting-edge safety management and monitoring software can enable businesses to streamline safety processes, reduce safety compliance and maintenance costs.

On the other hand, failing to comply with safety standards and regulations can not only put workers at risk, but can also be extremely costly. In 2014, workplace injuries cost United States businesses more than $1 billion a week, according to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. In step with these are the escalating cost of non-compliance; OSHA has almost doubled its maximum penalties for willful or repeated violations from $70,000 to $124,709

In addition to these direct workers compensation costs, a company may also face indirect costs related to lost productivity, a drop in employee engagement, and damage to its external reputation. For an employee, suffering a workplace injury can result in physical, emotional, and financial pain.

With these figures in mind, it is not difficult to understand why it is crucial for businesses to make safety management processes easier and more efficient. One way companies are doing that is by pulling real-time data from Honeywell RAE Systems gas monitors in the field into control rooms for both at-a-glance understanding of how the detectors are being used as well as for predictive analytics that can help them achieve long-term efficiency, cost management and enhanced safety.

At a typical refinery or production site, workers require protection from potential exposure to toxic and flammable gases.  Fleets of portable gas detectors must be managed daily—which is to say, bump tested, calibrated, charged, data logged, repaired and accounted for in many ways. The fleet needs to be maintained on a consistent basis daily to ensure that workers can rely on them. Keeping records of all these operations manually can be time consuming and costly.

Through its integration with supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) used for high-level supervisory process management, ProRAE Guardian software can help to automate the safety management process more effectively and provide better visibility into actual worker conditions, giving operators an almost up to the second understanding of gas concentration levels, sensor functionality, and in other cases, a worker’s heart rate, body temperature, posture and more. Operators can quickly analyze relevant data on a control room screen or PC and take proactive steps that improve safety, such as flagging a gas monitor whose sensors aren’t functioning properly and remove it from the field, or identify the exact location of a worker that’s suffered an injury. In short, the safety manager can better oversee a fleet of gas monitors and workers, and take proactive steps that improve safety.

Offering a highly intuitive and user-friendly interface, the Connected Worker Platform as visualized on a screen by ProRAE Guardian software can simplify device configuration and testing. It can generate testing, certification, incident and other key reports.

It makes the work of maintenance engineers easier by providing them with intuitive device configuration using logical data groups, consistent configuration across all devices and quick instrument configuration supported by device templates. An automated notification alerts the safety manager if a product certification is expiring. The platform also offers a comprehensive view of device health by consolidating calibration, bump and event data. 

Perhaps more importantly, the latest connected worker software solutions enable safety managers to access, in real-time and from remote locations, data that is collected by the portable devices worn by the workers. Wireless connectivity enables the operator to immediately view on a control room display which worker is using the device and that person’s whereabouts. In this way, remote stakeholders can monitor each individual worker’s safety more closely. It is possible to access critical data such as toxic gas readings or radiation levels, man-down alerts and locations that are automatically transmitted, wirelessly, by the portable device so the company can provide immediate help if needed.

The Honeywell Connected Worker Platform can support connected worker offerings such as two-way communications, geo-location and automatic safety alerts to provide employers with real-time awareness of safety incidents. For example, the safety manager can immediately alert a worker operating in a confined space to step out of a dangerous situation or send immediate rescue if a ‘man down’ alert is received. The data is also stored so that safety managers can run reports on a population of workers or an individual worker and monitor their exposure to hazardous substances over time. This is key to tackling ill health before it’s too late with data informing decisions about working patterns so that, for example, a worker’s exposure levels over a particular shift are reduced. 

By enabling portable gas detectors and other devices to automatically communicate data directly to the control room, in real time, safety compliance and monitoring can enhance productivity in a number of ways. Firstly, it makes it unnecessary for workers to stop every few minutes to send the information back manually, thus reducing downtime. Secondly, it gives workers the confidence that the equipment they’re using is fit for purpose and that their exposure levels are being monitored closely. Thirdly, software technology gives workers the ability to focus more on the job in hand, thus improving overall productivity.

Honeywell estimates that this capability can significantly increase overall productivity. This is corroborated by studies on the benefits of connected workers, which estimate an increase in output of roughly 8-9 percent, with a reduction in costs of approximately 7-8 percent. In industrial operations it is estimated that companies could see as much as a 300-basis-point boost to their bottom line. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Safety Council (NSC) have estimated that every dollar invested in safety yields $5 in benefits - a 500 percent return. In other words, better worker health and safety translates to better bottom line health and safety.

With the prominence of connectivity in industrial settings set to grow in years to come, connected worker technology and software will have a crucial role to play in the shift to a safer and more productive work environment. With connected worker technologies, business executives can now make smarter investment and financial decisions to enhance their profitability and competitive advantage.

About the Author

Prabhu Soundarrajan, Global Director, Connected Worker Solutions, Honeywell Industrial Safety

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