Why Our Need for Connectivity Should Include Gas Detection

Let’s face it: we are obsessed with our smart phones. We need to be connected. But why don’t we feel this same need to be connected with safety equipment that can save our lives at work?

Let’s face it: we are obsessed with our smart phones. We can’t live without them. We can’t leave home—or even the room—without them. When we misplace our phones, an utter panic sets in that’s only relieved when that little battery-powered, touchscreen-enabled thumb exerciser is back in our hands. Why? Because we have the overwhelming urge to be connected.

That’s right. We need to be connected. We need to scan our favorite social media outlets regularly. We need to search the web for information whenever the desire strikes. We need access to apps that help us do everything from play fantasy football to find our way home. We need immediate access to our friends and family via voice or text, and sometimes we even need to pinpoint their location. (Full disclosure: the author is guilty as charged.)

With such a strong desire to be connected, why don’t we feel this same need to be connected with safety equipment that can save our lives at work? Even though we have embarked on the era of wireless gas detection and connected safety, people have been slow to adopt connectivity in a safety context. This is surprising given how easy it is to argue the benefits of being connected through a gas detector.

Benefit One: Connection to Other People
Let’s start with the most obvious. Our cell phones let us connect with friends and family. It’s helpful to text our friends to meet up or dial home from the car to let the family know that we’re on our way. But these conveniences don’t make a critical difference in our lives.

On the other hand, connectivity to other people on the job does make a critical difference. Peer-to-peer wireless networks in our gas detectors allow us to connect with anyone nearby. Just by pushing a button, we can alert everyone around us that we’re in trouble and need help. If an accident or a medical condition leaves us incapacitated, everyone connected to the network receives a message that alerts them to the emergency and summons them to help. When seconds matter, this connectivity could surely be the difference between life and death. Sure, we could use a cell phone to call for help, but if a job requires us to carry a gas detector, it probably doesn’t allow us to carry a cell phone.

Benefit Two: Connection to Our Environment
Despite being able to tell us more than we need to know about what’s happening around us, our phones can’t detect gas. If a gas detector senses something dangerous in the environment and alerts us to that hazard, then it has done its job and may have saved our lives. If a gas detector connects us to the workers around us, and they are alerted to the condition that our gas detector senses, we have potentially saved their lives as well.

Benefit Three: Connection to Our Location
There are many smart phone apps that allow us to track the location of our family members. We do this with our kids a lot—not because we want to invade their privacy, but because we are concerned for their safety. We can use this same connectivity with workers through gas detectors or other connected devices.

Again, we do this not because we are micro-managers who need to know where they’re working every minute of every day, but because it’s our job to ensure their safety. If workers performing their duties alone need emergency assistance, it’s critical that we can locate them. In the same sense, if we know a group of workers in a plant is in harm’s way, there is value beyond measure in alerting them that they need to move to a safe area.

Benefit Four: Connection to Insights
The smart phones that we’re so attached to collect and distribute tons of data about us. Apps monitor where we go, what we buy, and sometimes, what we talk about. In many cases, we have the ability to stop it, but we don’t. Why? Because that data is useful to us. Sharing our data means we can get a good recommendation for a product or a hot tip on where to find a great meal.

But is this really making a difference in our lives? Our gas detectors collect a tremendous amount of data about what we are exposed to at work, and this data certainly makes a difference. We can use that data to identify hazards that we otherwise wouldn’t know about. We can use it to predict where accidents are likely to occur and actually change those environments or change the way we work to prevent a tragedy. The gas detectors we carry collect data that will help save lives every day. How often do our cell phones do that?

Using Connectivity for Good
When the latest and greatest smart phone is released, we flock to the stores to buy it. It simply makes life easier. It connects faster or takes better pictures or just offers the latest and greatest apps. We want to be the first to try it, and our thirst for connectivity says we need to have it.

But when the newest gas detectors or other connected safety devices hit the market, we’re reluctant to adopt them. We fear being the first to try it. We fear the technology and question its reliability. On the other hand, cell phone technology is about as imperfect as the local weather forecast—but we accept it for what it is without a care. Connected safety devices like our gas detectors not only keep us safer, but they can make our work life easier and more productive in many ways.

Let’s put our fears aside and make this the decade where we use our obsession with connectivity for good. When we use connectivity appropriately, we can improve our workplaces—and even save lives.

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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