Wearable Devices and Lone Workers: The Importance of Connectivity
By sharing data and information out to teammates and supervisors, wearable devices can have a positive impact even in the most hazardous of situations.
- By Ryan Cantwell
- May 01, 2021
When working on site, workers need to be able to rely on the equipment they have on hand. Many wearable devices have connectivity features designed to share information. This can be helpful in the event of a hazardous situation. When a worker can carry this equipment on them, they are able to stay in touch with other co-workers, managers and the safety team.
Wearable devices are exactly what they sound like: devices that you wear on your person. Wearing a device, such as a gas monitor on your body, means you attach it and don’t have to constantly think about the device. Because of this, it is especially important for these devices to be in excellent working order on the job. Since a worker isn’t always thinking about the device, they need to be able to trust that it’s working as planned. Wearable devices offer an extra layer of protection between workers and potentially harmful gases. They also allow you to stay “in the know” when it comes to your team in the field.
Wearable Device Benefits
What are the benefits of a wearable device? These devices allow you to collect data at an individual level. This is achieved through live monitoring through a laptop or cell phone. If you’re viewing wearable device data, you have the option to see worker location and exposure data. These monitors even allow a safety team or nearby co-workers to respond when needs arise. By knowing a worker’s whereabouts and safety status, you can know whether they need help and why. This takes the guesswork out of the process by providing a clearer picture of what’s going on in the event of an emergency.
For the worker wearing the gas detector, they often don’t want to have to think about the device they’re wearing. They want to trust that the device is working and be able to rely on gas detection and safety alerts. Features like the panic button and man-down alarm are important. The panic button allows a worker to communicate that they are in a dangerous situation and require help. The man-down alarm detects a lack of motion from the gas detector to alert safety contacts that a worker is down. In an emergency situation, mere minutes can make a difference. If a worker is exposed to hazardous gases, they may not be able to communicate that they are in trouble.
The man-down alert is crucial to alerting the team that their co-worker is in trouble.
For your benefit, these features allow you to stay in touch with your workers and stay aware of what they’re facing on the job. In a potentially dangerous work situation, safety is top of mind for all involved. You may find the idea of instant data appealing. This data provides the ability to monitor and respond to incidents. When it comes to wearable devices, the focus is to create awareness of life-threatening situations. Real-time exposure data and easy-to-digest data from a connected device can accomplish this. For gas monitoring devices, it comes down to communication (decreasing response time when incidents occur) and prevention (looking at rich historical data to make the workplace safer).
Checking in: Lone Workers and Gas Monitors
Lone workers are often doing their jobs in remote locations, 20 or more miles from the next sign of life. Safety managers are often responsible for keeping track of the lone worker. In either case, your day-to-day work can be extra challenging if a problem arises. If a lone worker faces danger on the job, it could be hours or days before help is able to make it to their location. Because of this, it’s important to maintain safe habits while on the job. One safe habit to conduct is regular check-ins.
Manual check-ins occur when a lone worker makes a phone or radio call on a set schedule to report his or her status to a supervisor or team. This gives the safety manager the chance to receive updates on a worker’s whereabouts and health status. If a lone worker misses a scheduled check-in call, you would dispatch help to their location. The assumption would be that they are in trouble or need help.
Manual check-ins, however, are time consuming and can be unreliable. Lone workers in a remote location may not have cell signal at the site, forcing them to drive several minutes away to find a cell signal and check in. Forgetful employees are also common and may have to be tracked down by a supervisor. This lost productivity can be a big deal. As a worker, you may consider these check-ins to be disruptive. From a safety standpoint, these check-ins are crucial.
Connected gas monitors eliminate the need for check-ins by automatically providing status alerts to safety contacts through live monitoring software. A wearable gas monitor allows the worker to move freely and to do their job without thinking about the device. At the same time, the device sends status information back to you through a cellular, satellite or wi-fi connection. This serves as a reminder to both the lone worker and the safety team that the worker is safe.
Connectivity is Key
When it comes to wearable devices, connectivity is important. If a worker loses connectivity, they lose the benefits of a wearable device. This means that the gas detection device isn’t communicating or sharing information about the worker back to the rest of the team. Suddenly, nobody is watching the worker’s back. This mean safety teams can’t respond to incidents in real time and operations people lose visibility to worker productivity. Workers at every level suffer if everyone isn’t staying in touch and connected.
Wearable devices can help workers avoid potentially dangerous or life-threatening situations. By sharing data and information out to teammates and supervisors, these devices can have a positive impact even in the most hazardous of situations.
This article originally appeared in the May 1, 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.